Most orthodontics patients are between the ages of 12 and 18. However, we also treat many patients both younger and older. When patients are under the age of 12, they are receiving early orthodontic treatment.
The Importance of Age Seven
All children should see an orthodontist on or around their seventh birthday. This is not just our recommendation; it is the age selected by the American Association of Orthodontists. At this age, children have lost some of their baby teeth and had adult teeth grow in to replace them. This gives the doctor a clear understanding of bite relationships, crowding, and more.
The vast majority of children seen at this age will be told to come back again at age 12. However, a small number will be referred for early treatment, also called two-phase treatment.
The Reasons for Suggesting Early Treatment
Early treatment is only suggested in a small percentage of cases where the child presents with severe orthodontic abnormalities. These problems must be significant enough that not addressing them early on will mean requiring surgery and tooth extractions in their teens. The goal of two-phase treatment is to correct major issues with appliances alone.
The Stages of Two-Phase Treatment
Two-phase treatment has two active stages of treatment plus a rest period and a retention period. The basics of each stage are as follows:
- Phase One: Starting between ages 8 and 10, the child is given braces and possibly other appliances to guide the growth of their jaws and the positions of their teeth.
- Resting Phase: Treatment takes a break, during which time retainers may or may not be used.
- Phase Two: The braces come back and are used to fine-tune the bite, being worn for about two years.
- Retention: Retainers are used to keep everything in their ideal locations.
Should You Evaluate Your Child?
It is tempting to try to evaluate your child on your own. After all, it is logical that severe problems would be apparent to anyone. But the truth is that many major orthodontic issues are not easy to pick up on without training. Rather than trying to determine if your child needs early treatment, schedule an appointment so we can complete an exam and determine what their needs are.