Families today are busier than ever before. It leaves parents with a packed schedule and everything from permission slips to playdates to keep track of! Even with so much on your plate, most parents still make sure that everyone is brushing their teeth before bed and seeing the dentist regularly. While the importance of dental care is well-known, you may not be aware that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends children have their first orthodontic evaluation by around seven years old. Many people tend to associate orthodontics with tweens and teens, so this can be surprising! Children this age still have their baby teeth and a developing mouth. But, that’s actually what makes it an ideal time to introduce orthodontic care.

The preventative care that early treatment allows us to provide to young children is beneficial in many ways. By having an experienced Tempe orthodontist like our doctor thoroughly examine your child’s mouth, potential issues can be diagnosed and corrected before they have the chance to become more serious. This helps to prevent any negative impact on their future permanent teeth, and on their developing jaws as well.

At Dunn Orthodontics, we treat many young patients and have seen firsthand how tackling problems early on can make a positive difference to their overall oral health as they grow. We agree with the AAO’s recommendation to schedule your child’s first orthodontic evaluation by seven years old. At their initial examination, our doctors will be looking for several things to indicate a possible need for orthodontic treatment. So, does your child need braces? Keep reading below to learn more about what they’ll be checking for, and what you can expect from this first visit!

Tooth loss and eruption

Baby teeth might not be permanent, but as the placeholders for adult teeth, they’re important in more ways than one. The transition that occurs as your child moves from primary to permanent teeth is something orthodontists will take note of. This included where the teeth are located and when they are lost. Baby teeth tend to fall out in a fairly predictable pattern. Any significant deviation from it can be a sign of developmental issues that need attention. 

By the time a child is about seven years old, they will usually have at least four permanent molars, and two to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it may indicate future issues. There may be problems with missing, crowding, or extra teeth at some point in the future. We will sometimes remove a primary tooth early or maintain the space where a tooth has been lost prematurely. This can help to prevent bigger problems later on.

Juvenile teeth with gaps

Crowding and spacing

By the time a child is old enough for their first orthodontic visit, our doctors will generally be able to tell if they’re likely to have problems in the future with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth. Spacing issues can appear when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or even with teeth that are too small or spaced too far apart. When crowded teeth are the main issue, we are often able to address this by expanding the arches or removing teeth to create more room if needed.


Crooked teeth are more susceptible to damage and wear, and this can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue over time. This is especially a concern for issues that are left untreated. By correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age, we can help to prevent excessive wear and tear, and keep the gums from being compromised.

Overbite or protrusive front teeth

Front teeth that are obviously protruding can cause cosmetic issues, pain in the jaw, and sometimes even speech issues. Sometimes we will need to wait until a child’s mouth has finished growing before attempting to permanently correct it, but we can often help reduce the severity of the problem in the meantime.


Most underbites occur due to problems with the teeth or jaw. In more severe cases, the lower jaw may grow too far forward. Similar to overbites, underbites may need to wait until your child has finished growing to introduce treatment. Even when a waiting period is involved, early treatment is important. In order to avoid issues like bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth, we’ll often try to normalize the bite as much as possible, as early as possible.

If your young child has an underbite, we do have a treatment option we refer to as “jumping the bite.” Using braces or headgear, this method allows us to get a handle on the situation before completing treatment in their teenage years. Children who are treated for an underbite between the ages of about 7-10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery when they are older.

Posterior crossbites

Posterior crossbites can cause crowding in your child’s mouth. They may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. If we catch this issue early, we sometimes have the option to expand the upper jaw at around 7-10 years of age. The expansion would be Phase 1 of a two phase treatment. This can reduce crowding, and help to create space for the front teeth to erupt properly. Expansion may also eliminate any shifting that’s present due to a constricted upper jaw.

Anterior open bites and deep bites

These are essentially vertical problems with the bite. They can normally be spotted by the time your child is around 7 years old. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This can point towards a small lower jaw. Open bites often don’t overlap enough, and can point to a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. Whatever the underlying issue, our team will work with you and your child. We want to eliminate bad habits early on, allowing normal development to occur.

girl flossing her teeth with braces

Take the first step to a beautiful smile for your child with Dunn Orthodontics

Early orthodontic evaluations are the first step in giving your child the best chance for a healthy, aligned smile! Identifying and correcting problems in the beginning stages can save you time, money, and effort in the long run. Delaying an orthodontic evaluation and the chance for preventative treatment can also lead to more painful treatment later in life. Performing orthodontic procedures after your child’s jaw bones harden and stop growing tends to be more intensive. It can sometimes involve more serious treatment like tooth extraction or oral surgery.

At Dunn Orthodontics, we have a talented, experienced team providing every patient the highest quality care in a comfortable environment. If you’re in Arcadia, Phoenix, Litchfield Park, Scottsdale give us a call to schedule a consultation for braces for your child. Get in touch with us today to start on your child’s very best smile!

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