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Child & Early Phase Orthodontics

What Is Early Phase Orthodontics?

Early phase orthodontics, also referred to as interceptive orthodontics, is designed to address a child’s jaw structure and teeth alignment while they still have baby teeth. The goal of this early orthodontic intervention is to begin guiding teeth into proper alignment while their jaw is still developing. Our orthodontist, Dr. Brienne Roloff, may recommend early phase orthodontics if a child shows the beginning signs of complex dental issues, such as severe crowding, a crossbite, or front teeth that protrude. This is because dental issues typically only become more complicated as the adult teeth come in. By undergoing treatment early on, children can often avoid needing more in-depth treatment when they are older.

What Are the Benefits of Early Phase Orthodontics?

While not all children need early phase orthodontic treatment, many boys and girls can greatly benefit from the use of oral appliances at a younger age. By beginning the orthodontic process while the mouth is still developing, children can typically obtain the following benefits:

Children who undergo early phase orthodontics often require a second round of treatment when they are in or near their teenage years. However, this phase of treatment is typically shorter and less complex than if they had never received early phase treatment.

What Age Should My Child Begin Orthodontic Treatment?

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children be evaluated for orthodontic treatment by the age of seven. This is because the permanent teeth typically start to come in at age six or seven, often showing the beginning signs of possible orthodontic issues. Although early phase treatment is not always necessary, having your child screened at a younger age can determine a possible need for early treatment.

How Does Two-Phase Child Orthodontics Work?

Early phase orthodontics often leads to a second phase of treatment after most of the permanent teeth have erupted. Patients who can benefit from a two-phase approach will first begin treatment that focuses on creating space for the adult teeth to grow in and improving jaw alignment. This may include the use of oral appliances such as retainers, a palatal expander, or partial braces to guide the jaw and adult teeth into an optimal position.

The second phase of orthodontic treatment is dedicated to providing final adjustments to teeth positioning and jaw alignment. This often includes traditional braces or Invisalign® clear aligners. Patients can undergo phase two of their orthodontic treatment either in their teenage years or into adulthood. Despite when this is completed, patients who have addressed their more comprehensive orthodontic needs as children can often avoid the need for more invasive procedures, helping protect their oral health in the long-term.

Can Orthodontics Treat Sleep Apnea in Children?

Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) that occurs when an individual experiences frequent pauses in breathing as they sleep. This can lead to a variety of health problems, which is why diagnosing and treating sleep apnea is so important. Children who suffer from sleep apnea are typically evaluated for orthodontic treatment, as this can help manage their condition. For younger patients who are still developing, Dr. Roloff may recommend an orthodontic appliance, such as a palatal expander, to gradually create more space in the mouth to allow for proper airflow. To determine the most beneficial treatment for your child’s sleep apnea, Dr. Roloff will perform an oral evaluation to discover what may be causing their chronic breathing disorder.

By using orthodontic intervention to treat snoring and sleep apnea in children, you can ensure your child is getting a full night’s sleep, during which they can sufficiently rest and recuperate. As a result, your child should regain their energy, become more focused during the day, and have fewer sleep-related behavior problems.

Learn more about sleep apnea in children.