If your child is at least 7 years old, it is recommended that they visit an orthodontist for a consultation. Because their jaw and teeth are continuing to develop, bite misalignment and/or tooth impaction can occur, resulting in the need for more complex and serious procedures in the future (i.e., tooth extraction, jaw surgery). If you believe your child could benefit from orthodontic treatment, a dentist explains what signs to look for that might make them eligible for Phase I Orthodontics.
What is Phase I Orthodontics?
Phase I Orthodontics is designed for young children as a way to mitigate future jaw development issues that can lead to more serious problems down the road. Because they do not have their permanent teeth yet, it may be that their mouth is too narrow for proper tooth eruption, making it more likely for them to become impacted. Also, if a child sucks their thumb or uses a pacifier for too long, it can cause changes to their jaw and facial structure, resulting in improper bite alignment and the potential for speech difficulties and asymmetrical facial features.
By guiding and monitoring their jaw development, a dentist can create additional space within the mouth for proper tooth eruption, improve facial symmetry and their ability to breathe freely, reduce their risk for an overbite as well as possible extractions later on, and minimize any future time spent wearing braces.
Which Signs to Watch For
Not all children experience difficulty with the growth and development of their jaw, teeth, and facial structure; however, should you notice that your child is experiencing one or more of the following problems, make sure to schedule an appointment for them to see an orthodontist as soon as possible:
- Difficulty breathing (mouth breathers)
- Speech impediment
- Overbite development (protruding teeth)
- Imbalance of facial features
- Open bite (teeth touch in the back but not the front)
- Recessed jaw
- Crowded teeth
- Prolonged thumb-sucking or pacifier use
- Difficulty chewing
A Child’s Eligibility for Treatment
Typically, if your child shows early signs of orthodontic problems (any of those listed above), there is a good possibility that their dentist will recommend them for Phase I Orthodontics. Because this method of treatment is safe and effective, many parents believe it to be worth the time and money, especially since it can reduce your child’s time spent in braces (if they need them at all) as well as mitigate the possibility of extensive surgeries later on.
While it might seem as if orthodontics at an early age is unnecessary, the truth is that most children can benefit from Phase I treatment. With the right level of care, you can put your child’s smile on a healthier path.
About the Author
Dr. Mariliza LaCap has more than two decades of experience working in the oral healthcare field. Completing her Aesthetic Advantage Certification at New York University, she went on to receive her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Columbia University School of Dental & Oral Surgery, graduating in the top 10% of her class. At Washington Dental Associates, she works closely with patients of all ages to help them achieve straighter, more perfectly aligned smiles. If your child is showing signs of early orthodontic problems, contact us at (201) 453-4863 to find out if they are eligible for Phase I treatment.