At our practice, Dr. Carl Roy recommends treatment on a case-by-case basis. Most orthodontic patients begin treatment around the age of 11 or 12. However, in some cases, two-phase treatment – sometimes referred to as early orthodontics – can help correct issues before they progress. Therefore, while not every young patient will require early orthodontics, it is incredibly advantageous for those who can benefit from it. Here, we will explore a variety of procedures available in children’s orthodontics, and discuss the appropriate age to begin treatment.
At What Age Should I Bring My Child to the Orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends scheduling your child’s first orthodontic visit around the age of seven. This is because several permanent teeth will have erupted by this age. Therefore, Dr. Roy can obtain a clear picture of your child’s bite, and determine if any treatment will be necessary. At age seven, your child is still in the developmental stages. As a result, any skeletal abnormalities can be identified and addressed while the oral and maxillofacial bones are still growing. If no treatment is required at this young age, Dr. Roy will simply continue to monitor your child’s bite as he or she grows. Then, he can begin treatment when it is the most beneficial.
Two-Phase Treatment: Why is Early Orthodontics Sometimes Advantageous?
If there are significant problems identified at age seven, early orthodontics can make overall treatment much more predictable. For example, early intervention can guide growth and development. If you wait until the bones are fully formed, treatment may be much more extensive. Early orthodontics can:
- Encourage facial symmetry through proper jaw growth
- Create room for erupting teeth
- Minimize crowding
- Reduce the possibility of extractions in the future
- Reduce or eliminate the possibility of trauma to protruding front teeth
- Reduce the overall treatment timeline
If Dr. Roy recommends two-phase treatment, there are a variety of procedures that can be recommended, based on your child’s specific needs. Some of the most common procedures and appliances used in the first phase of orthodontic treatment include:
- Space maintainers: To preserve or “hold” space for a tooth that has not erupted yet, a space maintainer can be placed.
- Partial braces: Sometimes, there is an area that is more problematic. In these cases, partial braces can be used to gradually move the teeth into more desirable locations.
- Anterior braces: If your child has protruding front teeth or other conditions affecting the front portion of the jaw, anterior braces may be useful.
- Removable appliances: While braces are fixed onto the teeth, there are other appliances that can be removed, such as retainers or headgear. Depending on your child’s specific situation, Dr. Roy may recommend a removable appliance.
- Palatal expanders: If the palate and upper jaw are too narrow, a palatal expander may be used to gently widen the roof of the mouth and make room for permanent teeth.
- Cross bite and width correction: A cross bite is present when the upper teeth meet inside or outside your lower teeth when you bite down naturally. At time, the teeth may fit together, but both arches are too narrow for normal function. These problems can cause abnormal growth, excessive wear and tear on the tooth surfaces, gum recession, and jaw joint damage.
Once your child has successfully completed the first phase of orthodontic treatment, he or she will typically wait until the age of 11 or 12 to move on the second phase. Dr. Roy will monitor your child’s development and growth, and will recommend the next phase at the appropriate time. Generally, the second phase of treatment involves traditional metal braces. On average, phase two lasts between 18 to 24 months.
What if My Child Does Not Require Two-Phase Treatment?
If Dr. Roy does not recommend two-phase treatment for your child, he will simply monitor your child’s growth until orthodontic treatment is appropriate. In most cases, he will recommend full traditional metal braces around the age of 11 or 12. If your child only has mild misalignment, he or she may benefit from Invisalign®. Dr. Roy will base his suggestions on the long-term health and function of your child’s smile.
Learn More about Children’s Orthodontics
If you think your child may require orthodontics, schedule a consultation with Dr. Roy. We can assess your child’s development and recommend any necessary treatment. Contact our Virginia Beach and Chesapeake offices today.