When you think of big milestones in your child’s life, you may think of the day your baby got his first tooth, or years later when he lost a tooth and would carefully place it under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy.
But there is another milestone many parents don’t realize. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children visit an orthodontist by age 7 to see whether early orthodontic treatment could correct or prevent problems.
It's called Phase I Treatment or interceptive orthodontic treatment and is designed for kids ages 6 to 10. It takes place while the child has a mix of baby teeth and permanent teeth and helps to properly form the jaw and allow the erupting permanent teeth to be guided into the proper position.
"Younger children are still growing quickly, and Phase I Treatment takes advantage of the growth of the jaw," explained Dr. Kelley Dunay, an orthodontist at several Nevada Dental Associates/Coast Dental offices in Las Vegas.
Phase I Treatment can help correct crossbites, underbites, deep bites, open bites, protrusive incisors, and damaging habits like thumb sucking, which can cause a child to have buck teeth.
"Long-term thumb sucking changes the shape of the jaw and jawbone and can cause permanent malocclusions," said Dr. Dunay. "It should definitely not proceed past the age of 5."
Malocclusions are problems with a person's bite. An orthodontist may recommend your child use a habit appliance to break a bad habit such as sucking on a thumb, a blanket or even sucking hard on a top or bottom lip.
Other types of appliances help to expand the jaw or, in the cases of crowded teeth, help to open the bite and make room for the permanent teeth that are coming in. There are also appliances that do the opposite: if the teeth are spaced too far apart, the appliances can help close the bite.
"Most kids do really well," Dr. Dunay said. "Moms and brothers and sisters are in the room with the child, and we have televisions to help distract the younger kids while we're fixing their smile."
Phase I Treatment usually lasts 12 to 18 months, and can help shorten the amount of time the child may need braces once all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Best of all, it places the teeth in a more stable position and can prevent bigger orthodontic problems from developing.
At Nevada Dental Associates, SmileCare and Coast Dental orthodontic offices, the initial consultation is free. Request an appointment at one of our orthodontic offices to see whether your child needs a little help to have the perfect smile!
Dr. Kelley Dunay, DMD, starts seeing kids as young as four years old to determine what kind of orthodontics they may need in the future. She specializes in traditional braces, Inspire ICE braces, ClearCorrect aligners and Invisalign clear aligners. She practices at Nevada Dental Associates Charleston, 2047 W. Charleston Blvd. in Las Vegas, at Nevada Dental Associates Flamingo, 8445 W. Flamingo Road in Las Vegas, and at Nevada Dental Associates Windmill, 2660 Windmill Parkway in Henderson, NV. For more information, please visit www.smilecareortho.com or call 1-800-32-SMILE.
Written by: Beth Gaddis
Reviewed by: Kelley Dunay, DMD
Reviewed by: Cindy Roark, DMD