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We strive to make the best decisions for our kids’ health and well-being. One thing to check off the list? A first orthodontic appointment by the time your child is seven years old. Though you might find this surprising, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children have their first orthodontic evaluation by this age, even if their teeth appear straight. 

Rest assured, your orthodontist may find that your child doesn’t need early orthodontics — also called Phase 1 orthodontic treatment. In fact, most kids who see the orthodontist at an early age don’t. But an early visit helps you check in on your child’s oral development and be proactive about any issues. It can also kickstart a “wait and see” approach where we monitor your child at an annual visit, making a recommendation for early orthodontic treatment if needed.


Here, Dr. Talley and Dr. Clark want to dive into five reasons why an early orthodontic visit is important. We’ll also touch on the benefits of Phase 1 orthodontics for your child’s smile and overall health.

  1. We Can Detect Oral Development Issues

By age seven, most kids have a mix of baby and adult teeth, and their jaw shape is established. So it’s an ideal time for an orthodontist to identify any potential oral development issues. As your go-to kids’ orthodontist in Washington, DC, the team at Bird Smiles Orthodontics will assess how your child’s jaw and facial bones are growing and see if your child has:

  • enough space for permanent teeth to come in properly
  • crowding, gapping, buck teeth or other potential tooth misalignment
  • discrepancies between the alignment or size of the upper and lower jaws 

Identifying oral development issues early can set your child up for smile success as they grow. How? If they need early orthodontic treatment, it does much of the heavy lifting when it comes to complex issues, making orthodontics like braces or Invisalign in your child’s teen years much easier. 

  1. Prolonged Infant Habits Can Be Addressed 

Infant habits like thumb-sucking and tongue-thrust that continue into the preschool or early elementary years can contribute to crooked teeth and misaligned jaws. Resolving these issues early can lower your child’s risk of tooth trauma, tooth decay, even breathing issues. In an early orthodontic evaluation, we can provide tips and tricks for correcting these habits or start a Phase 1 appliance like a spinner bead that occupies the space thumbs usually rest in when thumb sucking. The change created by the bead is often enough to kick the habit, simple, comfortable and easy!

  1. It’s Easier Treating Oral Issues When You’re Still Growing

Between the ages of seven and 10, your child’s jaw is constantly growing and, therefore, more malleable. This is a win for kids’ oral development: during this time, a certified specialist in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics like Dr. Talley and Dr. Clark can guide your child’s oral development more efficiently and quickly. A bonus? Your child might likely experience less discomfort than orthodontics after puberty.

What kind of issues can really take advantage of this phase? A narrow upper jaw can respond well to a Phase 1 appliance like a palatal expander because the upper jaw bone is still in two halves (left and right) during childhood. The jaw can be more gently separated and stabilized than the fused jaw of a teen or adult.   

One question we’ve heard is, “Can you get braces on baby teeth?” Yes, when baby and adult teeth are both present. But picture Phase 1 braces as an appliance with brackets on select teeth only, not on all the teeth like in Phase 2 braces.

  1. We Can Reduce the Risk of Dental Trauma

For some kids, protruding teeth or a bad bite can increase the risk of dental trauma. An early orthodontic assessment can flag issues that increase your child’s risk of teeth getting knocked out from sports or a fall. 

  1. Why Not Give Your Child A Self-Esteem Boost?

Crooked teeth or jaw misalignments like an underbite, overbite, crossbite, or open bite can hurt your child’s self-esteem, even at a young age. On the other hand, a beautiful smile can raise their confidence and self-image. Straight, well-spaced teeth are also easier to keep clean, setting your child up for oral health success. 

Visit Your Kid-Friendly Tenleytown Orthodontist

“What if my child has a bit of dental anxiety?” you ask. Not a problem at Bird Smiles Orthodontics. As moms ourselves, we get it. We’re patient and friendly and go above and beyond to help our youngest patients feel comfortable and at ease. We also use proven, innovative technology to help us give our patients comfortable, efficient, and safe orthodontic care.

Schedule an early orthodontic appointment at our cozy, kid- and parent-friendly office.