It may seem like children are getting braces younger and younger . . . and for good reason! The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends every child see an orthodontic specialists by age 7. But many people have the question: is it worth it to put braces on a 7- or 8-year-old who still has some baby teeth?
As an orthodontist and a dad, I, personally, am a huge fan of early orthodontic, or “Phase-1”, treatment! Like many things in life, early intervention is crucial for prevention and allows for the best results down the road.
Many of the most amazing transformations I get to be part of are when we save children from future invasive dental treatments by intercepting and correcting issues in their growth and development at an early age. We can often avoid permanent teeth extractions or even jaw surgery.
It is a very rewarding investment for both me and the child’s parents when we see the huge difference that early treatment makes in a child’s life!
Although most children do not need early orthodontic treatment, there are common issues with tooth and jaw development that I look for at an initial examination that require intervention:
- Crowding/impaction of permanent teeth (preventing the teeth from erupting).
- Underbites (lower front teeth in front of upper front teeth).
- Cross-bites (upper teeth fitting inside of lower teeth).
- Open bites (upper and lower front teeth not touching).
- Severe over bites (upper teeth completely covering lower teeth).
- Protruding upper teeth.
- Narrow upper and lower jaws.
- Childhood breathing issues (snoring, mouth breathing, etc…).
The following are some of our amazing patients and their “Before” and “After” transformations we’ve seen when we intercept these issues early.
Back Teeth Cross-Bite
Front teeth cross-bite
Rescuing Impacted Canine Teeth
If needed, our Phase-1 orthodontic treatment usually lasts ~1 year. Afterward, we place retainers to maintain the benefits. We follow-up with retainer and growth/development checks on a yearly basis to monitor the eruption of the remaining teeth and jaw growth. If a second phase of orthodontics (aka “Phase-2”) is needed, it is much shorter and less invasive because of the benefits that early Phase-1 treatment provided!
We NEVER pressure parents to start Phase-1 treatment unnecessarily! The beauty of choosing a specialist is that we care about doing the right thing for each individual patient at the right time. And this, more often than not, means not starting Phase-1 treatment. Our initial examination is always free. And if your child does not need early treatment, that’s great! We provide complimentary growth and development checks on a yearly basis afterward to make sure they continue on a healthy dental path!
About the author: Dr. Drew McDonald, DDS, MS, PC, is an Orthodontic Specialist who practices privately in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque, New Mexico with Dr. John Cornali. He attended dental school at Creighton University and completed his orthodontic residency at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A father to two small girls, ages 6 and 2, one with special needs, he understands first and foremost the importance of caring for children with compassion and strides to always put the patient’s needs first.