These days, you don’t have to look far to find younger children undergoing some type of orthodontic treatment, often called phase I. Whether it’s braces, an expander, or another appliance, parents are recognizing the importance of bringing their kids in earlier for an orthodontic check-up alongside their regular dental appointments. (In fact, you don’t need a referral from your child’s dentist to visit an orthodontist for an evaluation.)
As orthodontic providers, we have to say that this is a welcome trend. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) has been recommending for many years that all children see an orthodontist by the age of 7. This timetable allows us to evaluate the teeth, but more importantly, the harmony of jaw development and facial growth. In other words, the days of waiting until the teenage years to think about braces are on their way out.
After all, healthy smiles begin with early monitoring, and a little early orthodontic intervention can set your kids up for a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime.
Some Issues Need Early Correction
The main reason we’re starting kids in phase I, or early orthodontics from younger ages, is because certain dental, facial growth, and development issues require earlier intervention than others. This intervention can often prevent many future orthodontic problems, such as severe crowding, overbite, and tooth impaction, leading to a less invasive treatment once the permanent teeth do erupt. Waiting to see an orthodontist until all the adult teeth erupt in the teenage years can sometimes mean missing an intervention window when growth is still occurring.
While some tooth problems (such as a simple crooked tooth) can wait to be treated until a child’s permanent teeth appear in full, others—such as crossbites, overbites, or misaligned jaws—should be treated earlier. This helps prevent further problems from developing down the road as the child grows.
It sounds reasonable enough, right? But this wasn’t always the case. For a long time, it was recommended that children hold off on orthodontics until their permanent teeth arrived in full. Today, we know that’s is usually better to prevent a problem than to treat it once it has already happened. This means evaluating kids younger to identify possibly future issues.
Dr. Moody and the AAO recommend that kids have their first orthodontic checkup at age seven. Additionally, Dr. Moody recommends seeing kids as young as age 4 if there are any signs of an airway problem, such as snoring, mouth breathing, crossbites, or bed wetting.
Set Them Up for Lifelong Success
We know that some children are resistant to the idea of orthodontic correction when they first hear about it. Those old stereotypes of full metal headgear, getting teased at school, or not being able to eat their favorite snacks are alive and well, even today.
But really, orthodontic treatments for kids and teens have come a long way in the past few years, and treatments are more manageable than ever. We use state-of-the-art 3D scanners to custom-make appliances, which means no more messy impressions or gagging. Some children can even be treated with Invisalign© clear aligners.
It’s important for children’s well-being, not only from a physical perspective but a mental one as well. Having healthy, beautiful smiles from a young age can do wonders for their self-esteem—particularly as they grow into those teenage years. And while they might balk at the idea today, it’s really one of those things they won’t appreciate until they reach adulthood.
In fact, we’re so supportive of early growth and development checks that Dr. Moody and the team at Moody Orthodontics offer free growth checks to regularly monitor children’s facial development and tooth eruption. Of course, there’s no guarantee that your children will need intervention. But if they do, you’ll be prepared to explore your options and give them healthy, beautiful smiles that will last a lifetime.