What is the Best Age For My Child to See an Orthodontist?

Having a straight, aesthetically pleasing smile can impact a child’s dental health, social development and self image. However, not all important orthodontic issues are readily apparent. Although dental issues have traditionally been corrected with braces during the patient’s teenage years, more and more orthodontists are recommending earlier intervention due to the many harmful conditions that can be confirmed and addressed in younger children.

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children see an orthodontist by the time they’re seven years old. Although some dental problems cannot be treated until a child has lost all of their baby teeth, other issues can be better managed with early intervention.

Understanding the Interceptive Approach

When dental appliances are used to treat problems present in children who still have baby teeth, the method is called an interceptive approach. An interceptive approach is generally not a comprehensive solution, but is simply the first phase of treatment. In most cases, an interceptive approach is meant to guide the child’s tooth growth, making later corrections simpler.

When the child’s adult teeth are in, a second phase of treatment begins, usually using braces. Some orthodontists believe that this type of two-fold approach can shorten treatment time, give children greater self confidence and reduce costs. Others favor a single, traditional approach to treatment and hold to the belief that interceptive treatments can increase the timeline and cost of treatment while producing similar results. The following information, along with the guidance of a knowledgeable orthodontist, may help you decide what’s right for your family.

What Types of Problems Can be Addressed With an Interceptive Approach?

Many common dental issues can be treated with an interceptive approach followed by treatment with braces at a later date. The problems that can be addressed with an interceptive approach as early as age seven include:

    • Dental crowding
    • Excessive spacing
    • Protrusion of the front teeth
    • Misalignment
    • Underbites, posterior crossbites, anterior open bites and deep bites
    • Tooth loss and early/late eruption


Dental Crowding and Excessive Spacing

By age seven, it becomes clear whether or not a child’s teeth are coming in with the right spacing. Crowding can lead to crooked teeth and may require an extraction or an arch extension. If teeth are too small, don’t develop properly or are prematurely lost, spacing may be an issue.

Protrusion of the Front Teeth

Protrusion of the front teeth, also known as an overbite, can be embarrassing and unsafe. Overbites cannot be permanently corrected until growth is complete. However, an orthodontist may be able to lessen the severity of the problem for the sake of the patient’s confidence.


Crooked teeth are more likely to be damaged by trauma and even general wear. Additionally, the overlying gum tissues of crooked teeth can become compromised. If dealt with at an earlier age, crooked teeth may have less of a negative impact on a child’s oral health and social development.

Underbites, Posterior Crossbites, Deep Bites and Anterior Open Bites

When it comes to underbites, which occur when the lower jaw extends further than the top row of teeth, early treatment is important. Untreated underbites can cause Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, which puts unnecessary pressure on the jaw. Timely treatment of an underbite can prevent surgery. As early as age five, an underbite can be treated using one of several techniques including an expander, chin cap or reverse-pull headgear.

Posterior crossbites can cause tooth crowding as well as lateral jaw shifting, which are both structural problems that need to be addressed. Expanding the upper jaw, which can be done at age seven, eliminates the lateral shifting and creates the space needed for the outburst of the anteriors.

If your child’s top row of teeth completely covers the bottom row when biting, your child has what is called a deep bite. This can occur if your child’s lower jaw is smaller than normal. An anterior open bite, a bite that doesn’t sufficiently overlap, may indicate that your child has an issue with sucking their thumb or fingers. When a deep bite or an anterior open bite is present, an orthodontist can provide a recommendation customized to fit your child’s unique needs.

Tooth Loss and Early/Late Eruption

Most children lose their teeth in a specific order. Similarly, it is normal for a child’s molars and permanent teeth to appear at a specific time. If your child isn’t losing and gaining teeth at the appropriate rate, it may indicate a problem that can be remedied with a simple extraction or other common procedure.


Whether or not a child needs interceptive treatment at an early age, they may require braces later in life. Typically, treatment with braces begins around the age of 14, but may begin earlier or later due to the specific case at hand. In addition to traditional metal braces, clear plastic inserts called Invisalign braces can be used to produce similar results. Although not all cases can be corrected using this method, Invisalign teen candidates may particularly appreciate the low-profile appearance of the inserts, which may be less embarrassing than the appearance of metal and have less of an impact on their self-image.

Orthodontics is about more than simply straightening the teeth to produce a flawless smile. Pediatric orthodontics focuses on the movement and growth of a child’s teeth and jaw in order to diagnose and treat issues like overbites, crowding and protrusion.

Regardless of the appearance of their teeth, you should take your child to an orthodontic office for a comprehensive evaluation by the age of seven. Gaffney Orthodontics, a Spartanburg, SC, clinic that serves patients of all ages, is a great place to go. If you’re ready to have your child evaluated by a professional or if you’d like to learn more about pediatric orthodontics, contact Nease and Higginbotham Orthodontics today.

Contact Us Today for an Appointment

Not every orthodontic office has two experts to examine and treat patients but Nease and Higginbotham Orthodontics does. We make it convenient to drive to our facilities by having three locations in South Carolina:

• Spartanburg Orthodontics
• Gaffney Orthodontics
• Duncan Orthodontics

At our state-of-the-art orthodontic facility, patients have the opportunity to meet with two qualified orthodontists who understand how to determine the most appropriate braces for patients. Anyone with unsightly misaligned teeth can schedule an appointment with a telephone call or online form to talk to:

Dr. Phil Higginbotham
Dr. Eric Nease

Dr Nease Orthodontics 2455 E. Main Street Spartanburg, SC
29307 (864) 579-7700

What is the Best Age For My Child to See an Orthodontist?

Photo credit: R Toth / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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