The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children have their first orthodontic evaluation by the age of seven. Parents sometimes worry that early visits will automatically mean braces for young kids. However, that’s not usually the case. At age seven, most kids have their first permanent molars and incisors. Dr. Hawley is able to see how their bite is developing, so the initial visit is typically just a time to assess their smile. Our Papillion orthodontic office is kid-friendly and fun. Little ones come in, hang out and meet the Hawley Orthodontics team. Then, we take diagnostic records, Dr. Hawley examines their mouth and, if everything looks okay, they’ll come in once a year so he can keep an eye on their growth and development. These appointments are complimentary and when the time is right to start treatment – usually in their early teens – he’ll let you know. However, occasionally, if Dr. Hawley spots certain red flags, interceptive orthodontics, or two-phase orthodontic treatment, will be recommended. Today, we’ll be covering what early orthodontic treatment is, how it can help and what the process is like.
What is Early Orthodontic Treatment and How Does it Work?
Early orthodontic treatment, also known as interceptive orthodontic treatment or two-phase orthodontic treatment, is when children begin treatment while they’re still growing and have most of their primary teeth. The goal is to direct a child’s growth and development in order to fix or prevent certain kinds of malocclusions (problems with the size, position or spacing of the teeth or jaws), so that treatment is easier down the road. In cases like a severe underbite or overbite, for example, when the face and jaw are fully developed, it’s much harder to manipulate them and get dramatic results and waiting until adulthood could mean needing surgery. With early orthodontic treatment, we’re intercepting and correcting the issue before it has a chance to become a full blown problem.
Dr. Hawley isn’t just a specialist in orthodontics; he’s also trained in dentofacial orthopedics, which is when we use appliances to guide facial and jaw growth. Typically, phase 1 orthodontic treatment involves a child wearing an appliance like a space maintainer, a palatal expander or limited braces. At Hawley Orthodontics, we always aim to finish early orthodontic treatment in 12 months or less. As soon as we achieve our goals of phase 1 orthodontic treatment, your kiddo will get a resting period where we let the remaining baby teeth fall out. Then, around the age of 12 or 13, they’ll usually begin phase 2 treatment, which may consist of braces or Invisalign Teen. This will help us lock in their bite and make any necessary tweaks to give them a beautiful, healthy smile.
Is My Child a Candidate for Interceptive Orthodontics?
Is early orthodontic treatment worthwhile? Well, interceptive orthodontic treatment isn’t necessary for all kids but it can be beneficial for about 15 to 20% of children. Here are some of the reasons why phase 1 orthodontic treatment might be indicated:
- Significant crowding and misalignment at the age of seven (remember, the permanent teeth are bigger than the primary teeth and will need more room to come in properly)
- The early loss of baby teeth due to injury or decay (a space maintainer can prevent the surrounding teeth from shifting into the space left behind and blocking out the underlying permanent tooth)
- Front teeth that are protruding and susceptible to injury
- Skeletal issues like a severe overbite, underbite, open bite or crossbite (anterior or posterior)
- Problems with chewing, biting or speaking clearly
The Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment
When little ones come to our practice, Dr. Hawley always sits down with you and walks you through his findings using pictures and x-rays. He takes the time to explain everything in detail, weigh the early orthodontic treatment pros and cons and answer your questions. If it is needed, the benefits of early orthodontic treatment include:
- Correcting facial asymmetry by directing jaw growth
- Shifting protruding teeth into place to minimize the risk of trauma
- Making future treatment, if necessary, quicker, more affordable and easier
- Helping avoid the need for extractions or surgery
- Making space for the grown-up teeth to come in straight
- Helping with crowding to prevent permanent teeth from getting impacted or erupting at the wrong angles
- Alleviating problems with chewing and speaking
- Boosting kids’ confidence and self-esteem
- A stunning smile!
If your child is seven-years-old or older and in need of an orthodontic evaluation, book a free consultation with our Papillion orthodontist Dr. Hawley. He will assess their bite and keep an eye on their smile until it’s time to kick-off treatment. We always treat young patients conservatively at Hawley Orthodontics and, as we said, when interceptive orthodontics is needed, we finish this early treatment in 12 months or less. We’ll make sure you feel confident about your decisions for your child’s care, so they can have the gift of a healthy, beautiful smile!