Early Treatment

At what age should a child first visit the orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic screening by age seven. By this age, most children have had several permanent teeth erupt, allowing Dr. Venrick to effectively evaluate their orthodontic condition. She can determine if orthodontic treatment will be required, and the best time for treatment to begin.

Why are some patients treated at such a young age? What are the benefits?

Early evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Prudent intervention guides growth and development, preventing serious problems later; it can guide erupting teeth into a more favorable position, preserve space for permanent teeth, and reduce the likelihood of trauma to protruding front teeth. If early treatment is indicated, Dr. Venrick can guide the growth of the jaw and incoming permanent teeth. Early treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb sucking, and eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems. In other words, early treatment can simplify later treatment, after all the permanent teeth erupt. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, Dr. Venrick will carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.

What is phase I (early) treatment?

Phase I treatment, if necessary, is usually initiated on children between the ages of seven and ten. The primary objective of this treatment phase is to address significant concerns to prevent them from becoming more severe, and to improve self-esteem and self-image. Phase I treatment usually lasts about 12-18 months.

Does early treatment benefit all children?

Early treatment does not necessarily benefit all children. Certain types of orthodontic problems can be more easily and efficiently corrected later on, when all the permanent teeth have erupted. Some skeletal orthodontic problems should not be addressed until growth is completed. Dr. Venrick develops a plan for treatment based on each individual child’s needs. If she decides a child is not ready for treatment, they are occasionally seen for follow-up appointments to monitor their growth and development.

Will a child need full braces if they had phase I treatment?

Early treatment can begin the correction of significant problems, prevent more severe problems from developing, and simplify future treatment. Since all of the permanent teeth have not yet erupted when early treatment is initiated, their final alignment may not have been corrected. It is best to assume that a child will need full braces or Invisalign even after Phase I treatment. Typically, a shortened comprehensive phase of treatment (Phase II/full braces), after all the permanent teeth have erupted, completes the correction. However, in some circumstances, further orthodontic treatment may not be indicated. Patients and their parents will be kept informed of future treatment recommendations.