Do you or a loved one suffer from the debilitating joint condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ disorder for short)? Do you have young children with either crooked adult teeth or seemingly straight baby teeth? It may be time for an orthodontic evaluation. While it may seem a tad premature to be worrying about realigning the teeth of a child, dentists and orthodontists recommend that children be evaluated for orthodontics as young as age 7. This is because at age 7, the bones of the roof of the mouth are still not completely fused together, making it much easier to treat common orthodontic problems and ward off a potential pain: temporomandibular joint disorder. Temporomandibular joint disorder is a condition of the temporomandibular joint wherein a misaligned bite stemming from the jawbone or surrounding muscles can cause severe pain. It is categorized by a clicking or popping sound while opening and closing the jaw; jaw pain and stiffness; tinnitus; muscle aches in the back, neck and face; and even headaches. But getting to the root cause of TMJ disorder is not so simple. While we don’t know for sure if temporomandibular joint disorder is genetic, we do know there are some genetic predispositions to the condition. Thus, if a parent or someone in the family has TMJ disorder, others in the family – including children – may also be genetically predisposed, even if they currently exhibit no signs of the condition. But helping to diagnose TMJ disorder is not all an early orthodontic evaluation can do for your child. Orthodontic visits can help predict the growth pattern of adult teeth and either begin a treatment plan or develop a future treatment plan for your child. This enables you to get a head start on warding off any orthodontic trouble, and it may even make your child’s orthodontic treatment less painful and much shorter than it might be at a more advanced age – namely after the jawbones fuse around age 9. Remember, orthodontic intervention can prevent more than just cosmetic issues like crooked teeth. It can prevent problems like TMJ disorder, sleep apnea, snoring and more. To schedule an orthodontic evaluation for your child, call Dr. George’s office at 724-220-2347.