The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child undergo
an orthodontic evaluation by the time they are seven years old. By that
age, the child’s adult teeth will have started growing in, and we
will be able to spot developing problems, like a bad bite or abnormally
Why So Young?
A child’s jaw is softer and more flexible than an adult’s,
and that makes treating some conditions easier. For example, we can use
an appliance called a palate expander to correct an abnormally narrow
palate in a child. An adult with the same problem would need to undergo
jaw surgery. Similarly, early treatment reduces the need for tooth extractions later on.
What is the Two-Phase Treatment?
In the Two-Phase Treatment, we typically perform the first phase when the
child is around eight or nine years. We use appliances and other
treatments to correct jaw or bite problems. Many of these treatments will ensure
there is enough room for all of the permanent teeth in the jaw, so we
don’t have to extract any.
After completing Phase One, we let the child rest for a few years. We start
Phase Two when the child is at least eleven years old. By then, all of
their adult teeth, except the wisdom teeth, will have grown in. During
Phase Two, we straighten the child’s teeth with braces.
Factors Other Than Age That May Require Orthodontic Treatment
Specific situations that require an orthodontist’s attention include
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Thumb-sucking past the age of five
- Trouble chewing food
- Speech impediments
- Crowded front teeth
- Jaws that make noises or pop when opening or closing
- Teeth that don’t come together normally or even at all