Surely you've seen kids in braces early in grade school and think, "braces already?!" Your next thought may be "Why isn't my kid in braces, is it too early? I had braces but not that young!" And you are right! Many kids are in braces early these days - but there is a good reason. Often early braces help reduce the need to remove permanent teeth and improve results in the long term.
Let's learn about the purposes of orthodontics, treatment phases, and ages of treatment.
Orthodontics is the field of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The two main phases of orthodontics are the early or interceptive phase (Phase I) and the comprehensive phase (Phase II).
The early or interceptive phase of orthodontics is typically recommended for children between the ages of 7 and 11, before all permanent teeth have erupted. This phase allows an orthodontist to identify and address any issues with dental and facial development, such as bite problems, crowding, but mainly jaw development problems. Early orthodontic treatment can help correct these issues before they worsen and require more extensive treatment later in life.
The comprehensive phase of orthodontics (Phase II) is typically recommended for children and adolescents who have all their permanent teeth. This phase involves the use of braces or other orthodontic appliances to correct more complex dental and facial irregularities, such as misaligned teeth, overbites, and underbites. The comprehensive phase usually lasts between 18 and 24 months, but the exact duration depends on the severity of the patient's orthodontic issues.
Now, regarding the benefits of early evaluation with an orthodontist, there are several reasons why it's important:
Firstly, an orthodontist can identify any potential problems with dental and facial development at an early age, which means that they can be addressed before they worsen and require more extensive treatment later in life. Your child's pediatric dentist is trained in orthodontic phases and will perform an initial assessment before referring for an early orthodontic evaluation.
Secondly, early evaluation allows for timely intervention that may lead to shorter treatment times and less complicated treatment plans. For example, girls' jaws end growth earlier than boys (about 2-3 years after onset of menses) so they may require jaw surgery to accomplish ideal tooth correction if early phase treatment is neglected. This type of intervention is age-dependent.
Thirdly, early evaluation provides an opportunity for the orthodontist to educate both the child and parents on proper oral care and hygiene practices to help prevent future orthodontic problems.
In summary, the two main phases of orthodontics are the early or interceptive phase and the comprehensive phase. Early evaluation with an orthodontist is beneficial because it can identify and address potential orthodontic problems in the most conservative approach possible to shorten treatment times.