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Minimize Your Child's Need for Braces with Early Orthodontic Treatment

Minimize Your Child's Need for Braces with Early Orthodontic Treatment


By having your child undergo orthodontic treatment early, often by age seven, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate his or her need for braces or surgery later in life.

The goal of early orthodontic treatment, also known as phase one or preventative orthodontics, is to guide the growth and development of the child’s jaw so that there is enough room for permanent teeth to come in straight.

From age five to twelve, children can be treated with functional (growth) appliances that guide the development of the jaw, as well as the position of the permanent teeth as they come in. Phase one treatment may also include the use of space maintainers after a baby tooth is lost to hold the space open for the permanent tooth.

Although the need to wear braces may not be eliminated entirely for some children, early orthodontic treatment typically reduces the amount of time they will need to wear braces.

There is some controversy among those in the dental community as to whether early orthodontic treatment to guide growth, or treatment with braces or surgery later in life, also known as phase two treatment, produces a better outcome.

Advocates of early treatment promote the benefit of being able to guide facial development. They say that traditional orthodontic treatment, which is typically started after the age of twelve, when the child’s growth has begun to slow, can lead to a receded jaw and long face due to the extraction of teeth which is often necessary. Conversely, a child can begin phase one orthodontic treatment as early as the age of five. This proponents claim, leads to a well-defined jaw and straighter teeth, without the removal of teeth.

Despite the controversy, it is best to have your child undergo an orthodontic evaluation by age seven, as recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists, so that the best course of treatment can be determined and started early if needed. Many dentists use both phase one and phase two orthodontics in their treatment plans. An experienced dentist will evaluate each child’s individual needs in order to determine the proper timing for orthodontic treatment.

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