Orthodontic Treatment in Children

What is the best age to see an orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends age 7 as an appropriate age to have children first evaluated for orthodontic issues. This does not mean that treatment would begin at age 7, but rather is a point in time to begin planning for future care, if conditions are noted. In adolescents, beginning orthodontic treatment before age 12 to 13 (Early Treatment or Phase One Treatment) can be advantageous for better results and often lead to less expensive care overall; before growth has been completed. Many adults are receiving orthodontic care, sometimes as late as age 70 or older. In fact, nearly 25% of all orthodontic care is being provided to adults.

Why early orthodontic treatment in children? (ages 8 to 12)

There are some specific situations where early treatment in children is critical to the long-term needs of younger orthodontic patients. These include a narrow upper jaw, cross bites with front or back teeth, trapped teeth (from crowding), ectopic teeth (teeth way off course in their developmental position), open bites with front teeth, tongue thrusts or thumb sucking habits, lower jaws that are too retruded (very little chin) or too protruded (too much chin). Also, cleft lip and cleft palate conditions require preparatory work for surgeries, etc. Early treatment may be indicated when it is felt that ignoring an early problem carries the risk of adding unnecessary additional time, complexity or overall expense to your child’s orthodontic care. Sometimes, early orthodontic intervention can obviate the need for more care, after all permanent teeth are in. We really do not want to “cover the same territory twice” in orthodontic treatment or add unnecessary costs through two phases of care, but neither do we want to invite the complications of unnecessary extractions, impacted teeth, skeletal imbalances, destructive oral habits or speech problems resulting from inattention to developing problems. After early treatment (1st phase treatment), patients are seen about every 6 months to monitor the still developing jaw relationship and alignment. We do not charge for monitoring our patients between phases.

If a final phase of treatment (Phase 2) is needed, it is usually for 12 to 18 months, after all permanent teeth are in. In many cases, the fee is less than a typical 2-year case. A shorter treatment time for a final treatment phase is usually very much appreciated by most teenagers.