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What to Expect at the First Orthodontist Visit



Just when you think you have everything down as a parent, you find out it’s time to take your child to his first orthodontist visit.

When should I go?

Some parents bring their child to the orthodontist when their general or pediatric dentist alerts them to a problem. However, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child should go to the orthodontist for  a consult at age 7.

Why should I go?

Kids can need orthodontic care for many different reasons, including an over- or underbite, or crowded or overlapping teeth. Thumb sucking, accidents, tooth decay and even genetics can cause dental problems.

Benefits of having straight teeth include:

  • easier maintenance, which can
  • prevent cavities;
  • reduction of wear on tooth surfaces;
  • less stress on supportive teeth bones and gum tissue; and
  • avoidance of jaw problems that can lead to headaches.

What should I expect?

During the approximately 45-minute visit, the orthodontist will conduct a pain-free examination with small, mirrored tools and likely take digital photos and an X-ray of your child’s teeth. The doctor may need to take a mold of your child’s teeth, too.

After looking over the results of the entire exam, she’ll sit down with you to discuss treatment suggestions and fee schedules, if she’s recommending treatment.

Ask plenty of questions. The orthodontist will want you to understand what she’s doing during the exam and what she’s recommending as a treatment plan.

With luck, your child may end up needing no orthodontic care for a few years, if ever. If she does need treatment, her imagination may run wild about scary things that could happen, notes Dr. John Nista, DMD, of Nista & Greeley Orthodontics in Newark and Wilmington, DE. Although many children may carry over fears of the dentist to the orthodontist, Dr. Nista reassures patients that at the orthodontist’s office there are no needles, and patients feel welcomed like family since they build a long-term relationship with office staff.

Orthodontic devices

Modern orthodontics offers many options, some of which require fewer office visits. One mom reports that her 9-year-old son wears a “retainer that I can adjust at home myself weekly. The goal is to get some teeth moved before he needs braces and possibly prevent the need for braces.”

If your child does need braces, know that they have come a long way. Your child can get clear, gold or tooth-colored braces, instead of silver metal. She can choose the color of the ties that hold the wire in brackets.

In some cases, a patient can opt for Invisalign braces, which are like a set of clear retainers that can be removed for eating, drinking, brushing and flossing and that get replaced every two weeks. Dr. Nista advises that a patient has to have all his adult teeth to use Invisalign, which means the most likely candidates are teens. He also cautions that this program does not work as well as traditional braces when major bite changes need to be made.

If your child does end up needing braces or another orthodontic device, she need not limit her activities. She can still play sports and musical instruments, though it may take some getting used to. She will need to avoid foods that don’t get along well with braces, however.

While kids used to dread the prospect of visiting the orthodontist, now many of them actually look forward to it. Today’s orthodontist offices have become fun places to be, with entertainment to distract patients while the doctor does her work. And most kids find all those visits were completely worthwhile when they see their beautiful new smile.

Kerrie McLoughlin, a mom of 5, sported braces back in the 1980s.

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