By Steve Penhollow
Many parents think of the orthodontist as someone the family dentist recommends. If parents never get that recommendation from the family dentist, they assume that they’re home free.
The truth, according to Fort Wayne orthodontist Dr. Timothy Bussick, is that an early adolescent checkup and check in with an orthodontist is a good idea, even when there are no obvious problems.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children go in for orthodontic checkups no later than age 7, at the point when baby teeth are still present.
Bussick said he offers free checkups for 7 and 8 year olds.
An early checkup can forestall more drastic, painful and costly measures later, Bussick said. During an early checkup, Bussick can tell if there is going to be enough room in the child’s mouth “for all the other teeth like the canines and premolars.”
“Because if there isn’t enough room, we can expand the palate and make enough room for teeth to come in,” he said. “If you don’t do that, the problem is that a lot of people extract permanent teeth and no one wants to have permanent teeth pulled anymore and I don’t blame them. It is not a fun thing to do.”
The AAO does not advocate comprehensive orthodontic treatment at age 7. What Bussick is referring to here is something known as “interceptive treatment” – interventions that prevent and correct impending bite irregularities.
“Most kids don’t need that early treatment,” he said. “But if we catch that early, we can avoid extractions of teeth, we can avoid jaw surgeries and we can avoid impactions of teeth. We can avoid a lot more aggressive treatments that we’d have to do later.”
Bussick knows that most parents have no clue that many orthodontists offer this free checkup for young children.
Orthodontists can catch things that family dentists may miss, he said.
“We try to educate the moms,” he said.
“Because, sometimes the general dentist gets busy. They’re worried about fillings and crowns and cleanings and all the things that they do. But we’re trained to look at growth and development; to check orthopedically how the bones and the face and the jaw are growing and how teeth are coming in.”
Bussick said he also offers a free panoramic x-ray of the child’s mouth, something many general dentists aren’t equipped to provide and something that can cost parents hundreds of dollars.
The first thing he looks for in that x-ray is “severe crowding.” “That’s number one,” he said. “Most general dentists don’t take that panoramic x-ray. They just do those bitewing x-rays because they’re looking for cavities in between the teeth. We do a more comprehensive, bigger picture.”
Other issues Bussick checks for: missing teeth, impacted teeth, and orthopedic problems related to lower jaw growth.
One of the primary ways Bussick addresses developing problems is through palatal expansion, which simply and gradually creates more space in a child’s mouth.
“We can avoid the pulling of teeth by doing an expansion,” he said. “We can avoid impacted teeth by doing the expansion. We can avoid something called resorption.”
An expansion at that age also opens up the child’s airway more, Bussick said.
“They can actually breathe better,” he said. “In Indiana, with all the allergies people have – that would have been a good thing for me, but I didn’t receive that.”
Where orthodontic treatment for teens and adults is concerned, Bussick offers more Invisalign-related services than any other orthodontist in northeast Indiana.
Invisalign is a more agreeable and less arduous alternative to metal braces that involves clear plastic aligners.
“It’s come a long way,” he said. “Just like any other product on the medical market, it continues to get improved upon. As I have done more cases and sought more training, I can say that it does almost everything traditional braces can do.”