No time is too early to start orthodontic treatment. At Embassy Row Orthodontics, we work to the guidelines as set out by the American Association of Orthodontists and the American Dental Association and recommend children have an early orthodontic consultation between the ages of seven and nine.
The purpose of early consultations
Early orthodontic treatment, also called Phase I treatment, refers to orthodontic treatment done while children still have their primary (baby) teeth.
Early phase treatment can reduce the need for extraction of permanent teeth. Twenty to thirty years ago, orthodontists rarely saw children until around age 12. In those days, American orthodontists extracted two to four permanent premolar teeth in about 60% of orthodontic patients. Today, we extract in fewer than 5% of our patients. This is partly due to the selective use of early phase treatment.
Benefits of early phase treatment
Early phase treatment can create space for teeth to erupt more ideally instead of being stuck or erupting out of place.
Another aspect of early phase is the use of orthopedic appliances to change the jaw structure. These include expanders, night braces and “retainer-type” appliances that harmonize the growth of the upper and lower jaws, reducing overbite and underbites. After growth is completed, orthopedic appliances are generally ineffectual, leaving only surgical options for jaw changes.
What happens during early orthodontic treatment
The first step of early orthodontic treatment is a consultation in order to see if early phase is needed.
Typically, the next step, if needed, is expansion. Expanders look like retainers with an expansion mechanism that is slowly turned to widen the jaw over several months. After expansion, we use either braces or Invisalign to use the space to align the teeth.
When the teeth are aligned, they lock in their space and prevent further loss of space; otherwise, the back teeth will drift forward.
Lastly, we will use some type of retainer to wear after the early phase treatment, which is usually 12 to 18 months.
Does your child need orthodontic treatment?
The best way to know if your child needs early treatment is to have an orthodontic consultation. Your dentist may be able to give recommendations about orthodontic needs, and many dentists routinely refer children to an orthodontist at age 7 for a consultation.
Early treatment allows us to correct the following conditions:
- Deep bite
- Open bite
- Impacted teeth
- Tooth misalignment resulting from thumb, finger and/or tongue habits
Cost of early treatment
Early treatment will reduce the treatment cost of final phase orthodontics. However, the cost of two phases will most likely be more than one phase of treatment, since there is more time and effort involved and possibly a better result as well.
For some children the early phase may be more valuable than the final phase and sometimes a second phase is not needed.
Give your child the gift of a great smile
Some children can benefit greatly from early phase treatment; for other children though, it may be more practical to wait. We aim to be efficient and cost-effective when performing orthodontic care for children, so we will only recommend early phase when appropriate.
Book your child in for an early consultation and we will work with you to give your child the gift of a great smile.