Early Orthodontic Treatment
Posted on 10/11/2017

Early Orthodontic Treatment—Is it really necessary? 

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends a child’s first visit to the Orthodontist to be at 7 years old.  At this age, most children still have 12 primary or baby teeth remaining in their mouth.  Since braces are usually placed on the adult teeth, this age is typically too young for full Orthodontic treatment.  So why is there a recommendation for an early evaluation?   

While full braces are not an option at age 7, there are other treatments offered by Orthodontists that work better at the younger ages.  Specifically, growth differences between the upper and lower jaw bones can be treated more predictably when the child is younger and the bone growth has not fully matured.   Also, severe crowding of the teeth can be addressed through expansion of the jaws, which is more predictable when the patient is younger.  While this early intervention, often referred to as Phase 1 treatment, does not typically eliminate the need for the full set of braces later in age, it can significantly improve the outcome of full braces treatment.  There is also the issue of misaligned teeth making a child self-conscious when they smile, affecting their self-esteem.   This is another valid reason to intervene early, even if it means a second round of treatment when they are older.

So getting to the question...”Is it really necessary?”  In our offices, we feel that necessity is determined by the degree of severity of the underlying problem.  There are some misalignment problems that won’t self-correct, but can be fully corrected once all of the adult teeth are present. Provided there is not a self-esteem issue, we prefer to hold off and provide the needed treatment in one comprehensive round at that time.  This reduces the chance of patient burn-out from long protracted treatment, and is our preferred approach with our patients.  For those children with jaw or tooth problems that are easier to correct with early intervention, then we will recommend it.  We try to complete our Phase 1 treatment within one year, also with the focus of minimizing patient burn-out.  We take time in explaining our recommendations to our parents so that they can make an informed decision regarding the best approach for their child.  In the end, necessity in Orthodontics is primarily about improving treatment outcomes.

Early Orthodontic treatment can go a long way at improving self-esteem and/or lessening the severity of a developing malocclusion.  No two patients are the same, so there are no hard and fast rules that apply to everyone.  This is why we recommend early evaluation to lay the ground work for what will be best for your child.  In our offices, the initial evaluation is complimentary to help remove any barriers for the evaluation.  We will advise you as to what we feel will best serve your child and provide you the information needed for you to make an informed decision.  More information about our offices can be found at www.orthodontists.com.