Office News |3 min read

Does My Child Need All Their Permanent Teeth to See an Orthodontist?

A child looking at his missing tooth

If someone tells you that your child should have all of his/her permanent teeth before visiting the orthodontist in Chatham, NJ for the first time, think again.

Putting off a first visit to the orthodontist until all of your child’s permanent teeth are in could do more harm than good.

Here’s why!

Why early orthodontic treatment is necessary

There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. A child’s mouth is undergoing a lot of change.

Beginning at the age of six, an exchange of teeth begins as baby teeth fall out and are replaced by larger-sized permanent teeth.

And it all happens in a predictable order.

Unless it doesn’t.

The baby teeth and gums hide the developing permanent teeth below and can mask conditions that interfere with the emergence of these teeth.

Parents can watch for clues.

Early or late loss of baby teeth can signal a problem. So can trouble with chewing or biting, thumb-sucking or tongue thrusting, and mouth-breathing.

If these indicators are not addressed until a child has all of his/her permanent teeth and growth is essentially complete, correcting the problem may be more difficult than it might have been had treatment occurred earlier.

The importance of orthodontics for children

Orthodontic treatment is about creating a healthy alignment – the beautiful smile is a bonus.

The goal is to make sure the bite is right and that the upper and lower teeth fit together like interlocking gears.

Some children can wait until they have all or most of their permanent teeth.

Other children’s orthodontic problems may be better treated while some baby teeth are present.

These children require growth guidance of bones in the upper and lower jaws, so there’s enough room for permanent teeth. Their treatment can be timed to predictable stages of dental development and physical growth.

A dentist vs. orthodontist

Dentists and orthodontists look at the mouth differently.

Dentists assess and promote overall oral health.

With a focus on detecting cavities and gum disease, they take “bitewing” x-rays to isolate a particular section of teeth as part of their diagnosis.

Orthodontists are laser-focused on each patient’s bite.

Orthodontists use “panoramic” x-rays to visualize all of the teeth above and below the gums to check for missing or impacted teeth and teeth coming in in the wrong direction.

Do I need a dentist’s referral to see an orthodontist?

No! If your dentist has not referred your child to an orthodontist, you need not wait for a referral.

Orthodontists do not require a referral for your child to be seen.

At what age should my child first see an orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists… This text opens a new tab to the AAO website… recommends children have their first visit with an orthodontist no later than age seven.

If a problem is detected and treatment is advised, you allow the orthodontist to provide your child with the most appropriate treatment at the most appropriate time.

Schedule your child’s first orthodontist appointment today

Looking for an “orthodontist near me?”

If you’re in the Chatham, NJ area, let us introduce you to:

Dr. Barbara Fodero!

Our award-winning, board-certified orthodontist is accepting new patients of all ages.

Here’s a preview of our services:


Your child’s consultation is free of charge!

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Chatham Orthodontics is proud to serve patients of all ages in Chatham, NJ and surrounding areas, including Madison, Florham Park, Summit, New Providence, Berkeley Heights, Livingston, Short Hills, Millburn, Maplewood, and Morristown.

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