Why is Age 7 So Important?
Getting Started with Your First Consultation
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, children should have their first appointment with an orthodontist when they are 7 years old. Not many people even think of the orthodontist when it comes to taking care of their child’s teeth. That is, at least, until they notice that there is a problem. By then, there may be more extensive treatment plans that are necessary to address the issues.
By getting your child started in early orthodontic treatment, you may be saving them from years of embarrassing issues associated with their teeth and smile. You may also be helping to reduce or prevent more aggressive necessary treatments later on to address oral issues. An orthodontist can also help to ensure that poor oral habits don’t get started or are addressed as soon as they are discovered.
When you get your child started in early orthodontic treatment, the foundation for a healthy mouth and beautiful smile is being laid. The orthodontist can essentially keep on an eye on their oral development at every stage and be able to address concerns sooner, rather than later. The more you can do to help guide your child to a healthy smile and teeth, the better off they will be!
Having a nice smile gives a child a great deal of confidence. They smile more, feel great doing so, and they avoid feeling ashamed, like some do that have oral problems. Often times, children who suffer from conditions where their teeth are crowded or their bite is off, among other conditions, may be teased or have lower self confidence as a result.
An important condition that early orthodontic treatment can help to address is Class II Malocclusion, which is otherwise known as “buck teeth.” While children who have this condition may grow up being teased and feeling embarrassed, the orthodontist may be able to help correct it through early orthodontic treatment.
Some of the more common early orthodontic treatments that may help children include:
- Braces. Some children may be able to benefit from having braces, even partial ones, at an early age. They can be used in treating crossbites and preventing damage to supporting structures.
- Palatal Expander. This is used to treat severe crossbite.
- Headgear. This is used as a treatment for buck teeth.
- Face Mask. This is a treatment that can be used for an underbite.
Additionally, the orthodontist may perform extractions if there is severe crowding taking place. All in all, seeing an orthodontist can help to ensure that your child will have crooked teeth straightened, and that erupting teeth will be guided into place. They will also watch to make sure that any bite problems are addressed.
Malocclusion, teeth that are crooked or crowded, is often an inherited condition. Because it usually runs in families, if you have a family history of it, you especially make a prime candidate for getting your child into the orthodontist for early exams and treatment.
Yet heredity issues are not the only way that problems with the teeth occur. Some additional reasons that children may have dental problems include accidents, thumb sucking, or an early loss of their primary teeth. There are many issues that can contribute to your child having problems with their teeth. But the good news is that they can usually be addressed, even at an early age!
To get started with getting your child into an orthodontist, simply arrange a consultation. The treatments and guidance that they receive today may help save them from years of embarrassment and possibly more intense treatment later. When it comes to children’s oral health care, prevention and early detection is key!
What Happens at the First Visit?
Many questions surround your first visit to a new orthodontist, not the least of which is the subject of this particular chapter: What will happen at the initial consultation?
To answer this very common question, and perhaps several others you might not even realize you need answering yet, let me walk you through the typical first office visit, from the initial appointment forward: Your first appointment is scheduled following your initial phone call to your orthodontist’s office.
The receptionist – who often also doubles as your scheduler – will work with you to find the perfect time for an optimal visit, taking into account not only the orthodontist’s schedule but also your schedule as well as your child’s. Following this phone call a packet of information will be sent to you with information about your orthodontist’s office and the examination appointment. (A health history and map will usually be enclosed.)
During the first appointment several important things will typically happen. You will be greeted by someone who is generally referred to as the “treatment coordinator.” She will review your personal information, health history, and your chief concerns with your teeth and/or smile. Your orthodontist will then conduct a thorough examination of your face, mouth, teeth, and jaws to determine whether you can benefit from orthodontic treatment and, if so, when treatment should begin.
Your orthodontist will answer as many questions as possible. If you had additional questions, personal questions or need follow-up questions, there are often a variety of ways to get those questions answered for you. (See next section for several great tips on where – and how – to find answers.)
