When it comes to treating children, orthodontists long ago realized the value of using a child’s growth to the orthodontist’s benefit in correcting a variety of orthodontic conditions in a less invasive manner.
No treatment is necessary at this age in most cases. But an evaluation is advised because children have a mixture of baby and adult teeth by age 7, and the bite is established. Dr. Sabelis can identify whether any discrepancies are present that would benefit from early treatment. Examples would be underbite, crossbite and spacing issues.
Early treatment is meant to take care of any situation that might be traumatic to your child’s dentition at that age. In some cases, Dr. Sabelis may recommend correcting something that might damage your child’s teeth, or a form of treatment now that might make future treatment easier.
Let’s say your child is diagnosed with a crossbite at this age. We can install a palate expander to correct it. This appliance uses the fact that your child is still growing to our advantage. You use a key to turn the expander slightly each day as prescribed and this gently widens the palate to correct the improper bite without requiring brackets and arch wires at this stage.
Another example of beneficial early treatment would be if Dr. Sabelis identifies the need to create or maintain space now for erupting teeth in the future. All of these early treatments pave the way for less invasive treatment down the road. In some cases, early treatment can eliminate the teeth for tooth extractions and surgery later in life.
Two Phase Treatment
Sometimes it is best to divide orthodontic treatment into two phases because there are movements that can be accomplished in younger children that can’t be accomplished once they have stopped growing.
Two-phase treatment involves teeth alignment and dentofacial changes. The first treatment phase typically begins once all four permanent first molars and permanent central incisors have erupted if brackets and arch wires will be needed.
The first treatment phase also may include the use of some sort of growth modification appliance, such as a palate expander, a device to help correct an underbite or overbite, or habit appliances that are designed to thwart unhealthy oral habits including thumb sucking or tongue thrust.
The second phase of treatment typically begins around the child’s middle school years. This is when we place metal or ceramic brackets and arch wires on the teeth, or begin Invisalign Teen™ treatment if your child is deemed a good candidate for this removable aligner system.
It is important that you maintain routine dental exams and professional cleanings for your child throughout the course of orthodontic treatment. Keeping teeth healthy and cavity-free helps ensure treatment stays on schedule.