Early orthodontic treatments prevents future smile problems for growing kids.
When most parents think of getting braces for their child, they often envision a milestone that’s further on in their child’s life, around the pre-teen years. So, finding out that your child needs early orthodontic treatments sooner rather than later can be quite a surprise.
Early orthodontic treatments, also called interceptive treatments, may seem unusual or even unnecessary since your child’s smile is still developing and there are baby teeth present. This is actually why early orthodontic care is so valuable. Since your child’s teeth and jaw are still developing, it gives pediatric dentists and orthodontists an opportunity to intercept emerging problems before they cause much more serious issues.
Stages and Phases of Orthodontic Treatments in Kids
If your child needs early orthodontic treatments, their pediatric dentist will fill you in on everything you need to know about pediatric orthodontics. This includes learning the different stages and phases of treatment, depending on your child’s needs.
Three Stages of Orthodontic Treatments
There are three stages or levels of orthodontic care based on the age range of your child.
- Stage One treatment is also known as early or interceptive treatment, as we’re discussing here. The patient age range for this stage is under six years of age.
- Stage Two treatment occurs in the middle years of your child’s childhood, with the patient age range being between six and 12 years of age.
- Stage Three treatment is what most parents are familiar with when it comes to kids getting braces. This stage’s patient age range falls into the adolescent category, ages 13 and older.
Two-Phase Orthodontic Care for Early Treatment
Stage One or early orthodontic treatment is unique in that it’s often a two-phase process as well.
Phase One will be the interceptive treatment that’s needed between ages two to six. This first phase is focused on stopping small problems from worsening and often includes correcting bite alignment, stopping harmful oral habits, guiding jawbone growth, and guiding the arrival of adult teeth.
Phase Two occurs later in your child’s development, often within Stage Three. While Phase One care will have made a significantly positive impact on your child’s smile, a few minor or cosmetic issues may still need to be fixed. During Phase Two, your child may receive braces to straighten their adult teeth and correct minor to moderate bite alignment issues that weren’t completely fixed in Phase One.
Types of Early Orthodontic Treatments for Kids
We Make Kids Smile uses three different types of early orthodontic treatment solutions for our young patients. You’ll find that most forms of early orthodontic care utilize fixed or removable “oral appliances” rather than straight wire orthodontic braces.
Palatal expanders are fixed oral appliances used to expand your child’s upper jaw width. This sounds extreme and even painful, but that isn’t the case. During a child’s early jaw development, their upper jaw hasn’t yet fused. This allows the palatal expander to gradually widen your child’s current upper jaw width over the course of a few months.
Palatal expanders actually have three main benefits for treatment. Since this appliance makes more space within the jaw, it helps reduce teeth crowding as adult teeth emerge, and it allows impacted adult teeth to emerge more easily. Certain types of crossbites can also be fixed with a palatal expander, in which case your child’s dentist may refer to the expander as a “crossbite appliance.”
Additionally, palatal expanders give your child a more attractive, rounded jaw shape and can reduce future treatment time if braces are needed in Phase Two care.
Baby teeth aren’t permanent, but losing a baby tooth too early can cause problems when adult teeth begin to erupt. Losing baby teeth early can result from an extraction to remove severe decay or damage from an injury. Your child’s pediatric dentist will review X-rays and determine when their adult tooth may erupt. If there is too long of a gap between baby tooth loss and adult tooth emergence, a space maintainer is often recommended.
Space maintainers are made of acrylic or metal and are used to fill the gap left by the lost tooth. Space maintainers can be fixed or removable, though a fixed space maintainer is generally recommended for youngsters. This appliance will remain in place, preventing any teeth from shifting into the space, until the adult tooth erupts.
Fixed Retainers or Essix Retainers
Retainers are extremely useful for maintaining results after Phase One or Phase Two of orthodontic treatment. As their name suggests, retainers are used to retain the alignment of teeth after they’ve been adjusted.
There are a few options for retainers. There is the classic metal and acrylic removable retainer, a fixed metal retainer, and the clear removable Essix retainer. Your child’s dentist will select the best choice. Kids who are old enough and responsible enough to remember to wear their retainer may be given a removable option. Younger kids or kids who may forget to wear their retainer will often need a fixed metal option.
Has your child had an orthodontic evaluation yet?
The American Dental Association recommends that kids go to their first orthodontic evaluation by their seventh birthday. However, if your child’s teeth look crooked, crowded, or otherwise misaligned, it’s never too early to get an evaluation from a pediatric dentist or pediatric orthodontist.
You can schedule an appointment for your child by calling the We Make Kids Smile office or filling out this quick online form.