Welcome back to our Summer of 7 Series Part 2! Dr. Lee Legler from Legler Orthodontics has teamed up with Dr. Chelsea Garcia from Seaside Smiles in Vero Beach to cover additional topics on the importance of Age 7.
To recap our Summer of 7 Series Part 1, Dr. Legler and Dr. Reza Ardalan from Ardalan Pediatric Dentistry in Port St. Lucie discussed what a parent should expect in their child’s mouth during the process of this transitional phase. They touched on permanent (grownup) teeth beginning to erupt and why it is necessary to evaluate your child’s dental growth and development. They discussed the common problems of large grownup teeth not fitting properly in a child’s tiny mouth and why visiting an orthodontist at Age 7 can save your child from dental problems occurring in the future. Dr. Reza talked about letting your newly independent child brush their own teeth while always keeping a close eye. He discussed proper brushing techniques, how to avoid cavities, and the importance of dental sealants. Dr. Legler went over why it is so important to see an orthodontist at Age 7 not just for the esthetics of your child’s smile but the confidence and joy it brings them at this young age.
No parent loves to see their little baby grow up, lose their adorable baby fat, find their independence, and no longer see them as their shining light in the universe. However, a parent can only pretend for so long that their child will stay a little munchkin forever. It is imperative to address a child’s growth and development and take proper measures to ensure their health now and in the future. This is a team effort and Dr. Legler and Dr. Chelsea are here to work with you and your child and provide their knowledge and support during this scary and exciting milestone.
What Happens at Age 7?
Dr. Chelsea Garcia:
The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and I recommend that patients develop a dental home with a Pediatric Dentist as early as age 1. A Dental Home enhances the dental professional’s ability to provide optimal oral health care for successful preventive care and treatment as part of an overall oral health care foundation for life. At the age of 7, it is crucial for patients to have a dental home to guide them not only for caries (decay) prevention and gingival health, but for evaluation of growth and development. At age 7, most patients are transitioning into the “mixed dentition” stage, with their baby teeth starting to loosen and their permanent teeth beginning to erupt. At that time especially, we want to perfect oral hygiene habits at home and schedule regular dental exams to evaluate dental problems.
Every patient is unique and has individual treatment needs at different points in their development. At age 7, common treatment completed at Seaside Smiles includes preventative measures such as, cleanings, exams, X-Rays, oral hygiene instruction, sealants, and fluoride treatment. As well as restorative treatment including, fillings, crowns, nerve treatments, extractions, space maintainers, habit appliances, and frenectomies. We use space maintainers to uphold space for developing permanent teeth after early loss of primary teeth due to cavities or crowding as well as, to maximize space during permanent teeth eruption in patients with severe crowding. We also use habit appliances to break bad habits like thumb and blanket sucking, that alter the developing dentition. At Seaside Smiles we try to make dental visits enjoyable for kids. When introducing them to new things or doing treatment that can be scary or stressful, we use fun and friendly terms like “Mr. Thirsty”, “Mr. Whistle”, “sleepy jelly”, and “sleepy juice”. We “count teeth”, “make teeth dance for the tooth fairy”, “clean out sugar bugs”, and place “princess” and “superhero” filings to help ease children’s fears and anxieties while at our office. We also take pride in our "No Cavity Club" patients and honor them with a certificate at each “cavity free” visit!
As far as home care, each patient is unique. During our recall consultations at Seaside Smile, we discuss important oral hygiene techniques and tips specific to each patient. We also discuss with the parents if their child is able and ready to begin brushing and flossing on their own or, if they need continued help/supervision with their daily dental routine. At age 7, we always emphasize brushing 2 times per day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste, flossing nightly, and then tailor other recommendations as needed for each patient. Prevention is key for good oral health and we try to stress that to each of our Seaside Smiler families.
On top of providing these services at our office, we coordinate with orthodontists like Dr. Legler at Legler Orthodontics to determine orthodontic needs for patients. The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends a consult with an orthodontist for your child by Age 7. During biannual exams at Seaside Smiles, I screen patients for orthodontic treatment due to crossbites, crowding, severe overjet and overbite, impacted permanent teeth, etc. and coordinate treatment with Dr. Legler. At Legler Orthodontics, Dr. Legler creates patient specific treatment plans to help manage the developing dentition and strives to perfect smiles in the permanent dentition.
Thank you, Dr. Chelsea, for sharing your thoughts and expertise on the importance of evaluating your child’s dental growth and development at age 7. I first want to stress how critical it is for a parent to bring their child to a dentist that not only has a comfortable and welcoming environment so they are not intimidated, but also reiterate that the dentist needs to be able to detect early warning signs at age 7 in the developing mouth. These can be problems with tooth size, jaw size or jaw length, all of which should be very evident.
On a positive note, of all of the 7 year olds we see at Legler Orthodontics, only about 50% require treatment. However, it is still beneficial to schedule an orthodontic evaluation even if your pediatric dentist does not find any early warning signs of growth and development problems. For the 50% of patients that are not ready to start their orthodontic treatment, at Legler Orthodontics we give the parent an idea of future orthodontic needs and then see their child on a recall program until they are ready around the age of 11 or 12. Usually the reason for the other half of the 7 year olds that require treatment, fall into about three different categories.
Where the size of the teeth do not match the size of the jaws. Some kids may require early extraction of the primary (baby) teeth and space maintainers or expanders.
Effects of Bad Oral Habits:
When a child sucks their thumb or thrusts their tongue, the front teeth are not able to erupt fully and they have what we call an open bite. In other cases, the child’s jaw can be too narrow. For these types of cases we not only use braces but, we also use appliances to help fully stop their thumb sucking habit and tongue thrust. We basically realign the jaws or the arches so that the child can grow and develop more normally.
This occurs when one jaw grows too much or too little. For instance, an overbite which is the protrusion of the upper teeth or an underbite where the lower jaw has grown too much and the upper jaw has not grown enough. These types of cases require a two-phase treatment, where some treatment at the ages of 7-9, the first phase, may require braces, appliances, or space maintainers. We can not only make more room for the teeth to erupt but, we can also modify the growth of the size of jaws so they fit together. As a result, when your child proceeds through their adolescent growth spurt, their growth is more normal. Our ultimate goal at Legler Orthodontics is to minimize the need for extraction of permanent teeth, gum tissue grafts, and in severe cases jaw surgery to move a jaw forward or back. Any improvement we can make on these issues we feel is very valuable.
Thank you for joining us this summer for our Summer of 7 Series! We hope to have been of help in informing parents on the importance of evaluating their child’s dental growth and development at Age 7. If you have any additional questions please visit our website www.bracesatlegler.com and call our office to set your child up for a complimentary consultation. Legler Orthodontics Makes You Smile!