Most orthodontic treatment starts in the teen years when all permanent teeth have come in, and the results are more predictable. However, some young children need early intervention or Phase One treatment. This evaluation doesn’t necessarily mean orthodontics are needed right away. However, monitoring growth patterns can indicate the best opportunity to start treatment to get the best results. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that your child has an initial screening at the age of seven, with formal orthodontics beginning around age nine.
What Causes Orthodontic Problems?Some cases may be a matter of genetics or inherited orthodontic issues such as crowded teeth, excessive spacing, bad bites, or protruding teeth. Other cases may be due to injury, early or late loss of baby teeth, or habits like thumb sucking.
Evaluating the Need for Early TreatmentSome issues are easy to diagnose, and some developmental issues can correct themselves as children grow into their preteen years. It is important to have a professional determine if your child’s oral development is on track or if they need intervention. Some of the issues a dentist may evaluate include:
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Thumb sucking after age five
- Mouth breathing
- Speech impediments
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Protruding teeth
- Shifting of the jaw when opening or closing (cross-bite)
- Crowded front teeth
What is Phase One Treatment?
The goal of early treatment is to help your child’s jaw to develop correctly, so there is plenty of room for their permanent. Partial braces, palatal expansion, space maintainers, or retainers can all be used to create more space and improve bone growth. These early intervention methods can help eliminate the need for corrective surgery later on and make regular orthodontic procedures shorter and more effective.
Phase one treatment typically lasts about 10-14 months. Once it is complete, your child will be fitted with a retainer to keep everything in place until it is time to move on to phase two, then the next phase will begin around age 11 or older, after all, permanent teeth have erupted.