Our philosophy at Hudson Orthodontics is to treat patients at the ideal age in order to eliminate unnecessary work, extractions, and unneeded surgery. This means that we have some patients start treatment as early as 7 years of age, while we have also had patients start treatment well into adulthood.
Every person is different, and there really is no rule that all the permanent teeth should be in before a patient can have braces. In fact, sometimes waiting on all of the permanent teeth to come in can actually cause major problems to develop!
Since the 1990’s, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) has recommended orthodontic evaluations for children at 7 years old, when most are losing baby teeth and their permanent teeth are emerging. These early evaluations allow orthodontists to recognize irregularities in your child’s mouth before they become major orthodontic issues.
We created our Hudson Ortho Kid’s Club as a way to accomplish this important goal by offering a free orthodontic screening for any child age 7 and up. We want Northern Virginia families to have free access to a trained Orthodontic Specialist, and the peace of mind that comes along with knowing your child’s jaw and tooth development is on track. These Growth and Guidance appointments are always free because we want to make sure families have accurate, up to date information about their children's jaw and tooth development.
If early orthodontic treatment is deemed necessary, your orthodontist can begin to design a treatment plan to help guide your child’s teeth to their correct positions. At this point, your child will enter what is called two-phase orthodontic treatment.
How does two-phase orthodontic treatment benefit young patients and their teeth? In this post, we will discuss what phase 1 treatment involves and how it leads to an orthodontic resting period and the phase 2 treatment that completes your child’s smile.
Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment
Phase 1 orthodontic treatment is also known as early orthodontic treatment or interceptive orthodontics. Early orthodontic treatment is often started because certain irregularities like crowded teeth are easier to treat in a 7 year old child than an older child or an adult because a 7 year old child’s jaw is still growing.
For instance, with phase 1 orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist may use a palatal expander to expand the upper arch of your child’s teeth, making more room for the permanent teeth to come in less crowded, and potentially more evenly spaced.
If your child didn’t have an orthodontic evaluation until all permanent teeth had emerged, he or she might need teeth pulled to alleviate the crowding or more extensive straightening to even the spacing between teeth. Early intervention is particularly important when children are subjected to bullying and teasing by their peers. In these cases, treatment can greatly improve self esteem during the formative years of childhood.
Early treatment can also potentially address some issues with the jaw and bite, such as protruding front teeth and crossbites, with certain types of orthodontic appliances. This can minimize the need for jaw surgery later in life and shorten treatment time spent in braces in middle and high school. This can also prevent children with excessive flaring of their front teeth from experiencing trauma to their front teeth during sports and activities.
Many children don’t need early orthodontic treatment at the time of their initial evaluation. However, the initial evaluation can still be valuable, because from there we can schedule periodic Growth and Guidance appointments to monitor your child’s teeth as they emerge and then begin treatment later if it becomes necessary.
The Orthodontic Resting Period
Between Phase 1 and Phase 2 orthodontic treatment will be a one or two year “resting period.” During this time, your child’s mouth is allowed to develop on its own and the rest of your child’s permanent teeth emerge, most likely in better positions than they would have without Phase 1 treatment.
During the resting period, appointments with your orthodontist may still be scheduled just to monitor the growth and development your child’s smile. Your orthodontist may also prescribe a retainer for your child to wear during the resting period to maintain the effects of Phase 1 braces.
Phase 2 Braces
When all permanent teeth have emerged in your child’s mouth, phase 2 orthodontic treatment can begin. Usually, phase 2 treatment entails braces on the upper and lower teeth for a prescribed amount of a time depending on your child’s individual case.
This is the period in which you really reap the benefit from your decision to seek Phase 1 treatment. Because of Phase 1, during Phase 2 your child will most likely experience a shorter and easier time in braces than he or she would have if they were just now beginning any orthodontic treatment. Major benefits include avoiding extractions and surgery!
Why Two Phase Orthodontic Treatment Is Worth It
Although two phases of orthodontic treatment may sound like it will cost more and be more involved, that is not necessarily the case. What we are essentially doing is splitting treatment into 2 shorter phases of treatment, and the cost of treatment is also split up accordingly. As we have discussed, early treatment can help guide your child’s permanent teeth to emerge in a more favorable position than they were going to naturally.
This can actually save your family time and money by correcting issues before they arise or worsen, thus simplifying orthodontic treatment later in life or in a few cases eliminating the need for it altogether.
Your Child’s First Visit to the Orthodontist
Visiting the orthodontist probably isn’t your 7-year-old’s idea of a fun outing, but that doesn’t mean it has to be scary! Here at Hudson Orthodontics, our staff works with children of all ages every day, and we do everything we can to make their time in the orthodontic chair as comfortable and engaging as possible. We will let you and your child know what we’re doing as we go, and if orthodontic issues are diagnosed, we will help both of you understand the treatment plan we prescribe.
If your child is around the age of 7, and especially if you’re already noticing spacing problems or issues with your child’s bite or jaw, we encourage you to schedule an evaluation with us today to determine if early orthodontic treatment might be beneficial.