Early Orthodontic Evaluation for Children — Why Does It Matter?

Orthodontic care is often associated with teenagers sporting braces, but did you know that early orthodontic evaluation can be incredibly beneficial for younger children also? Early orthodontic evaluation can help set the stage for a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles. 

What is Early Orthodontic Evaluation?

Understanding Orthodontics

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on diagnosing, preventing, and correcting misaligned teeth and jaws. Orthodontists are dental specialists trained to identify and treat these issues. While many people think of braces as the main treatment, orthodontics encompasses a wide range of appliances and techniques to achieve proper alignment and function.

The Recommended Age for Evaluation

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children have their first orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7. At this age, children typically have a mix of baby (primary) teeth and permanent teeth, making it easier for orthodontists to diagnose and address potential issues early.

Why Early Orthodontic Evaluation is Important

Identifying Issues Early

One of the primary reasons for early orthodontic evaluation is the ability to identify problems before they become more serious. Early detection allows orthodontists to address issues such as crowding, overbites, underbites, and crossbites. By catching these problems early, treatment can be simpler, less invasive, and more effective (in addition to less expensive).

Guiding Jaw Growth

Children’s jaws are still growing, making early orthodontic intervention crucial. Orthodontists can guide jaw growth to ensure proper alignment and function. This guidance can prevent more severe issues from developing and may even reduce the need for more extensive treatment later on.

Creating Space for Permanent Teeth

Early evaluation can help create the necessary space for permanent teeth to emerge properly. When baby teeth are lost prematurely or there are extra teeth, it can lead to overcrowding. Orthodontists can use various techniques to create space, ensuring that permanent teeth have the room they need to grow in correctly.

Preventing Tooth Extraction

By addressing issues early, orthodontists can often prevent the need for tooth extractions. Creating adequate space for teeth to align properly can eliminate the need for removing teeth later in life. This approach not only preserves the natural teeth but also contributes to better overall oral health.

The Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment

Improved Oral Health

Properly aligned teeth are easier to clean and maintain. Crooked or crowded teeth can create areas where plaque and food particles accumulate, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Early orthodontic treatment helps ensure that teeth are well-aligned, making oral hygiene easier and more effective.

Boosting Self-Esteem

Children with misaligned teeth may feel self-conscious about their appearance. Early orthodontic treatment can improve the aesthetics of their smile, boosting their self-esteem and confidence. A positive self-image can have a lasting impact on a child’s social interactions and overall well-being.

Reducing Treatment Time

Early intervention can often reduce the overall time and complexity of orthodontic treatment. By addressing issues during a child’s growth phase, orthodontists can guide the development of the teeth and jaws more effectively. This proactive approach can lead to shorter treatment times,  fewer complications, and less expense for parents and caregivers.

Enhancing Speech and Chewing

Properly aligned teeth and jaws are essential for effective speech and chewing. Misaligned teeth can lead to speech impediments and difficulty chewing food. Early orthodontic treatment can help ensure that a child’s teeth and jaws function correctly, promoting better speech development and easier eating.

What to Expect During an Early Orthodontic Evaluation

Initial Consultation

The first step in the early orthodontic evaluation process is the initial consultation. During this visit, the orthodontist will review the child’s dental and medical history, conduct a thorough examination, and take X-rays or other imaging if necessary. At Vista Orthodontics, we offer a free initial consultation, including an exam and digital scan (a $395 value).

This comprehensive assessment helps the orthodontist identify any potential issues and develop a customized treatment plan.

Diagnostic Tools

Orthodontists use a variety of diagnostic tools to assess a child’s dental and skeletal development. These tools may include:

  • X-rays and other digital scanning technology: To view the position of teeth and roots.
  • Photographs: To document the alignment of teeth and facial structure.
  • Impressions or scans: To create a model of the child’s teeth for further analysis.

Developing a Treatment Plan

Based on the findings from the initial consultation and diagnostic tools, the orthodontist will develop a treatment plan tailored to the child’s specific needs. This plan may involve:

  • Monitoring: In some cases, the orthodontist may recommend regular check-ups to monitor the child’s dental development.
  • Early Intervention: If issues are identified, early intervention may involve appliances such as braces, expanders, or retainers.
  • Phased Treatment: For more complex cases, treatment may be divided into phases to address different aspects of dental development over time.

The Role of Parents and Caregivers

Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in the success of early orthodontic treatment. Ensuring that children attend all scheduled appointments, follow the orthodontist’s instructions, and maintain good oral hygiene are essential aspects of the treatment process. Educating children about the importance of their treatment can also foster a positive attitude and cooperation.

Common Orthodontic Issues in Children


Crowding occurs when there is not enough space in the mouth for all the teeth to align properly. This can result in overlapping or crooked teeth. Early orthodontic evaluation can identify crowding issues, allowing orthodontists to create space and guide teeth into their proper positions.

Overbites and Underbites

An overbite occurs when the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth excessively. Conversely, an underbite is when the lower front teeth extend beyond the upper front teeth. Both conditions can lead to functional and aesthetic problems. Early treatment can help correct these bite issues, promoting better jaw alignment and function.


A crossbite happens when some of the upper teeth sit inside the lower teeth rather than outside. This misalignment can affect one tooth or multiple teeth and can occur in the front or back of the mouth. Crossbites can cause issues with chewing, speech, and even jaw growth. Early intervention can correct crossbites, ensuring proper alignment.

Open Bites

An open bite is a condition where the upper and lower teeth do not touch when the mouth is closed. This can be caused by habits such as thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting. Early orthodontic evaluation can identify open bites and recommend treatments to address the underlying habits and correct the bite.

The Psychological Impact of Early Orthodontic Treatment

Building Confidence

One of the significant psychological benefits of early orthodontic treatment is the boost in self-confidence it can provide. Children who feel good about their smiles are more likely to engage in social activities, perform better academically, and have higher self-esteem.

Reducing Anxiety

Addressing orthodontic issues early can reduce anxiety related to dental visits and procedures. When children experience positive outcomes from early treatment, they are less likely to develop dental phobias or anxiety later in life.

Promoting Long-Term Health

By fostering good oral health habits and addressing issues early, orthodontic treatment can contribute to a child’s overall well-being. Healthy teeth and gums are linked to better overall health, reducing the risk of systemic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Ready to begin your journey to a beautiful smile? Contact Vista Orthodontics!

Early orthodontic evaluation for children is a proactive approach that offers numerous benefits. By identifying and addressing issues early, our Florida orthodontists at Vista Orthodontics can guide the growth and development of a child’s teeth and jaws, ensuring optimal function and aesthetics. Early treatment can improve oral health, boost self-esteem, reduce treatment time, and enhance speech and chewing.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation! We’d love to help however we can!