Early Orthodontic Treatment

Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children

What is the difference between Phase I or early orthodontic treatment and regular orthodontic treatment?  Why might my child need Phase I / early treatment? How will Phase I / early treatment benefit my child in the long run?

These are a few questions regarding Phase I or early orthodontic treatment for children. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven (think 7-up!).  Don't be alarmed, not every 7 year old child needs orthodnotic treatment!  But, at this point in the jaw and dental development, Dr. Olsen can evaluate whether your child will need Phase I orthodontic treatment or if we can wait until all the permanent teeth are erupted around age 12.

Early treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins around age eight or nine (Phase Two will begin around age 12 or when the rest of the permanent teeth have erupted). The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as underbites, crossbites, severe crowding and the like. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of extractions or jaw surgery in the future.

While Dr. Olsen is very experienced at performing Phase One treatment, he doesn't believe that every child needs Phase One treatment.  Having 6 children of his own, he will treat your child just as he would his own -- he'll only recommend Phase One if it is necessary and then discuss any other optional treatment you may want for your child.  It's very important to Dr. Olsen to provide education about your child's mouth, to discuss the options to address any issues that are present, and that together you can decide if Phase One is right for your child.   

How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment:

At your complimentary initial consultation, Dr. Olsen will let you know if he recommends Phase One treatment for your child.  Because not all problems are visible to the untrained eye, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children receive their first orthodontic consultation at age 7.  Even some dentists don't recognize certain issues that may arise in your child.  No referral is necessary to see Dr. Olsen, so don't hesitate to bring your child in for a check-up.  

Some common issues that do require Phase One treatment are:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age six or seven, and often will have all permanent teeth around age 12)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Your child continues finger or thumb sucking after age five
  • Speech impediments
  • Protruding front teeth (the top teeth extend well beyond the bottom teeth)
  • Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all
  • Shifting of the jaw when your child closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
  • Crowded front teeth 

What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early treatment benefit my child?

Orthodontic problems such as too much crowding, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can often be inherited.  In addition, they can be caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.

Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 12, and by the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and sometimes involve tooth extraction or oral surgery.  Treating a growing child opens more options and treatment modalities as growth can be modified rather than waiting for all growth to cease.  Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, leaving little to no chance of extraction or surgery in the future.

If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, or if you have been directed by your family dentist to visit the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule a complimentary consultation appointment. Our team will provide your child with an initial exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child's smile.