Generally, children should have an orthodontic screening by age 7. However, many children are still losing baby teeth at this age, which makes parents wonder if a screening is really necessary.
The answer is yes!
Most often, when we see children this young at Roanoke Valley Orthodontics, Dr. Jones simply observes your child’s growth and development and does not usually prescribe any early treatment. After that, he will usually want to see your child annually to monitor his or her growth and development in case any issues arise with crossbites, underbites, crowding, or space loss. This will also help determine when and if treatment will be necessary.
In some situations, our youngest patients have more complicated orthodontic problems that are obviously going to need treatment to ensure a healthy smile and bite. When that’s the case, it’s usually to our advantage to start at an early age and plan two phases of orthodontic treatment. Taking early action while the jaw is still growing can potentially prevent more serious issues in the future. It can also help reduce your child’s total treatment time when all of the permanent teeth erupt and also improve the final result.
What Is Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment?
The goal of Phase 1 (or interceptive treatment), which typically occurs between the ages of 7 and 11, is to prevent potential problems that Dr. Jones may diagnose and help prepare the mouth for proper eruption of the permanent teeth. For example, we might need to create enough space in your child’s mouth for all the permanent teeth to erupt. This will allow the permanent teeth to come in straighter and reduce the need to pull permanent teeth in the future.
Or, we may find that the upper and lower jaws are misaligned, causing an unhealthy bite. This is far easier to correct when your child is young and the jaws are still growing. This may also eliminate the potential need for surgical intervention later.
To achieve your child’s healthiest smile, Dr. Jones may use braces or removable dental appliances as part of the treatment. On average, Phase 1 treatment lasts 8 to 14 months. Usually, there will be a couple of years between phase 1 and 2 of treatment and your child may need to wear an interim retainer.
What Is Phase 2 Orthodontic Treatment?
Phase 2 treatment begins when most or all of the permanent teeth are in place. During this phase, Dr. Jones wants to ensure that all of the adult teeth are in their proper positions, ensure the bite is healthy, and create each patient’s most beautiful smile!
Phase 2 treatment can begin as early as 10 years old, depending on your child’s dental development. It can continue through the teenage years and even into adulthood. Dr. Jones will help you determine the proper timing for treatment and the best orthodontic appliances suitable for your child, whether it’s traditional metal braces, ceramic braces or Invisalign.
Phase 2 treatment generally takes 18 to 24 months, depending on your child’s situation. Mild cases can sometimes be corrected in a few months. Most children should expect to use a retainer to maintain the results of their orthodontic treatment and retain that picture-perfect smile!
Early Orthodontic Treatment Benefits Your Child
Two-phase treatment isn’t for every child, but an orthodontic exam when your child is 7 will allow you to make an informed decision about potential orthodontic treatment for your child. When necessary, early intervention will give your child the very best opportunity to have a beautiful, healthy smile!
Contact us to schedule a complimentary orthodontic screening for your child. We’re available at 540-563-1640, or you may use our appointment request form. Before your appointment, take a look at our first-appointment blog post to learn what to expect. After your child’s examination, we’ll discuss our payment plans and financing options and help you maximize your insurance, FSA or HSA benefits.