While most kids can wait until all baby teeth have exfoliated (fallen out) to begin their orthodontic treatment, others cannot. Phase I is a stage of orthodontic treatment for children who have a mixture of permanent teeth as well as baby teeth.
For these patients, orthodontic treatment at this time is essential to correct various dental problems that are too severe to defer to a later time. Examples include a crossbite, severe crowding, a thumb-sucking habit, and issues that are preventing the eruption of permanent teeth.
Phase I treatment lasts anywhere from 6-12 months and may include appliances such as braces (on only some teeth), expanders, habit appliances, etc. The purpose of this treatment is to address one main issue (crossbite, thumb-habit, etc.) and then the appliances are removed so that the remaining baby teeth can fall out and adult teeth can erupt. The patient will be later evaluated for any needed treatment once this occurs. Most of the time, a patient who receives Phase I treatment only needs minimal treatment (if any) later to address those adult teeth that have fully erupted.
At what age should a child first visit the orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that most children should have an orthodontic screening by age 7. This allows Dr. Lisa Mangiarelli to determine if orthodontic treatment will be required and the best time for the patient to be treated. Many of the dentists in our community have been trained to identify orthodontic problems early, and may refer you to our office earlier than age 7.
Why are children being evaluated at such an early age?
Early diagnosis and treatment can guide erupting teeth into a more favorable position, preserve space for permanent teeth, and reduce the likelihood of fracturing protruded front teeth.
If early treatment is indicated, Dr. Mangiarelli can guide the growth of the jaw and incoming permanent teeth. Early treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb sucking, and eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems. In other words, early treatment can simplify later treatment, after all the permanent teeth erupt.
Does early treatment benefit all children?
Early treatment does not necessarily benefit all children. Certain types of orthodontic problems can be more easily and efficiently corrected in the teen years when all the permanent teeth have erupted. Some skeletal orthodontic problems should not be addressed until growth is more advanced or completed. The doctors develop a plan for treatment based on each individual child’s needs. If the doctor decides the patient is not ready for treatment, they are placed on our orthodontic supervisory program
In addition to a beautiful new smile, what are some other benefits of orthodontic treatment?
Braces can improve function of the bite and teeth, improve ability to clean the teeth, prevent wear on the teeth, and increase the longevity of natural teeth over a lifetime.
If a child has treatment early, will this prevent the need for braces as an adolescent?
Early treatment can begin the correction of significant problems, prevent more severe problems from developing, and simplify future treatment. Because all of the permanent teeth have not yet erupted when early treatment is performed, their final alignment may not have been corrected. Typically, a shortened comprehensive phase of treatment (Phase II – full braces) in the teen years, after all the permanent teeth have erupted, completes the correction. However, in some circumstances, further orthodontic treatment may not be indicated.
Do we still need to see our family dentist during orthodontic treatment?
Patients with braces and other orthodontic appliances require more effort to keep their teeth and gums clean. Because we want to insure the highest level of dental health, we recommend you see your family dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings every 6 months during treatment.