If you have a pre-teen or teen, you’ve likely had a conversation with another parent about orthodontics and why it’s being recommended so early for some kids. Orthodontics as a profession used to be focused only on straightening teeth. Now, we can do many things to aid in proper growth and development that we couldn’t do before.
What is Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment?
Remember that old idiom, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? It’s definitely true in this case. Long term and sometimes permanent issues can result if orthodontic problems are not addressed prior to the adult teeth coming in. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that every child has an orthodontic evaluation as early as age seven. Dr. Andy offers free orthodontic consultations in Parma, Ohio for this very reason.
If abnormalities are identified during your child’s evaluation, your orthodontist may recommend Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment. This treatment does not always mean a full set of braces; it is often accomplished with various appliances such as expanders, retainers, or headgear. Dr. Andy will discuss your child’s specific requirements with you during your initial consultation. Depending on the results of Phase 1, a second treatment phase may be necessary.
How Can I Tell If My Child Needs Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment?
Orthodontic problems can be caused by genetics, injury, unusual loss of baby teeth, and/or thumb-sucking. Here are some tell-tale signs that your child may need treatment:
- Unusual loss of baby teeth (before age 5 or after age 13)
- Thumb-sucking after age five
- Difficulty chewing or uneven bite
- Teeth alignment issues (protruding bite, cross bites, crowded teeth)
- Speech defects
What Does the Treatment Process Look Like?
If Dr. Andy determines that your child will benefit from treatment, he will develop a plan specific to your child’s requirements. Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment usually takes 9-18 months, depending on the severity of the abnormality and your child’s response to treatment. Once complete, your child will be fitted for a retainer to wear until any remaining permanent teeth come in. We recommend a check-up every four to six months during this time.
Once all the adult teeth have come in, we will re-evaluate your child’s orthodontic health and determine if a second phase will be needed for corrections to his or her adult teeth.
What Happens If My Child Needs More Treatment?
When your child’s permanent teeth come in, usually somewhere around the age of 12, they will be reevaluated to see if the second phase of orthodontic treatment is necessary for them. This phase is designed to help ensure there are no misaligned teeth and to fight against crowding or spacious teeth placement.
The second phase of orthodontic treatment involves braces on both the upper and lower teeth. It typically lasts for between a year or two years, though some children may need them for longer depending on the severity of their issues.
Can I Just Skip Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment?
Many parents wonder if it makes more sense to wait until their children’s permanent teeth grow in to look at treating orthodontic issues. While it may make sense at a cursory glance, you must remember the importance of early orthodontic intervention is more than just straightening teeth!
Orthodontic issues present in early age can alter the development of the underlying bone structure in your child’s mouth, impact development in speech, and cause issues with eating or even breathing! A two-phase process isn’t just about being safe – it’s about creating the most effective treatment plan for your child that will help them develop in a healthy way while also correcting potential alignment issues.
Skipping the first phase of treatment for children who have early orthodontic issues will, at best, extend the length of treatment time for their permanent teeth. In the worst-case scenario, it can leave your child with issues that are extremely difficult or impossible to resolve.
If your child’s orthodontic evaluation results in a recommendation for early orthodontic intervention, you shouldn’t hesitate to start planning with their orthodontist. The sooner treatment begins, the easier and more effective it will be in the long-run!
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