Braces used to be the realm of teenagers only, a rite of passage starting at about age 12. But today, early orthodontic intervention is a vital tool for catching problems with the jaw, face, and teeth before they become more severe. Not only that, but early childhood orthodontics allow teens to spend less time in braces, which helps enhance their self-esteem.
Here are a few conditions that may warrant early childhood orthodontics:
- Severe crowding of baby teeth
- Difficulty chewing or eating
- Severe crossbite, overbite, or underbite
- Missing baby teeth or wide spaces between teeth
- Symmetry or proportion problems with jaw, teeth, and face
- Protruding teeth
- Mouth breathing
How Early Childhood Orthodontics Work
When your child is six or seven years old, schedule an orthodontic consultation to determine whether your child would benefit from early orthodontics. Your child’s jaw, facial profile, and teeth will be evaluated for symmetry, overcrowding, bite issues, teeth alignment, and other issues. If your child is a good candidate, he or she can begin phase I of orthodontic treatment at around age eight, continuing phase II in full braces after age 13.
Dentists and orthodontists use a variety of tools in early orthodontic treatment, including both removable and non-removable oral appliances. Your child may have space maintainers, palatal expanders, aligners, or braces, depending on their individual needs.
Benefits of Early Childhood Orthodontics
Every parent wants what’s best for their child’s health, teeth, and appearance, and sometimes that means earlier orthodontic treatment. Known as interceptive phase I treatment, braces for children ages seven to 11 can serve a wide variety of important purposes, including:
- Prevents overcrowding of permanent teeth. If baby teeth are not leaving enough room for permanent teeth, tooth extraction or a lengthy orthodontics treatment may be necessary in the teenage years. Since most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, taking advantage of this window is an effective way to ensure that permanent teeth aren’t overcrowded.
- Improves facial and jaw symmetry. Correcting misaligned teeth can greatly improve a child’s jaw/facial profile and bite before the teen years.
- Fixes bite problems early. If not caught early, overbites, underbites, and open bites may worsen over time. To prevent these conditions from worsening, your dentist can manipulate the jaw structure while it is malleable.
- Corrects problems with speaking, chewing, or eating. Misaligned teeth and overbites can prevent children from enunciating words clearly, which can impact their performance and confidence in school. Correcting problems in the mouth can also protect teeth from uneven wear and encourage healthy gums.
- Reduces time in braces in teenage years. Most kids get braces for years just when they’re feeling more self-conscious about their appearance. With only about half as long as a teenager, they’ll be the envy of their peers.
Phase II Orthodontic Treatment
Phase II orthodontic treatment is what most people visualize when they think of a full set of braces. While phase I early childhood orthodontics is for children under age eight, phase II orthodontics are for anyone over the age of 10 or 11 into adulthood.
Two-phase orthodontic treatment is a proven way to decrease the time spent in full braces and prevent more severe problems later. However, not all children need phase I, or early orthodontic treatment. In those cases and for adults, phase II orthodontic treatment is sufficient and typically lasts 18 to 30 months.
Who Needs Phase II Orthodontics?
Orthodontics are now common in both kids and adults. Children become candidates for phase II orthodontics once a child’s permanent teeth have finished erupting. While it's sometimes obvious that you or your child needs braces, only a dentist can identify hidden issues that could lead to bigger problems if not treated.
Here are some common reasons for getting braces:
- Crooked teeth
- Protruding teeth
- Overcrowded teeth
- Gaps between teeth
- Malocclusion, such overbite or underbite
- Misaligned jaws
- Difficulty eating, chewing, or speaking
Wear and tear on your teeth, TMJ, and sleep apnea may also be resolved with the proper phase II orthodontic treatment. When you visit your dentist, it’s important to discuss all of your oral concerns that may signal the need for orthodontics.
How Does Phase II Orthodontics Work?
Braces consist of brackets that are bonded to the teeth and wires that run through each bracket, allowing the teeth to be moved into position over time. The materials used are one factor that differentiate braces:
- High-grade stainless steel is the most commonly used material for traditional braces. Much smaller than bulky braces of the past, metal braces are a cost-effective and versatile option for almost every type of malocclusion.
- Ceramic braces offer a natural-looking alternative to traditional braces. Typically more expensive, these tooth-colored braces can be slightly more prone to breaking.
Another popular option is clear aligners, which offer a faster treatment time for less complex treatments. These plastic, retainer-like trays are removable so that eating and dental hygiene are simple and easy.
Typically, the more complicated the orthodontic problem, the longer you’ll need braces. But you can be sure that you’ll love your smile when the process is complete!
You may need to wear a retainer for a couple of years after your braces come off to ensure that your teeth don’t move. Some patients need to wear a permanent retainer to keep their teeth straight in the long-term.
How Can You Benefit from Phase II Orthodontics?
When it comes to self-confidence, nothing beats teeth that are healthy, properly aligned, and well-cared for. If you’re self-conscious about smiling or laughing, investing in orthodontics can be life-changing.
But orthodontics aren’t just for aesthetics. Fixing jaw, bite, and teeth problems can have a big impact on your quality of life, including chewing, eating, speaking, and even sleeping.
Call for a Consultation Today!
Phase II orthodontic treatment is an investment in your future. Call our office today to learn more about how our dentist can help you achieve your best smile.