Article by Margot de Boer for Scarsdale Moms
Ah, braces: who else remembers carefully picking out the perfect shade of neon for those tiny rubber bands of torture, and tin-filled smiles piling into the mall photo booth? Perhaps those distant memories (the good…and the not so good) of your years in the orthodontist’s chair are coming back as you think about your own child going through this tweenage rite of passage. But did you know that the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all kids see an orthodontist at age seven or even sooner in some cases?
My mom certainly didn’t! And neither did I before sitting down with Dr. Yubin Lee, a board certified orthodontist and Scarsdale mom who recently opened her dream practice – Smile Studio Orthodontics – in Westchester, after years of running her own practice in Manhattan. Read on to learn more about why that first visit to the orthodontist can be so key, as well as all that’s changed in orthodontics since we were kids.
The Benefits of Early Detection & Intervention
Waiting until all baby teeth fall out until you think about scheduling that first orthodontic visit might seem like the common sense thing to do, but Dr. Yubin says that orthodontic problems are often easier to tackle when caught early. By age seven, a child has enough adult teeth for an orthodontist to identify issues and take preventive measures, such as guiding proper jaw and dental development, which can make treatment less complex in the long run. A lot depends on genetics, and not all kids will need immediate treatment at age seven, but booking that first appointment early can address problems like overcrowding, bite issues, or misaligned jaws before they become more complicated down the road. That can mean less time (and money) spent on braces overall! Early evaluation can also help identify and discourage habits like thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting, which can impact teeth and bite development.
The earliest age that a child can get braces can vary depending on their individual dental development and the specific reasons for orthodontic treatment. Children as young as six can start treatment when there is a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth, and after the six-year molars have come in. If you spot any of these signs in your child before age seven, it’s a good idea to talk to your child’s pediatric dentist and potentially consult an orthodontist: crowded baby teeth, early loss of baby teeth, extended thumb-sucking or pacifier use past age four, mouth breathing, irregular jaw alignment, overbite or underbite. Working together with your pediatric dentist and orthodontist can ensure that any potential orthodontic concerns are caught and addressed at the right time.
The First Visit: What To Expect
Now that you know when to book the appointment, you might be wondering, “Can’t my dentist just take a look at my kid’s bite? I know she does Invisalign in her office!” While pediatric dentists can be essential in flagging potential issues early on, it’s important to know that all orthodontists receive an additional two to three years of training beyond dental school focused on the study and practice of tooth movement and the correction of dental and facial irregularities. Since the complexity of orthodontic issues can vary widely, and we’re talking about moving jaw positioning and potentially altering facial aesthetics, you’re really better off in a specialist’s hands from the get-go. Contrary to what many parents think, insurance providers do not require a referral from your dentist to schedule your child’s first appointment. Dr. Yubin strongly recommends seeking out a trained orthodontist who holds board certification from the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO), the only nationally recognized board for Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. Surprisingly, only about 58% of orthodontists achieve this certification, so Dr. Yubin says this is absolutely a question you should ask if it’s not displayed. Practitioners must renew their certification every ten years, offering added confidence that your board-certified orthodontist is abreast of any technological advances or new treatments in the field.
At your child’s first visit to the orthodontist, the orthodontist and their team should ask about any concerns you or your child may have and take photos and x-rays of your child’s teeth to understand their dental needs. Digital scans may be taken as well. Then, the orthodontist will talk to you about the findings and treatment options, and answer any questions you have. It should be a relatively quick, friendly, and informative visit to kickstart your child’s orthodontic journey! Your orthodontist will create a personalized treatment plan, provide an estimate of the cost, and give you an idea of how long the treatment may take. A good orthodontist should embrace modern technology, offering a variety of treatment options that fit your family’s unique needs and preferences.
Then and Now: Braces Have Come A Long Way, Baby
Gone are the middle school class photos filled with metal smiles: one of the most notable changes in orthodontics is the rise of clear aligners, such as Invisalign, which have become an effective alternative to traditional braces and can be used in most cases. While Invisalign might not be the best option for everyone, Dr. Yubin has noticed that younger children (ages 8-10), often do better with Invisalign than teenagers and grown-ups! Lingual braces – braces on the inside of the teeth – are another aesthetically pleasing option with less responsibility than Invisalign. This type of braces, however, is more suitable for older patients who have all of their adult teeth.
We can also thank technology for bidding adieu to awkward traditional molds, as impressions can be done digitally today, which has the added benefit of being exceptionally accurate. Custom digital treatment plans, computer software, and 3D printing have also enabled orthodontists to create precise appliances tailored to each patient. Faster treatment options, such as micro-osteoperforations and high-frequency vibration devices, can further reduce the time spent in braces or aligners. Some offices (like Dr. Yubin’s!) even offer remote monitoring, allowing orthodontists to track a patient’s progress and provide guidance with fewer in-office visits. All these new advances make getting braces a lot more comfortable and convenient – for both kids and their parents – than it was back in our day!
About Smile Studio Orthodontics
Smile Studio Orthodontics is located in The Fortune Building at 280 N Central Ave, Suite 460 in Hartsdale. Dr. Yubin is committed to offering top-notch expertise, state-of-the-art technology, and a commitment to personalized care for kids and adults of all ages. You can follow Dr. Yubin and see before and afters at @bysmilestudio, and click here or call 914-902-5587 to book a consultation appointment. Mention Scarsdale Moms at booking to receive $500 off your treatment plan!