Did you know that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children have an initial orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7? Some parents are surprised by this information since young children still have developing mouths with many baby teeth left, but that’s actually why early screenings are so important and why we offer two-phase treatment!
Orthodontists are trained to see underlying issues like a misaligned bite, crowded teeth, or irregularities in the way the permanent teeth are erupting. By around the age of 7, most children will have enough dental “landmarks” in place that their teeth, jaw, and bite can be assessed to ensure everything is developing as it should be. But what if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed?
Here at Dietrich Orthodontics, our goal is to provide parents and caregivers with expert information on what long-term orthodontic care might look like for their child. Early evaluations won’t always be followed by early treatment. In most cases, our team will be able to simply monitor a child’s growth patterns over time. However, intervention is sometimes required to improve a young child’s oral health and the appearance of their smile.
If you’ve ever wondered if, and when, your child may need orthodontic treatment, keep reading below to learn how two-phase treatment can get their smile off to the best start!
Early orthodontic evaluations with Dr. Dietrich
The first step towards a healthier smile is a consultation with an experienced orthodontist, which our Canton and Alliance offices provide at no charge. During this visit, we’ll take some digital photographs of your child’s teeth along with a series of digital x-rays. This allows us to see what’s happening underneath the gums, like the position and growth of the bones and joints, as well as any teeth that are still below the gum line.
Dr. Dietrich will also perform a quick but thorough oral examination before deciding if any immediate treatment is indicated. At this age, most children will usually have a mix of permanent and baby teeth, including the first adult molars. These developmental markers give us some insight into the basic alignment of a child’s teeth, from front to back and side to side. By looking at how these teeth are growing and viewing the digital images and x-rays, Dr. Dietrich will be able to determine if there’s enough room in the mouth for all of the permanent teeth to grow in properly.
Evaluations like these give our expert team the chance to find, diagnose, and treat a number of common dental issues before they have the chance to become more serious.
Phase 1 and Phase 2 treatment
Two-phase treatment involves a child receiving orthodontic treatment at two separate times, with a rest period in between. Dr. Dietrich only performs Phase 1 treatment in the scenarios listed below, which is not most children. His goal is to treat you in the most efficient manner while providing a confident smile that is healthy.
If your child does need a first phase of treatment with Dr. Dietrich, the first phase of treatment is initiated when the child still has a mix of primary and permanent teeth. This will then be typically followed by a period of no treatment before the second phase begins, which usually occurs once most or all of their adult teeth have emerged.
Following the normal patterns of childhood growth and development throughout treatment gives us the best chance to correct orthodontic issues at the most optimal time. There are many common problems that can be treated easily in a growing child, but as they get older, more invasive treatment may be required. This is especially true once the jaw stops growing. In these cases, early treatment will help ensure improved oral health and a healthy smile!
Orthodontic issues at this time frame (early childhood, Phase 1) typically fall into 4 categories:
- Must be treated now or will worsen or cannot be fixed later (due to the facial bones fusing together). Items to treat at an early age may include an anterior cross bite, underjet, impacted teeth, or a thumb habit, and these issues need to be addressed before the age of 10.
- May need addressed depending on its severity or the total amount of issues that need addressed. For example, to “lighten the load” in Phase 2 Treatment). These could include a cross bite or airway issues such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
- No active ortho is needed at this time, but will be in the future! Dr. Dietrich will monitor, complimentary, and potentially send for a baby tooth to be removed to redirect a permanent tooth that is off track.
- Esthetic issues that are fixed primarily for social issues can be addressed at an early age, if preferred by parents and patient.
It is always Dr. Dietrich’s goal to clearly convey what category your child’s issues fall into and what the pros and cons are of treating in 2 phases, versus just a one phase treatment.
With any orthodontic treatment, we want to achieve long-term stability. That means the teeth stay put in whatever positions we’ve guided them to! Once the first phase of treatment has been completed, the remaining permanent teeth should have a clear path to erupt. As we wait for these teeth to begin emerging, we will normally suspend any orthodontic treatment in order to give the teeth, jaws, and mouth a temporary break. We can keep the teeth stable during this time by using either a space maintainer or a removable retainer.
This is where everything begins to come together! We will generally initiate Phase 2 treatment once all of a child’s permanent teeth have erupted. Phase 2 will be with braces, used to achieve the final alignment. After the active phase of treatment is complete, fixed bonded retainers and removable retainers will be provided to ensure the child’s straightened teeth remain in their new positions.
A confident smile awaits your child at Dietrich Orthodontics
Every smile is unique, and what works for one child isn’t guaranteed to work for another. That’s why every Dietrich Orthodontics patient receives a customized treatment plan built around their specific needs, goals, and lifestyle! If you have a child who is ready for their first orthodontic visit, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Dietrich. There’s never been a better time to take the first step towards a confident smile for your child!