Oral Health: Does your Child Need to See an Orthodontist?

In the minds of many people, “dentist” and “orthodontist” are synonymous. However, this isn’t the case. A dentist focuses primarily on oral hygiene and health, treating and preventing problems with the mouth before they can occur. An orthodontist focuses on the alignment of the teeth and jaw; if your child has crooked teeth, an orthodontist is who they should see, not a dentist. Here’s how to tell the difference.


1. Irregular loss of teeth

Children lose teeth on a somewhat regular basis, and it’s usually easy to tell when they are about to lose one. However, if your child exhibits abnormal loss of teeth, either losing them too early or way later than they should, it might be time to consult with an orthodontist to check if your child has a dental problem that needs treatment.


2. Crowded teeth

If your child’s teeth are very close together, causing them to push together painfully and to jut out in all directions, it’s very likely that he will need braces to straighten out the teeth and give them a more favorable smile. According to a professional from Jensen Orthodontics in Bedford, having braces and straightening teeth can help create a perfect smile which will enhance self-confidence. Crooked teeth can lead to severe self-esteem issues later in life or even headaches or pain eating, so it’s better to treat the problems before they get serious.


3. An underbite or overbite

If your child’s jaw juts out at an awkward angle or excessive amount, that can be indicative of an underbite or overbite. To fix this, surgery is often required, although it can be corrected over time through noninvasive techniques.


4. If the dentist recommends it

Many times, orthodontic appointments are the result of dental checkups. Your child’s dentist will inform you if he sees an issue with the teeth that might need orthodontic care. As a result, many orthodontists operate on referrals only, and require a dentist’s recommendation in order to schedule appointments.


5. If the jaw makes a popping noise

A jaw that pops when chewing and results in pain is a sign of TMJ, a disorder of the jaw. This condition is one that children can grow out of, but it can also resurface later in life. While surgery is an option, there are several other methods that are more rehabilitative in nature and can help to correct any problems. A dentist will likely notice this, especially if you mention any symptoms your child has, and refer you to a specialist.


Dentists serve an important purpose, but there are just some things an orthodontist is better suited for. Knowing which type of professional to use for what situation can save you a lot of money on appointments.

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