Children’s Dentistry from a Dentist’s Point of View

What we look for in children’s dentistry

If you’re a parent of young children, chances are you’d like your kids to grow up with strong and healthy teeth.

You probably encourage positive behaviours like tooth brushing, saving sugary foods for special occasions, and visiting the dentist on a regular basis.
But did you know that dentists do more than just check children’s teeth for decay?

Children’s dentistry: a watching brief

Many parents don’t realise that dentists also carefully monitor teeth and jaw development in children as young as three.

Braces, plates or other orthodontic treatments are sometimes unavoidable in children’s dentsitry. However, it doesn’t hurt to start monitoring teeth development from a young age. Identifying and addressing dental issues early can reduce the need for expensive orthodontic work in the future.

What dentists look for in young children’s teeth

When you take your child to a dental appointment, your dentist will check for things like cavities and correct brushing technique.

They will also examine:

  • How your child’s baby teeth are developing
  • How their teeth relate to the top and bottom jaws
  • Whether baby teeth are coming together in the right way.

They may also check to see that your child doesn’t lose baby teeth too early (i.e. as a result of trauma). Losing a baby tooth at the wrong time can cause the adult tooth underneath to erupt in an incorrect position. This may cause painful occlusal and joint problems as your child gets older.

Ideally, you want all of your child’s permanent teeth to come up in the right position. In many cases, this will minimise the need for orthodontic treatment.

The benefits of starting orthodontic treatment early

In my experience, orthodontists are increasingly treating children as young as seven or eight years of age. At this age, children are in their maximum growth period. Their bones are soft, malleable and still developing. Signs of future tooth and jaw problems, such as overcrowding, also emerge.

With this in mind, if your child does need orthodontic work, starting treatment early may be more effective.

Your dentist may refer your child to an orthodontist for any of the following reasons:

  • One or both jaws appears too narrow to accommodate a full set of adult teeth – your dentist may describe your child’s jaw as V-shaped instead of U-shaped
  • There are already signs of overcrowding
  • One or both parents have V-shaped jaws– genetics plays a role in jaw development, so if Mum or Dad have V-shaped jaws, odds are the child will too.

Plates or braces?

For young children, orthodontists usually begin with little plates that encourage positive jaw development. Some children may also need braces at a later stage, but not all.

Plates work by gently cranking a patient’s jaw wider. Instead of allowing the jaw to continue to develop into a narrow V-shape, a plate pushes the jaw sideways to try and make it broader. This creates more room for emerging adult teeth.

The benefits of catching it early

By identifying and correcting teeth and jaw issues early, your child may avoid complex orthodontic work as a teenager or adult.

And don’t forget. If you’re unsure about your child’s teeth and jaw development, the best thing you can do is book an appointment with your dentist.