Early orthodontic treatment
These are just a few of the questions surrounding the topic of early orthodontic treatment for children. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven. At this point we will evaluate whether your child will need orthodontic treatment.
Early treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins around age eight or nine. Phase Two will begin around age 11 or older. The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as underbite. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, which lessens the chance of extractions in the future.
How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment
- Early or late loss of baby teeth (your youngster should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Your child continues to suck a thumb after age five
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
- Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or even at all
- Shifting of the jaw when your little one opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
The goal of phase one treatment is to help the jaw develop in a way that will accommodate all the permanent teeth and improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together. Children often exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. An upper jaw that is growing too much or is too narrow can be recognized at an early age.
If children over the age of six are found to have this jaw discrepancy, they are candidates for early orthodontic treatment. Also, if they have crowded front teeth around the age of eight, early treatment can prevent the need to extract permanent teeth later.
Planning now can save your child’s smile later.
Children benefit tremendously from early-phase treatment. Receiving early treatment may prevent the removal of permanent teeth later in life, or surgical procedures to realign the jaws.
Making records to determine your child’s unique treatment.
Orthodontic records will be necessary to determine the type of appliances to be used, the duration of treatment time, and the frequency of visits. Records consist of models of the teeth, X-rays, and photographs. During your child’s initial consultation, Dr. Groves will use these records to determine whether early treatment is necessary.
In this phase, the remaining permanent teeth are left alone as they erupt. Retaining devices may not be recommended if they would interfere with eruption. It is best to allow the existing permanent teeth some freedom of movement.
A successful first phase will have created room for permanent teeth to find an eruption path. Otherwise, they may become impacted or severely displaced.
Monitoring the teeth’s progress
It’s important to remember that at the end of the first phase of treatment teeth are not in their final positions. This will be accomplished in the second phase of treatment. Selective removal of certain primary (baby) teeth may be in the best interest of enhancing eruption during this resting phase. Therefore, periodic recall appointments for observation are necessary, usually on a six-month basis.
The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. When this equilibrium is established, the teeth will function together properly. Phase two usually involves full upper and lower braces.
At the beginning of the first phase, orthodontic records were made and a diagnosis and treatment plan established. Certain types of appliances were used in the first phase to correct and realign the teeth and jaw.
The second phase begins when all permanent teeth have erupted, and usually requires braces on all the teeth for an average of 24 months. Retainers are worn after this phase to ensure your child retains his or her beautiful smile.
If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, or if you have been directed by your family dentist to visit us, please contact our office and schedule an appointment. Dr. Groves will provide your child with an initial free consultation exam and discuss the best steps to take toward caring for their smile.
After the initial exam, Dr. Groves can begin treatment if your son or daughter needs it. Early treatment allows Dr. Groves to help correct and guide the growth of your child’s jaw to help the permanent teeth come in straight, create more space for crowded teeth, and avoid the need for the extraction of permanent teeth later in life.