According to the Washington Post, 80 percent of people undergoing orthodontic treatment are 6 to 18 years old. Because orthodontics can be an important part of a child’s dental health, it’s important to understand the process. Did you know that childhood orthodontic care can involve more than just braces? Orthodontics are often broken up into two distinct phases depending on a child’s need. What are they — and will your child need both?
Strongly recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists, phase 1 begins with an orthodontic exam by the age of 7. This may seem like a young age, but by this point, your child’s orthodontist will be able to determine how the rest of their permanent teeth will come in. Phase 1 can be seen as the planning stage, and it can prevent severe issues in your child’s future.
Your child’s orthodontist will determine if future treatment is necessary or if an orthodontic problem can be fixed promptly with early treatment. Immediate treatment can benefit many patients and often helps them avoid more invasive procedures in the future.
Common treatments that occur at this time include:
- Headgear to treat bite alignment problems
- Functional appliances (such as jaw-aligning braces) to relieve teeth overcrowding or bite problems
- Retainers that help maintain tooth alignment corrections
- Expansion appliances that create more space in the mouth
- Space maintainers that keeps a gap between teeth open to allow the permanent tooth below to properly come in
These pieces are worn for various lengths of time and are sometimes available as either fixed or removable.
After a patient completes phase 1, their orthodontist will examine their mouth to determine if phase 2 treatment is necessary. The goal of phase 2 is to correct any misalignment in the permanent teeth and bite. For children, it occurs after all of the permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of 11 and 13.
Phase 2 of orthodontic treatment most commonly includes the use of full braces to move your child’s teeth into the ideal position. This achieves both a strong bite and a charming smile. Treatment time usually lasts between 12 to 24 months, and results can last a lifetime.
Successfully completing the two phases will give your child the best chance of having strong oral health throughout their life. If you believe your child needs orthodontic treatment, reach out to your local orthodontist today.
About the Author
Dr. Nathan Coughlin is a board-certified orthodontist. He has received the University of Southern California’s Outstanding Orthodontic Achievement Award and the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Award. If you have further questions about your child’s orthodontic health, he can be reached through his website or at 972-371-0616.