Smiling face with braces

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children receive an orthodontic evaluation at the age of 7 to advise if orthodontic treatment is necessary and to determine the ideal time to begin treatment.  The types of problems addressed at this stage include overbite, underbite, crossbite, gummy smile, deep bite or open bite, overlapping or crowded teeth, mouth breathing, speech problems, tongue thrusting, thumb or finger sucking.  Early intervention can significantly improve the child’s developing teeth and facial structure when necessary.  Comprehensive orthodontic treatment is typically initiated when most or all permanent teeth have erupted.

Early Treatment (Phase 1 treatment)

When is the best time to begin orthodontic treatment?

Although orthodontics can be done at any age, there is an optimal time to initiate treatment. Beginning treatment at this time ensures the greatest result and the least amount of time and expense. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that an initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. At this early age, orthodontic treatment is not always necessary, but an examination can anticipate the best time to begin treatment.

Benefits of early treatment

An early examination is important for detecting problems with the bite and provides the opportunity for effective treatment. Early intervention guides growth and development and prevents serious problems later. If treatment is not necessary at this point, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when timing is ideal.

Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for evaluation?

By the age of 7, the first permanent molars have erupted and the bite on the posterior teeth is established. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate the relationship between the upper and lower teeth and determine if early treatment is needed.

Advantages of early treatment

Some results of early intervention include:  creating room for crowded and erupting teeth, influencing jaw growth, reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth, preserving space for unerupted teeth, and correcting crossbites.

Phase II Treatment

Phase II treatment usually occurs a number of years after Phase I treatment. Usually we are waiting for 12-16 more permanent teeth to erupt before Phase II begins. This most commonly occurs at the age of 12 or 13. The goal of Phase II treatment is to achieve an ideal occlusion with all of the permanent teeth.

Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment

This is another name for orthodontic treatment in the permanent dentition at any age. It is more commonly used when a Phase I treatment was not performed.

Adult Treatment

Braces are not just for kids anymore. Tooth alignment can be changed at any age if your gums and bone structure are healthy.

Orthodontic treatment at later stages in life can dramatically improve your personal appearance and self-esteem. It can also help by improving the health of your teeth and gums.

Many advances have been made in orthodontic care. Your options may include metal braces, translucent braces or transparent aligners that can be worn at night to improve mild cases of misaligned teeth.