Any qualified orthodontist wanting to stay competitive and loyal to his or her patients should have a state of the art computer program that can simulate and demonstrate many things about orthodontic treatment. If orthodontic treatment is recommended now, he or she may proceed and take diagnostic records.
In order for the doctor to accurately diagnose your problems and plan your treatment, some additional information is needed beyond what is found during the examination. The doctor will request diagnostic records that can sometimes be done the day of the examination or we will ask you to return so we can have a complete set of records to evaluate your needs.
Your orthodontist will typically take molds of your teeth at this point, from which plaster replicas are made, digital photographs of your face and teeth, x-rays of your teeth and surrounding bone, and a headfilm x-ray to evaluate the position of the jaw structures.
How to Get Your Questions Answered
Now that we know where to get your most burning orthodontic questions answered, here are some simple tips I’ve amassed over the years to help you easily and effectively get the information you need:
Make a list: The easiest way to get what you want is to know it in advance. Make a list of the various questions you have so that you can quickly and easily go down the list to assure you’ve got the right answers for the right questions.
Bring it with you: Take the list with you when you go for your child’s orthodontist visit. This way you have the questions at hand at the right place at the right time. If you’re calling in to get answers, you can also have the list ready and tick off one question for every answer you receive.
Record the answers: If your orthodontist – or his receptionist – speaks too fast or you can’t keep up while writing the answers down, why not record them. Your cell phone likely has a “record” feature and, if not, there are many affordable micro-recorders on the market today.
Double-check: Finally, make sure you have the right answer by double-checking with your orthodontist, his or her receptionist or assistant, your answer liaison or simply by Googling your question online!
Knowing where to find the information you need is only half the battle; follow these tips and you’ll know how to get what you’re looking for as well.
What if I Still Have Questions after the Initial Consultation?
It’s very common for parents and their children to have additional questions beyond the initial consultation. Between the anxiety of setting up the visit to sitting in an orthodontist’s chair to the variety of preliminary and post-visit issues that have to be dealt with, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why modern orthodontists make it extremely simple for you to get the answers you need in a way that’s simplest for you.
Where to Get Your Questions Answered
Here are just some of the ways you can get your questions answered in your way – and right on time:
Your orthodontist’s website: Your orthodontist’s website should feature a variety of patient resources including full explanations of every procedure, an interactive map with driving directions, links to the doctor’s blog, an FAQ section and several ways to get in touch with the office if you don’t find what you’re looking for.
Your treatment coordinator: You will usually be assigned a patient contact person – we call this person a “treatment coordinator” in our office – with whom to schedule appointments, confer with rescheduling and, of course, answer any and all questions you may have. In some cases this may literally be the office receptionist or the dental care technician who assisted your orthodontist. More and more offices are assigning patient care representatives who are merely there for support, interaction and, of course, to answer you and your child’s questions.
A 24-hour recording: Many orthodontists have modernized their most popular FAQs (or Frequently Asked Questions), most frequently found on their websites or in the office brochure, into a 24-hour recording for their patients’ convenience.
The follow-up visit: As we read in the previous chapter, there are a variety of follow-up visits between 15- and 45-minutes in duration depending on the procedure your child is getting. These are wonderful opportunities to either a.) ask questions you may have missed the first time or b.) get further details from your orthodontist him- or herself.
Braces.org: The website of the American Association of Orthodontists offers a wide range of articles and patient information for your records prior to and during orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist locator is a popular feature to help you find a specialist close to home. Remember, only orthodontists can belong to the American Association of Orthodontists, so when you visit www.braces.org you know you’re receiving accurate, state-of-the-art information regarding tooth and jaw alignment.
Regardless of how many questions you have, or your comfort level with technology, phone calls or in-person visits, your orthodontist should offer an option that fits your schedule and makes all your unresolved issues crystal clear.
© 2006-2012 Dustin S. Burleson, DDS. All rights reserved.