As you may know, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have an initial visit with an orthodontist by the age of seven. This seems very young to parents, who may associate orthodontic treatment with teenagers. But the reason a first visit is recommended by this age is because this is the best age for early intervention, should the child need it.
If you’re a parent, you may be wondering if your child would benefit from orthodontic treatment at such a young age. Most children of this age don’t, but here’s when early intervention is indicated and why it might be right for your child.
The Ideal Time for Phase 1 Treatment
There are two important things to note about a child’s teeth and jaw around age seven. One, children don’t have all their adult teeth, but they typically have their first permanent molars and incisors. This allows us to evaluate how the jaw is growing, whether there’s enough room for adult teeth as they come in, and if the teeth are coming in properly. Two, because they’re still growing and the jaw hasn’t fully formed yet, it allows us to work with their biology as they develop to correct or avoid problems. This means it’s the perfect time for Phase 1 treatment.
In orthodontics, Phase 1 treatment typically happens between 6-9 years old and is orthopedic in nature, focusing on correcting the development of the jaws. In Phase 1 we’re not concerned with straightening teeth, as we are in Phase 2; instead, the goal is to make sure the jaws are growing properly and the teeth are coming in as they should.
Who’s a Candidate for Phase 1 Treatment?
We look for the following issues in young children:
Crowding occurs when there’s not enough space for all the adult teeth to grow in correctly. Baby teeth that are close together, overlap, or show rotation are signs of crowding.
Crossbite occurs when one or more of the upper teeth bite down behind the bottom teeth.
An underdeveloped upper jaw issue is when the bottom jaw grows more than the top jaw, which can result in an underbite or crossbite of the front teeth. A smile that shows only the lower front teeth instead of the upper ones is another sign of an underdeveloped upper jaw.
A severe overjet issue is when the upper front teeth stick out too far. When this issue is severe, the front teeth are at a higher risk of trauma. Especially for active young people!
Oral habits like thumb or finger sucking, tongue thrust, and mouth breathing can negatively influence the development of the jaws and teeth.
These are issues that can be treated most efficiently and effectively at a younger age. If you notice any of these things in your child, speak to an orthodontist about options for early intervention.
Some parents are reluctant to bring their young child to the orthodontist because they (understandably) don’t want to be told they need early intervention. But if there is a problem, ignoring it won’t make it go away. In fact, it will only get worse until it needs to be addressed at a later time, when treatment will likely take longer, cost more, and be more invasive. Getting early intervention, if needed, is ultimately better for you and your child. Many orthodontists offer a complimentary initial consultation, including us, so you have nothing to lose. Go ahead and make an appointment for your child today.