Everyone needs to see an orthodontist at least once. Orthodontic treatment is an important part of oral health care. The purpose of orthodontic treatment is to create a healthy, functional bite, which is part of tooth alignment and jaw position. When jaws and teeth line up correctly, they can function as nature intended and promote good oral health and general physical health.
Even though most people think of pre-teens and teens when they think of orthodontics, there are good reasons to get an orthodontic evaluation much sooner. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends the first check-up no later than age 7. Any time someone has a question about their own or their child’s teeth, alignment, bite quality, chewing, biting or speaking difficulty, it is time to consult with an orthodontist.
Other reasons to see an orthodontist may not be as obvious: mouth breathing, abnormal swallowing, unintentional cheek biting, clenching or grinding teeth and the inability to comfortably close lips around teeth may be signs that orthodontic treatment is needed. Teeth that meet abnormally may cause facial imbalance and asymmetry, affecting how the face looks. These problems can be identified and often corrected by an orthodontist.
Remember, there is a difference between an orthodontic check-up and actually starting orthodontic treatment. Only a few orthodontic problems will need correction as a young child. Even so, not all treatment is done using braces. A check-up will provide the orthodontist with a wealth of information as adult teeth develop and the face and jaws are growing. Often, the orthodontist will follow growth and development and intervene only if necessary. It is never too late for a check-up. If treatment is needed, orthodontists are usually able to treat most conditions successfully.
Orthodontic treatment is often broken up into phases. Early treatment is aimed at correcting problems in growth and development of the face and jaws, breaking of habits like finger sucking, tongue thrusting, and forward swallow, and preventing more severe problems from developing and simplifying future treatment.
Typically, early treatment is followed by a second phase of comprehensive treatment at a later date. However, in some cases, further orthodontic treatment may not be needed. For teens and adults, orthodontic treatment often falls into one phase, comprehensive treatment. An orthodontist will recommend what the best option is for each person and their bite.
Self-confidence and self-esteem may improve as orthodontic treatment brings the jaws, teeth, lips and face into proportion. The added bonus of orthodontic treatment is an esthetic smile.