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From the moment your baby teeth erupt at around six months of age until they fall out to make room for your adult teeth, baby teeth play an essential role in your oral health. Today, we dive into what role baby teeth play in our oral health and how orthodontic treatment works if you still have baby teeth.

Why are baby teeth so important?

Baby teeth enable children to eat and speak; however, more importantly, baby teeth create and maintain space for their adult teeth to follow through. That’s why it is so important to teach good oral health habits to your children from the very beginning. If you are struggling to encourage your little ones to brush their teeth properly, check out our top five tips!

If a child loses their baby teeth prematurely from either trauma or decay, space for the permanent adult teeth may be lost and they may then shift into an incorrect space or fail to erupt (come through the gum). Alternatively, if a child retains their baby teeth for too long, or an adult tooth comes through before a baby tooth falls out, the adult tooth may come through in a displaced position.

When do baby teeth start to fall out?

Everyone normally has 20 baby teeth. The lower front baby teeth normally start to fall out around six years of age closely followed by the upper front teeth. The upper second from the front teeth can fall out between seven and nine years of age. The time frame is variable to some extent but it’s important that teeth fall out in the right order. Your dentist or orthodontist can advise you on this.

The last baby teeth to fall out are usually the upper second baby molars (fifth tooth from the front) and this usually happens before twelve years of age.

It is important to make sure the upper baby eye teeth (third tooth from the front) have fallen out by about twelve years of age – if they haven’t, it could indicate the adult eye teeth have become impacted on the roof of the mouth. Your dentist will normally monitor this.

Although we only have twenty baby teeth, our jaws grow to fit thirty-two adult teeth with the wisdom teeth the last teeth to come through, or at least try to come through after eighteen years of age (lots of people don’t have room for their wisdom teeth!).

Can a child have braces if their baby teeth have not fallen out?

The short answer is yes. You do not need to wait until all the baby teeth have fallen out to consult an orthodontist about your concerns. The Australian Society of Orthodontics recommends that children first visit an orthodontist at the age of seven.

While there is no required minimum or maximum age for receiving orthodontic treatment (such as braces), if you have concerns, it is best to see a professional sooner rather than later.

Why would children need braces?

Just like early teens and adults, children may need braces or alternative orthodontic treatment to combat the following issues:

  • Overbite,
  • Underbite,
  • Crossbite,
  • Crowded or spaced teeth, or
  • Other tooth or jaw problems.

These issues can be caused by a variety of things, such as your child’s habits (thumb or finger sucking) or airway restriction.

If you are noticing changes in your child’s teeth or, you have concerns about their oral health, speak to your family dentist as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with the friendly Ethos team.

The first orthodontist visit

First Appointments at Ethos for adults and children vary slightly. For young children, we focus on the progress of the patient’s tooth loss, the size and shape of their jaw and any potential problems they may encounter in the future. We also take the time to make sure your child feels safe and comfortable — visiting the orthodontist for the first time can be a little daunting.

When it comes to the growth of the jaws, your orthodontist will be identifying how fast, slow or well-paced your lower jawbone is growing compared to your upper jawbone. If one is growing faster than the other, this may be an early sign of misalignment. In this case, and depending on a variety of other factors, your orthodontist may recommend early treatment.

If the orthodontist does not discover anything of concern during your child’s first appointment, they will likely put you on a scheduled recall and will see you back at a more appropriate time (when you child is older). This provides you with peace of mind, knowing that you will not miss that optimal window for fixing a bite.

Orthodontic treatment for kids

Your orthodontist will tailor your child’s treatment to their age, daily activities or habits. For example, clear aligner treatment (eg. Invisalign) would likely not suit a child given the responsibility placed on the wearer to keep it clean and wear them for 22 hours a day.

If it is too early for treatment, but your orthodontist has expressed some concerns regarding their teeth or jaw alignment, you will be provided with a tailored treatment plan. These plans outline potential treatments for your child over their transitional years (when their adult teeth are growing).

Ultimately, there is no harm in seeing an orthodontist too early; however, there is a lot of harm in seeing one too late. Waiting for your child’s adult teeth to appear before seeking out orthodontic treatment can risk aggravating serious oral health issues.