2565 Park Center Blvd, Suite 300
State College PA 16801
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 8:30am-5:30pm
Saturday by appointment
Parents frequently ask me the best way of addressing their child’s thumbsucking habit. If prolonged, any digit (thumb or other finger(s)) habit may cause unwanted changes in a child’s bite.
A digit habit is considered normal during the first 2 years of a child’s life and gradually diminishes during their preschool years. A thumb or finger habit that persists after the age of 4 can affect the shape of the developing jaws and position of the developing teeth. It is thought that if the habit is stopped by age 6, the effects on the bite are transitory; if a child stops their habit at a young age, the effects on the teeth may resolve naturally.
As the Holidays approach, I become overwhelmed with the countless number of catalogs in the mail every day… Orvis, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, L.L. Bean and…American Girl. Last year, I noticed that American Girl introduced a Healthy Smile Set for Dolls which includes a retainer case, headgear, toothbrush and braces stickers. Having a daughter that was “too young for American Girl” I saw the Healthy Smile Set, smiled to myself and discarded the catalog.
This year, thanks to her wonderful aunt and grandmother, my daughter at age 4 (which her father and I still deem “too young for American Girl”) will get an American Girl Doll. Age 4. The target demographic for the Healthy Smile Set…age 4. Sure, as an orthodontist I am pleased with the marketing genius of American Girl. But, as a parent trying to simplify the wants of my children, I am concerned that she will be a teenager before she reaches age 10.
So, what is the ideal age for the Healthy Smile Set?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7. For most kids, by the age of 7, their first permanent molars and permanent incisors have erupted; it’s a good first look at their developing bite. It does not indicate that a 7 year old is ready for braces…again it does not mean that a 7 year old is ready for braces. It simply means that it is the earliest time for most kids to be evaluated by an orthodontist based upon the average stage of dental development. It proves to be helpful for many families to have a perspective as to what their childrens’ orthodontic needs will be in the future.
So, being introduced to the Healthy Smile Set at age 4 and meeting an orthodontist for the first time at age 7, most kids (and parents) become comfortable with orthodontic treatment by the time they are ready for it.