Early Treatment

When is the best time to begin orthodontics?

Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment. Beginning treatment at a young age ensures the greatest result and the least amount of time and expense. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. At this early age, orthodontic treatment may not be necessary, but vigilant examination and observation can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.

What are the benefits of early orthodontic evaluation?

Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Prudent intervention guides growth and development, preventing serious problems later. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.

Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for screening?

By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time, our orthodontists can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding or gummy smiles. Timely screening increases the chances for an incredible smile.

What are the advantages of interceptive treatment?

Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment are:

  • Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth
  • Creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth
  • Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
  • Preserving space for unerupted teeth
  • Reducing the need for tooth removal
  • Reducing treatment time with braces
  • Improved self-esteem
  • More confidence
  • Easier speaking and clear pronunciation
  • Improved chewing and digestion
  • Harmful oral habits corrected
  • Proper balance of gums and lips
  • Makes brushing and flossing easier
  • Improved growth and development of facial structures

Problems to Watch for in Growing Children

Early treatment can be extremely effective in reducing the likelihood that teeth will need to be extracted to decrease crowding. Precise alignment of the top and bottom jaw can be achieved. Tooth size is coordinated with the size of the jaw. The growth potential of each child is maximized to ensure all the permanent teeth have room to erupt as normal. In many cases, early treatment eliminates the need for jaw surgery and prevents tooth impaction.

The Growth Phase and Alignment Phase are critical, and can provide amazing benefits for patients, including:

  • Improved self-confidence
  • Prevent the need for extractions and surgeries, along with discomfort and associated costs of these procedures
  • Prevent tooth impaction by creating enough space for the permanent teeth to properly erupt
  • Decrease the total amount of time in braces
  • Improve the patient's enthusiasm and cooperation during treatment
  • Early correction of "buck teeth," which is the primary cause of tooth fractures in children

Growth Phase

The Growth Phase or Phase I is usually initiated between the ages of 7-10 and typically lasts 12-18 months. During this phase of treatment, we see patients every eight to 10 weeks. Using partial braces and simple appliances our orthodontists:

  • Reshape and widen the jaws so that all the permanent teeth can erupt properly
  • Correct malocclusions (bad bites), including overbites, underbites and crossbites
  • Correct the alignment of the permanent front teeth

After treatment, the patient must wear retainers for 12-36 months. During this time, the remaining permanent teeth erupt, and the patient is monitored to ensure the results are maintained, and to determine when the Alignment Phase or Phase II should begin.

Alignment Phase

The Alignment Phase or Phase II typically starts after most of the permanent teeth have erupted. During this phase of treatment braces are placed on the teeth. Phase II generally lasts 12-24 months. The goal of the Alignment Phase is to:

  • Correct the alignment of newly erupted teeth
  • Correct the bite so teeth can function as normal and last a lifetime
  • Maximize facial esthetics to create a beautiful smile

Just as with the Growth Phase, after braces and other appliances are removed, the patient must wear a retainer to ensure the teeth stay in their corrected positions.

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