Early Orthodontic Treatment

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Most patients will begin treatment when they have nearly all their adult teeth, around 11 or 12 years old. However, for some patients an earlier orthodontic phase is needed.  

Common reasons for Phase I treatment:

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  • Stop a thumb or finger sucking habit
  • Correct a crossbite
  • Make room for crowded teeth
  • Decrease the protrusion of upper front teeth ("Buck teeth") to reduce the risk of chipping these teeth 
  • Catch ectopic eruption of adult teeth early.  Ectopic teeth are teeth that are erupting out of place.  Identifying and treating these teeth early reduces your treatment time and reduces the risk of damaging nearby teeth.

For more information on the initial exam and consultation to determine if orthodontic treatment is right for you, see our page on planning your First Visit.

When is the best time to begin orthodontics?

Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, the correct timing can simplify your treatment and reduce the length of time.  The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. At this early age, orthodontic treatment may not be necessary, but examination can anticipate the best time to begin treatment.

What are the benefits of early orthodontic evaluation?

Early evaluation provides greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Rather than correcting issues, prudent intervention guides growth and development to prevent serious problems from ever occurring. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.

Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for screening?

By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time, an orthodontist or one of our pediatric dentists can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate a possible overbite, open bite, or crowding. Timely screening increases the chances for an incredible smile.

What are the advantages of interceptive treatment?

Interceptive treatment – that is, treatment that begins at the appearance of the first permanent teeth and continues as the rest of the permanent teeth come in – has a number of benefits, both cosmetic and medical. Monitoring dental and facial development can allow your doctor to:

  • create room for crowded, erupting teeth
  • create facial harmony by influencing jaw growth
  • reduce the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
  • preserve the space for unerupted teeth
  • reduce the treatment time necessary for full braces
  • reduce the need for tooth removal