When Should My Child Have an Orthodontic Evaluation?
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends children be seen for their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7. Dr. Derek Sanders and Dr. Giselle Cabrera, our board certified orthodontists in Miami, FL, follow the same recommendations and encourages the first orthodontic evaluation by age 7 or when the first molars erupt. At Orthodontics Only in Miami, we have found that most children are not in need of active orthodontic treatment at this time, but if a child does need treatment, the benefits are significant. Our board certified orthodontists are best prepared to understand a child’s development and recommend the best course of treatment.
Why Do I Need an Early Orthodontic Evaluation?
The reason for an early screening is to diagnose problems with craniofacial growth and permanent tooth development at an early age. Even when a child appears not to have any problems with jaw growth and tooth eruption, an x-ray may help to indicate any problems with the eruption path of permanent teeth and it can show possible jaw discrepancies. The initial x-ray will also allow for confirmation of permanent tooth development. The earlier a diagnosis can be made, the more predictable the treatment options will be.
An early orthodontic evaluation also allows an orthodontist the ability to evaluate possible habits that may affect facial balance. The earlier physiologic balance can be restored, the more natural and predictable the treatment outcome can be. Eliminating a habit at an early age will restore balance between the upper and lower jaws, which can allow for an functional bite and optimal facial esthetics when growth is complete.
When Early Treatment is Not Needed
Keep in mind that early treatment may not always beneficial, as many types of problems can be solved more easily and efficiently during the second growth spurt, closer to the teenage years. If there is no need for early orthodontic treatment, Dr. D or Dr. G will advise parents about what type of orthodontics will be likely needed in the future and he will also establish a schedule for re-evaluation. If there are no additional benefits of starting early, Dr. Sanders and Dr. Cabrera will usually wait to begin treatment until the most appropriate stage of growth. Starting orthodontic treatment at an ideal time can increase the predictability of the result and lead to a lifetime of improved oral health, function and optimal esthetics.
Phase 2 Orthodontic Treatment
Early childhood orthodontic treatment, also called Phase 1 treatment, will likely not eliminate the need for braces during the teenage years. Phase 1 treatment is only able to address permanent teeth that have erupted and there may be problematic areas in the twelve additional permanent teeth that usually erupt between the ages of 10 and 12. If these teeth are not aligned properly, further treatment may be indicated and this phase is usually called Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment or Phase 2 treatment.
The benefits of having Phase 1 treatment, when indicated, can simplify future orthodontic treatment, while preventing more serious problems from developing. An additional benefit is a significant reduction in the treatment time of Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment, which can be reduced by up to 12 months. At Orthodontics Only in Miami, we have found that Phase 2 orthodontic treatment takes between 12-15 months, while the average treatment time for a child that did not have Phase 1 treatment is between 22-24 months.
Goals of Early Treatment
The long-term goal of childhood and adolescent treatment is to establish an optimally functional and cosmetically pleasing alignment of jaws and teeth, thus setting an environment for a lifetime of oral health and social confidence. If an early childhood screening determines there is no need for early treatment, patients will be advised about what orthodontics may be needed in the future. Patients will receive an invitation to establish a schedule of visits to monitor the eruption of the permanent teeth in order to start adolescent treatment at the best time for optimal tooth movement and jaw growth.
If you are thinking about delaying evaluation of your child, we would like you to kindly reconsider. The initial orthodontic consultation is free and inevitably, it may actually cost less in the long run—in time, effort, and money, to address any present issues (visible or not visible to you) at the optimal time.
Second Orthodontic Opinion
Sometimes the prospect of needing treatment in childhood is unsettling. Sometimes parents wonder if there are any options. If your child has been evaluated by another orthodontist or a dentist, and you have received news that concerns you, we can also provide a second opinion evaluation. Our team will spend time providing you with comprehensive information that will help you move forward with appropriate treatment.