The American Academy of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first consultation with an orthodontist at the age of seven. This age may seem too young, but seven is actually the ideal age for several reasons. At this age, children have a mix of baby teeth and a few permanent teeth, and the orthodontist can start to get an idea of how the child’s smile and bite are beginning to take shape.
The orthodontist will use digital X-rays and photos, as well as a physical examination, to see how the permanent teeth are erupting, what is below the gum’s surface, and to ensure the jaws are growing as they should.
Orthodontic treatment can begin at any age, but starting a relationship with an orthodontist around the age of seven often yields better results. If treatment can begin while the jaw is still growing, the orthodontist can guide that growth to ensure there is enough space for all of the permanent teeth to erupt properly, and to create a harmonious and stable bite, without the need for extractions or surgery.
While most children may not need treatment this early, for those that do, two-phase orthodontic treatment can put your child on the path to a healthier smile. The treatment is broken into two phases to allow for the growth of the jaw to be guided properly and then for all of the permanent teeth to erupt.
The first phase is focused on guiding the jaw. There can be different appliances used during this phase, depending on the individual needs of the patient. Some patients may need braces, while some may benefit from a palatal expander. Dr. Pavlo creates individualized treatment plans for each patient, designed to meet their specific needs.
Guiding the growth of the jaw in the first phase allows Dr. Pavlo to ensure there is enough space for all of the permanent teeth to erupt properly. A jaw that is too small can create crowding and overlapping, In addition, permanent teeth can even erupt rotated or twisted as they try to find space in a mouth that is too small.
During the first phase, Dr. Pavlo can begin to correct not only overcrowding, but crossbites, overbites and underbites. These conditions could require surgery or extractions if treatment is left until after the jaw stops growing.
After Phase I is complete, there will be a resting period to allow the remaining permanent teeth to erupt. You will still visit Dr. Pavlo at regular intervals to ensure your teeth are erupting properly, and so that the second phase of treatment can begin at precisely the right time.
Once the permanent teeth have all erupted, Phase II begins. This phase is the straightening phase that will involve the use of braces or aligners to guide the teeth to their ideal locations. Patients who use two-phase treatment often see shorter treatment times because we are able to address the problems individually. When we can focus strictly on the jaw growth, we can ensure a stable, healthy bite that is ready for the permanent teeth. Then, when it is time for the straightening phase, this phase is often much more effective and efficient.
Two-phase treatment offers many benefits. Not only can patients reduce their need for extractions or jaw surgery, the straightening phase is often shorter and less complicated. Because the jaw has already been properly guided, the straightening phase can be more efficient than if done in conjunction.
It is important to remember that the goal of orthodontic treatment is not just to create a straight smile, but to create a healthier, properly-functioning smile. Two-phase treatment allows us to treat the entire mouth, at the most ideal times.
By scheduling an orthodontic consultation for your child at the age of seven, you can prevent issues from becoming more serious in the future. Two-phase treatment, when indicated, can create harmonious, healthy, and straight smiles that can last a lifetime.