What is early orthodontic treatment?
Early orthodontic treatment is performed before a child reaches their growth spurt, usually between the ages of 7 and 11. Its main purpose is to correct dental and jaw problems as they arise and to guide your child’s growth to prevent more significant problems later in adulthood.
Early treatment usually lasts no longer than 12 months and may involve a combination of the following orthodontic appliances:
- Space maintainers
Your first visit
Your first visit will consist of:
- A thorough review of your child’s medical and dental history
- Acclimatization to make your child comfortable in our office and around dental instruments
- A complete assessment and evaluation of your child’s mouth, teeth, and skeletal development
- Diagnostic records as necessary
- A presentation of our recommended course of action, whether it is treatment or monitoring
WHY should my child be seen by an orthodontist?
A child’s growth is accompanied by many physical, psychological, and developmental changes. As these growth changes occurs, there are certain things you should be on the look-out for. These include:
- Finger or thumb sucking
- Lip, cheek biting or sucking habits
- Minor speech problem
- Mouth breathing
- Narrow upper jaws and/or crossbite
- Severely crowded teeth
- Blocked out teeth or teeth growing elsewhere than in the dental arch
- Severe underbites and overbites
- Early loss of baby teeth due to cavities, trauma, or natural causes
- Malformed teeth
- Misaligned jaws
Many of these problems are signs that early treatment is needed and most of these problems can be easily addressed at an early age.
When should my child be seen by an orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children be seen by an orthodontist at the age of 7-8.
By this age, most children are beginning to lose their baby teeth and the adult teeth are starting to come in. It is also at this developmental stage that teeth and jaw problems arise. Orthodontic treatment between the ages of 7 and 11 is commonly referred to as early treatment.
Advantages of early treatment and child braces
The main advantage of early treatment is that it can prevent serious problems from getting worse as a child grows. Most orthodontic problems become more difficult to treat and take longer to fix the older a patient becomes. This is why treating problems as they arise when a patient is still young and growing can save a lot of time and result in better outcomes.
Early treatment can also sometimes avoid the need for extraction of adult teeth or jaw surgery later in life.
Other advantages of early treatment include addressing damaging habits such as:
- Finger, thumb, or lip sucking habits
- Minor speech problems
Finally, early treatment can be beneficial for children involved in athletic activities. For example, children with big overbites are more likely to break a tooth while engaged in sports activities. Making the overbite smaller can prevent fracturing or loosing the front teeth.
Early Treatment = Phase One treatment
Because patients between the ages of 7 and 11 still do not have all of their adult teeth, early treatment is reserved for children with orthodontic problems that are better treated at a younger age. These include:
- Narrow upper jaws resulting in crossbites
- Severe underbite and overbite
- Finger sucking or biting habits
- Lip sucking or biting habits
- Jaw misalignment
- Severely crowded, crooked, or blocked-out teeth
- Teeth growing outside the dental arch
This doesn’t mean your child will not need treatment again once all of the adult teeth have come in. In fact, it is common for patients who have early or phase one treatment to have another phase of orthodontic treatment several years after phase one treatment has ended. That is why we sometimes refer to early treatment as phase one treatment—because it is followed by a more comprehensive phase of treatment which treats all of the adult teeth to their final position. This is called phase 2 treatment. Often, patients who have previously had early treatment have a faster phase 2 comprehensive treatment as teenagers.
What if my child does not need early treatment?
If you or our orthodontists determine that your child does not need early treatment, we will enroll you in our “recall” program. This means that we will contact you once a year to remind you to bring your child in for a growth assessment. We do not charge for monitoring appointments. These appointments are quick and easy and purely informational. But most importantly, these appointments allow us to monitor your child’s normal growth and development.
Pricing of Early Treatment/Phase One treatment
If our orthodontists determine that your child will need early/phase one treatment followed by a more comprehensive phase of orthodontic treatment when they are teenagers, we will subtract the price of your phase one treatment fee from your comprehensive/phase 2 treatment fee.
Why choose Bellevue Orthodontics for Early Treatment?
At Bellevue Orthodontics, we believe that careful diagnosis and monitoring is key to ensuring the success of your child’s treatment. Dr. Riolo has extensive experience in conservative and effective early treatment, when it is called for. We do not believe that every child needs treatment and rely on a thorough evaluation prior to making any treatment decisions. Our team is highly sensitive to your child’s needs and will always strive to make each experience in our dental office a fun, comfortable, and pleasant one.
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