What they say is true — timing really is everything. Especially when it comes to your child’s orthodontic treatment.
While many kids get braces or clear aligners once their permanent teeth are in, around age 12 or 13, some children benefit from treatment at a younger age when they have a mix of permanent and primary teeth. Known as early interceptive orthodontic treatment, this approach takes advantage of growth spurts to correct emerging bite and alignment problems.
You may have heard of this treatment referred to as “phase 1 braces” or simply “early orthodontics.” Regardless of the title, there are a number of reasons why early intervention could be recommended, such as protruding front teeth, overcrowding, crossbites, and more. Are you wondering if your child needs phase 1 orthodontic treatment? In this post, the team at Sachdev Family Orthodontics is covering the ins and outs of orthodontics for kids.
What Is Early Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment?
Interceptive orthodontic treatment means that orthodontic treatment is carried out while your child still has some baby teeth present. Dr. Ameeta Sachdev uses certain orthodontic appliances to guide jaw growth. This can correct bite issues to improve the way the upper and lower teeth come together and make room for the permanent teeth to erupt properly.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children have their first check-up with an orthodontist no later than the age of 7. If you suspect your child is developing an orthodontic problem earlier than that, it is recommended that you bring them in sooner.
Why age 7?
Around this age, your child usually has enough permanent teeth for Dr. Sachdev to evaluate their developing teeth and jaws. She can see how the bite is shaping up and if there is space for the permanent teeth to come in.
Your child’s teeth can look straight, but they may still have a bite problem that will cause issues down the road. Alternatively, it can appear like your child has a serious orthodontic problem, but it’s actually something that will correct itself as they grow.
Orthodontists like Dr. Sachdev have the training to detect even subtle issues and determine the ideal course of treatment to bring about the best results. If a problem exists or one is developing, Dr. Sachdev will advise treatment options to prevent future oral health problems.
If your child doesn’t need early treatment, they’ll simply come in for occasional appointments over the years. Dr. Sachdev will monitor their development and pinpoint the perfect age for braces or aligners to achieve an excellent outcome.
What Problems Can Early Orthodontics Prevent Or Treat?
Most orthodontists agree that certain conditions are best treated after all your child’s permanent teeth come in. However, early orthodontic treatment can be in a patient’s best interest if their issue is one that could become more severe if left untreated. The majority of these problems are associated with an improper bite and are skeletal in nature (i.e., related to the size or position of the jaw).
Interceptive orthodontic treatment may be recommended in cases of:
- Protruding front teeth: upper front teeth stick out over the lower front teeth making them susceptible to injury;
- Traumatic overbites: lower front teeth biting into the roof of the mouth causing tissue damage;
- Underbites: lower jaw outgrowing the upper jaw;
- Posterior crossbites: one or more upper back teeth biting inside of the lower back teeth;
- Jaw underdevelopment causing breathing issues or excessive crowding;
- Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use;
- Early or late loss of baby teeth.
Teeth are much harder to clean when they are overcrowded or crooked, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Crooked teeth or malocclusion (improper bite) can also put uneven pressure on the teeth that your child predominately chews and bites with, causing excessive enamel wear and, sometimes, chipped or fractured teeth.
In an effort to compensate for a bad bite, particularly in cases of a posterior crossbite, kids may even shift their jaw to one side, leading to permanent changes in their facial structure.
Malocclusion can also interfere with speech. Speech problems have the potential to worsen over time if the underlying cause isn’t corrected. In some cases, problems like a too-small upper jaw can impact the airway and breathing too.
The goal of early orthodontic treatment is to prevent these issues by intercepting developing oral problems, eliminating their cause, and redirecting the growth of a child’s jaw and facial bones. This can provide your child with a healthy and happy mouth so their permanent adult teeth can come in smoothly and seamlessly.
How Does The Process Of Two-phase Orthodontics Work?
Most patients who have phase 1 treatment, will also need phase 2 treatment in their teen years. Thankfully, phase 2 will be easier and shorter than it would have been due to the progress achieved in phase 1. At Sachdev Family Orthodontics, we make the experience fun, educational, and engaging for kids and parents alike.
Here’s how the process works:
The aim of phase 1 orthodontics is to create a proper foundation to promote normal jaw and dental development. At our office, early orthodontics typically involves wearing a phase 1 appliance like a palatal expander.
What about braces for kids? Though other appliances are much more common, occasionally, phase 1 braces are used. These limited braces are only placed on a few teeth and are meant to accomplish very specific goals. Regardless of which type of appliance your child gets, phase 1 generally lasts 12 months or less.
Once we achieve our goals in phase 1, your child will enter a resting period where we wait for the rest of those baby teeth to fall out. Depending on their needs, they may or may not wear a retainer during this time. They’ll come in for check-ups every six months or so to allow Dr. Sachdev to keep an eye on their development and determine if the selective removal of baby teeth is necessary to help with eruption.
During this stage, your child will get braces or clear aligners. The goal of phase 2 treatment is to ensure your child’s permanent teeth are in harmony with their lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. Not only does this have aesthetic benefits, it also creates a stable bite and optimal function.
So what’s the best age for braces or aligners? We usually place phase 2 braces or start clear aligner treatment when all of the permanent teeth (aside from the wisdom teeth) have erupted, around age 12 or 13. This phase typically lasts for 24 months or less and ends with a beautiful, healthy smile! Retainers are used after this phase to ensure the orthodontic work is maintained.
Benefits Of Early Orthodontic Treatment
While nature works out in the favor of some children and their teeth, others need a bit more assistance to get a healthy smile. When interceptive treatment is needed, it can set your child up for lifelong oral health.
Some benefits of early orthodontics for your child include:
- Avoiding the need for corrective jaw surgery or permanent tooth extractions later in life;
- Making future treatment easier and more affordable;
- Creating space for incoming adult teeth;
- Alleviating speech problems;
- Opening the airway;
- Fixing facial asymmetry by guiding jawbone growth;
- Correcting protruding and crowded teeth;
- Improving the way the upper and lower teeth meet;
- Fixing crossbites, underbites, etc.;
- Enhancing their self-esteem and confidence.
Orthodontic treatment, at any age, is proven to make people more confident in their smiles. When the young patients at Sachdev Family Orthodontics finish phase 1 treatment, they smile more, talk more, and exude more confidence. Early orthodontic treatment not only prevents future oral health problems but can also change a child’s view of themselves and help them to “just smile” without holding back.
Considering Orthodontics For Kids In Rockland County?
Do you want to give your child the best possible chance to have a strong smile and excellent oral health? Schedule an appointment for an orthodontic evaluation at age 7.
Interceptive orthodontics is not necessary for every child, but for the ones who need it, it can change their life. Whether it is your child’s first orthodontic visit, or a follow-up evaluation, our orthodontist in Garnerville, NY will provide the attentive care and expert guidance your family deserves.
Book a consultation for your child at Sachdev Family Orthodontics today!
Interested in learning more about phase one and phase two orthodontics? Check out our blog to see how you can maximize the opportunity to achieve a healthy, functional, beautiful, and stable smile for the entirety of your child’s life!