Timing for first exam
Most kids won’t need braces until all their permanent teeth erupt, which is usually around age 11 to 13. However, it’s best for the orthodontist to see children around age 7 to determine if there are any significant problems that need to be treated early. The first permanent molars and incisors have usually come in by that time and the orthodontist can tell a lot about what problems may develop.
If your child is having regular dental checkups, your dentist will usually be able to tell you if he has any concerns and you should see an orthodontist. If you’re not sure, schedule a free consultation and we’ll happily let you know if we have any concerns!
Early Treatment or “Phase 1 Treatment”
Most problems can and should wait to be fixed until all the permanent teeth are in. Some problems, however, need to be addressed early, before all the permanent teeth are in. When we begin treatment early and focus on correcting a specific problem, we call that a “phase 1 treatment.” Phase 1 treatment usually lasts anywhere between six and 18 months depending on what needs to be done.
Here are the three most common problems that require early treatment:
1. Severe Crowding
Sometimes the jaws are so small or the permanent teeth so big that the permanent teeth don’t have room to come in where they should. When there is severe crowding, often it is best to do some early treatment to expand the jaws and make room for the teeth to erupt. Teeth can get impacted (stuck in the bone), erupt in the wrong spot, or damage adjacent teeth if they don’t have room to erupt.
2. Crossbites or open bites
Normally the top teeth bite just outside of the bottom teeth. If the jaws are uneven or asymmetric, kids may develop a crossbite, where the teeth bite in the wrong spot. Certain types of crossbites can adversely affect the development of the jaws and should be corrected before all the permanent teeth erupt.
An underbite is when the bottom front teeth close in front of the top teeth. Underbites can be very difficult to fix and usually it is best to begin early when kids are between 7 and 10 years old. Underbites are corrected by inhibiting lower jaw growth and stimulating upper jaw growth.
In severe cases, jaw surgery will be needed once the individual is done growing.