EARLY ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT FOR CHILDREN
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven. This seems young, but there is a reason for this. At this young age, permanent teeth are beginning to erupt. This is the right age when we can determine crowding, true bite problems and whether the bite problems are only of dental nature or whether they are of a skeletal nature. If there are problems with the size of the jaws, treating a child earlier is easier and more effective. At this point the orthodontist will evaluate whether your child will need early orthodontic treatment or not.
Early treatment (also known as Phase One Orthodontic Treatment) typically begins around age eight or nine (Phase Two Orthodontic Treatment will begin around age 11 or older). The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems by guiding jaw growth. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening 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 child should typically start losing teeth around age 5, and have all permanent teeth around age 13)
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Your child continues sucking his or her 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 child opens or closes his or her mouth
- Top teeth closing inside bottom teeth, also called crossbite
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
WHAT CAUSES ORTHODONTIC PROBLEMS, AND HOW WILL EARLY TREATMENT BENEFIT MY CHILD?
Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and crossbites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.
Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, and by the end of their teen years, the jaws will stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, leaving little to no chance of extraction or surgery in the future.
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 the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule an appointment. Our team will provide your child with an initial exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child’s smile. Don’t worry, early orthodontic treatment will only be recommended if absolutely necessary. Dr. Cope tends to be on the conservative side and he only performs early treatment if there is a true need and benefit.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF TWO-PHASE TREATMENT?
Two-phase orthodontic treatment is a specialized process that combines teeth straightening and guided facial growth. The traditional orthodontic treatment is devided into two phases, with a resting period (no braces) in between. The purpose of two-phase treatment is to maximize the opportunity to accomplish the ideal healthy, functional, and aesthetic results that will remain stable throughout your child’s life. Most young children do NOT need Phase One treatment, but Dr. Cope still recommends an initial evaluation around the age of 7 so that we can determine if and when treatment may be necessary. If no treatment is necessary, then he will likely see your child on a 6-12 month basis for growth guidance checks to ensure that the primary (or baby) teeth are falling out normally and that the adult teeth are erupting properly.
Planning now can save your smile later!
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. Upper and lower jaws that are growing too much, too little or is too narrow can be recognized at an early age.
If children over the age of seven are found to have jaw discrepancy, they are candidates for early orthodontic treatment. Also, if children around the age of seven have crowded front teeth, early treatment can prevent the need to extract permanent teeth later.
- Children benefit tremendously from early-phase treatment. Receiving early treatment may prevent the removal of permanent teeth later in life, or the need for surgical procedures to realign the jaws.
- Orthodontic records will be necessary to determine the type of appliances to be used, the duration of treatment, and the frequency of visits. Our records consist of a 3D scan of the teeth, X-rays, and photographs to evaluate and precisely measure the orthodontics problems. During your child’s initial consultation, Dr. Cope will determine if early treatment is necessary and only then we’ll schedule records.
In this phase, the remaining permanent teeth are left alone as they erupt. Retaining devices might not be recommended if they would interfere with eruption. It is best to allow the existing permanent teeth some freedom of movement.
A successful Phase One will have created room for permanent teeth to find an eruption path. Otherwise, they may become impacted or severely displaced.
- We won’t use appliances but we’ll be monitoring the teeth’s progress
- At the end of Phase one Treatment, teeth are not in their final positions. This will be determined and accomplished in the second phase of treatment. Therefore, periodic recall appointments for observation are necessary, usually on a six-month basis.
A beautiful smile that functions properly!
The goal of phase two treatment 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 properly together and look amazing. Phase Two usually involves full upper and lower braces.
At the beginning of phase one, orthodontic records were taken and a diagnosis and treatment plan was established. Certain types of appliances were used in the first phase to correct and realign the teeth and jaw.
The phase two usually begins when all permanent teeth have erupted, and often requires braces on all the teeth for an average of 18 months. Retainers are worn after this phase to ensure you retain your beautiful smile.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I PUT OFF TREATMENT?
Putting off treatment can result in the need for more invasive, more costly and longer orthodontic treatment later on. Early treatment, when recommended, is most effective for achieving lasting results. But, not all patients need two-phases. Dr. Cope tends to be conservative when it comes to Phase I treatment and only advises it when absolutely necessary. His goal is to educate the parents on what are the pros and cons of both options, so that they can make an informed decision. If the patient does not require a phase I treatment, Dr. Cope will guide the family on the best timing for treatment and he will keep an eye on the patient over time until they are ready to get started.