Child and Adolescent Orthodontics

The American Dental Association recommends that all children under the age of 7 be seen by an orthodontist. At this age, we are able to evaluate the molar relationship and look for the presence of an overbite, open bite, crossbite, and/or crowding. Early treatment may be indicated if the front teeth protrude so much that the lips cannot be closed without straining, may be vulnerable to breakage, are so crowded that normal development cannot take place, or when crossbites in either the back or front teeth are preventing normal growth and development.

We can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.

Early Treatment or Phase I Treatment (First Phase)

This phase of treatment is for the orthopedic correction of the jaws and alignment of the front teeth to allow for the eruption of the remaining permanent teeth. This phase is typically initiated before all of the permanent teeth have erupted but after the four upper front teeth have erupted (ages 7-9).

Appliances may be placed on the upper and/or lower teeth. The patient may wear space maintainers or expanders to bring the teeth into a more ideal biting position. Treatment can be 12-18 months long followed by a period of time between Phase I and Phase II when the remaining permanent teeth are erupting. Phase II treatment completes the orthodontic process by aligning the remaining permanent teeth and finalizing any necessary bite correction.

Advantages of Early Treatment

  • Improves the relationship of the upper and lower jaws
  • Maximizes the child’s jaw growth potential
  • Improves tooth movement due to the greater pliability of bone
  • Moves protruding teeth back so that they will be less susceptible to injury
  • Improves facial appearance and self-esteem
  • Utilizes the cooperative and enthusiastic nature of the younger child
  • Helps reduce the chance of removing permanent teeth later
  • Reduces the length of time wearing full braces

Disadvantages of Early Treatment

  • Most often requires further treatment (Phase II)
  • If so, total time visiting the orthodontist can be longer
  • The cost of Phase I and II may be higher than full child treatment
  • The child may tire of treatment, reducing cooperation in Phase II

Full Treatment (and Phase II)

Full orthodontic treatment will begin when all or most of the permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of 11 and 14. Orthodontics at this age is not merely for improving the aesthetics of the smile; bad bites (malocclusions) are improved or eliminated. Malocclusions occur as a result of tooth or jaw misalignment which can affect the way a child smiles, chews, cleans his/her teeth and feels about his/her smile. According to studies by the American Association of Orthodontists, untreated malocclusions can result in:

  • Crowded teeth that are more difficult to properly brush and floss
  • Protruding teeth that are more susceptible to accidental chipping
  • Crossbites that result in unfavorable growth and uneven tooth wear and the potential for jaw joint dysfunction
  • Openbites that can result in tongue-thrusting habits and speech impediments.

We offer a variety of treatments that are designed for children and teenagers. We love our patients and will treat them with the kindness and concern that we would extend to our own family members. We are proud of our reputation as perfectionists, and will do our best to provide the very best possible result to each of our patients.