What Should You Expect from Your Child’s First Orthodontist Appointment?

Everything in your child’s life has a long-lasting impact that can change who they grow up to be. The same is true for their dental health! In addition to regular dental visits, parents should consider the importance of an orthodontic exam for their child during their formative years. The benefits of your child’s first orthodontist appointment could last a lifetime!

If you’re worried about what their first orthodontist appointment will be like, don’t be! Read on to learn how straight-forward a first-time orthodontic exam is, and how it will help improve your child’s dental health for years to come.

When to Plan for Your First Orthodontist Appointment

The American Association of Orthodontics encourages parents to schedule an orthodontist appointment for their child around age seven. For most children, this gives them time to develop most of their permanent teeth. If they still have their primary teeth, it’s still recommended to have them see the orthodontist.

Orthodontists can catch most issues that impact a child’s dental development at this age, which gives them a chance to prevent major issues. The earlier you begin orthodontic treatment, the better the long-term outcome can be – and in many cases, it also makes the problems easier to solve. So even if you haven’t identified any visible issues, it’s still recommended to schedule the appointment!

Your Child’s Dentist Will Often Recommend an Orthodontic Visit

Because your child’s dentist will have an opportunity to watch their development in their earlier years, they’re most likely to catch problems early. If they notice a problem that’s treatable with braces, they will recommend you visit an orthodontist.

If this is the case, don’t wait! When your dentist catches these problems, they’re often already beginning to have a noticeable effect on your child’s oral health, making it imperative to start treatment.

However, even if your child’s dentist doesn’t tell you to see an orthodontist, it’s often still beneficial. Orthodontists have additional education and training for specific types of dental problems, and their trained eye may catch something your dentist missed. Ideally, your child’s first orthodontist appointment will be the only one they need – but if treatment is required, your child can avoid years of development issues!

What Happens at the First Pediatric Orthodontist Appointment?

At your child’s first orthodontist appointment, they’ll undergo some common diagnostic examinations. If you came on your own, the orthodontist will look for general risk signs. If your dentist recommended the visit, they will likely have some additional information to verify specific concerns from your dentist.

Here is what you can typically expect:

Orthodontic Exam

Your child’s first orthodontist appointment will involve a physical orthodontic exam. This gives the orthodontist a chance to visually see your child’s dental development. An orthodontic exam, from the perspective of your child, shouldn’t be too different than a typical dental exam. The primary difference is what the orthodontist is looking for: tooth alignment, jaw development and other signs that treatment may be necessary.


X-rays are a core part of dental examinations, as they allow the dentist or orthodontist to see things that are hidden from the naked eye. Like the orthodontic exam, it may seem similar to the x-rays taken at your dentist, but the goal is different.

While dental x-rays typically look for cavities, orthodontic x-rays are focused on the physical development of the jaw and mouth area. Your orthodontist will use these x-rays to check for issues related to bite, tooth position, jaw development and more.

Treatment Recommendations

If the orthodontist identifies a current alignment or jaw issue, or a problem that could lead into problems with future development, they will likely recommend treatment options for your child. These options can range dramatically.

For some parents, a change in their children’s habits may be all that’s necessary. If your child is sucking their thumb, you may simply be asked to keep an eye on it and return to your orthodontist for a check-up after a few months to a year. In other cases, they may suggest your child start two-phase orthodontic treatment, or come back for another exam to see if potential issues have been avoided or worsened.

Is Orthodontic Treatment a Necessity After the First Appointment?

Your child’s first orthodontist appointment won’t always result in recommendations for treatment. If their dental development is normal or close to normal, treatment won’t be necessary. Outside of extreme health concerns, the choice for treatment is left to the parent to decide – with the understanding that delaying treatment may make the issue harder to treat in the future.

Ultimately, you should take your orthodontist’s recommendations seriously. If they identify an issue at your child’s first orthodontist appointment, they can begin treatment that will ensure your child avoids lifelong complications related to misaligned teeth.

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