When most people think of orthodontic treatment, they envision the braces that middle-school and high-school age kids wear on their teeth. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, parents should have their children evaluated by an orthodontist by age seven. Some children require evaluation at an even earlier age because of issues such as thumb sucking, tongue thrust, or speech concerns.
If treatment is needed between approximately ages 7 to 10, this is considered Phase 1, or early orthodontic treatment. Usually, the second phase of orthodontic treatment starts when kids are 11 to 13 years old.
Orthodontics isn’t just about improving the appearance of your smile, but also correcting bite problems, alleviating crowding, and monitoring growth. Catching any issues as early as possible increases the odds of successful treatment. For example, conditions like crossbites, underbites, and large overbites respond better to earlier treatment rather than later correction.
Advantages to early orthodontic treatment include:
– Addressing bite problems that can cause facial asymmetry
– Improving appearance of teeth
– Making more room for permanent teeth
– Lessening risk of injury to protruding teeth
– Reducing time spent in full braces
– Stabilizing the anterior teeth
Early treatment provides a solid foundation before Phase 2 treatment begins. Typically, Phase 1 treatment lasts six to 18 months. Often, Phase 1 treatment involves the use of oral appliances such as expanders, retainers, or partial braces. During this phase of treatment, your child will probably have a mixture of primary and permanent teeth. When the early treatment ends, your child’s teeth probably won’t have moved to the final position. Phase 2 treatment usually shifts the teeth into the correct position and creates a straight, attractive smile.