Ten year-old asks: Is it too soon to see orthodontist?

My front teeth are crooked, and so are the ones below them. I'm only ten years old. Is it to early to go to the orthodontist? And if I need braces, will I have to wait till all my baby teeth are lost (I only have a few to go.)?

Question:

Dear Melani,

It is not too early for you to see an orthodontist. The orthodontist may want to do what is called a mixed dentition analysis. Mixed dentition is when you have both permanent and primary (baby) teeth present in your mouth. An analysis can be done to determine if you have enough space for all your permanent teeth to erupt. This analysis may be done by taking an impression of your upper and lower teeth. A model of your teeth can then be made from these impressions. These models can then be used to determine the length of your upper and lower arches. Using radiographs (x-rays) and/or tooth prediction formulas, the orthodontist can then estimate the space that will be required for your permanent teeth.

For predicting tooth size, a Moyers' analysis can be done. This is a special chart which can be used by analyzing the size of your lower front permanent teeth. Then the chart can be used to predict if space is available for the back permanent teeth. A Moyers' chart is not critical; however, because there is a good comparison between the size of your lower front permanent teeth and the sizes of your lower permanent canine and premolar teeth.

By determining your arch length and your tooth size, the orthodontist can then decide if and/or when orthodontic treatment will be needed. Sometimes, orthodontists do what is called interceptive treatment, which is started before all the primary teeth are lost. This interceptive treatment may help to create more space for your permanent teeth.

Sometimes, interceptive treatment requires two phases. You might have braces now for a few months, and then again for a few months after all the primary teeth are lost and the permanent teeth have erupted. Overall, you may have braces on for less time than waiting until later for orthodontic treatment. However, in some cases, it is better to wait.

Next time you visit your dentist, ask him or her about orthodontics (braces). Your dentist should discuss this with your mom or dad, and perhaps refer you to the orthodontist to determine if you have enough space for your permanent teeth.

Thank you for your question, Melani.

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