While children's teeth, jaws, and mouths are still developing, an orthodontist has the opportunity to identify issues that could become more serious problems later on, and begin to treatment early, to head them off. This type of treatment is called Phase I (or early interceptive) treatment.
Most orthodontists agree that children should be evaluated by an orthodontists for the first time before they turn 7.
By age 7, all the baby teeth have come in, and some of them are already beginning to fall out, making room for adult teeth. This makes it possible for the orthodontist to identify and treat any developing problems.
What kinds of problems?
An orthodontist can identify and circumvent several different types of problems early on. For example, the orthodontist will be able to tell if a child’s growing permanent teeth may be coming in impacted, crowded or crooked.
Other problems that can arise by 7 years of age include early or late loss of baby teeth, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, incorrect jaw alignment, and cross bites. All of these can become more serious problems as your child grows older, but can be treated early by an orthodontist.
What does Phase I Treatment Involve?
The details of early interceptive treatment will vary from child to child, depending on the type of problem in question. But it will often include things like partial braces, palatal expanders, temporary anchorage devices, or head gear.
Thumb sucking and tongue thrusting may be treated with several different temporary or permanent habit breaking appliances, and/or with habit breaking therapy.
Phase I treatment is typically done in preparation for phase II treatment (full braces) later on, so keep in mind that your child may still need braces even if she undergoes phase I treatment.
Nonetheless, phase I treatment will limit the severity of an orthodontic problem, and in some cases, eliminate it completely. This in turn means that later orthodontic treatment may not take as long, or and will have better results.