Dear Dr. Ward:
My granddaughter is just turning 8, and I’m concerned about her teeth. They are significantly crooked, and I’m wondering when they should be looked at. My son says ‘not to worry – they are just baby teeth and will fall out anyway’. I’m not so sure. She is still sucking her thumb at night and I’m not sure about that either. We couldn’t afford to have his teeth fixed when he was a youngster and they are pretty crooked today. When is the best time? I’m willing to assist if necessary, and think waiting may not make things better.
A: You’re entirely correct. The optimum time to have a child’s mouth checked out is before the baby teeth fall out. This is even more important if they have a family history of crowding or crooked teeth. Some parents put it off for financial reasons, but this is false economy. With orthodontic science today we have systems that allow us to correct this problem – the earlier the better. When I speak of ‘false economy’ I refer to the significant investment required later in life to make space for teeth after the jaw is fully developed. It is not unheard of for adults requiring teeth straightening to need major surgery to correct conditions of the face and jaw that can’t be treated by braces alone. This is usually done prior to the actual straightening of the teeth. Bones often must be cut, repositioned, and held in place with screws or plates until the jaw absorbs these changes. We find that adults are often reluctant to embark on this treatment unless there are mitigating factors such as tension headaches, jaw – neck – and tooth pain, all made worse by a misalignment of the jaw. Things like work and family get in the way and often adults just ‘live with it’. Had their parents been made aware of the long term difficulties that this ‘facial asymmetry’ can cause, there is little doubt they would have investigated it. Any kind of jaw surgery to correct the bite that may have been avoided with orthodontic appliances as a youngster is worth considering. We treat overbites, underbites, and any type of asymmetric issues. Often with more extreme cases, patients suffer from major psychological problems with self esteem. Results post treatment from the surgical side can be almost immediate. Our colleagues in General Practice Dentistry who perform cosmetic services tell us their patients talk about changing their life, not just changing their appearance. We have the opportunity to do that at a much earlier age. Plus, it often is much more affordable. You are wise to be concerned. Encourage your son to have his daughter examined without delay! If you have a question for us please give us a call at 403-548-2080 or visit our website at