Treatment Timing for Growing Patients

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO BEGIN ORTHODONTICS?

Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment. Beginning treatment at this time ensures the greatest results and the least amount of time and expense. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age seven. At this early age, orthodontic treatment is usually not necessary, but vigilant observation can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EARLY ORTHODONTIC EVALUATION?

Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Prudent intervention guides growth and development, preventing more serious problems later. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and recommend treatment at the ideal time.

WHY IS AGE SEVEN CONSIDERED THE OPTIMAL TIME FOR SCREENING?

By the age of seven, the first adult molars have erupted, establishing the back bite. At this time the orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side relationships. The erupting incisors at this age can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding, or gummy smiles. Timely screening increases the chances for an incredible smile.

WHAT IS THE BEST AGE FOR TREATMENT?

The best age for treatment depends on the development of the patient and the type of orthodontic problem. Some patients benefit from orthodontic treatment that is begun while there are still many “baby” or deciduous teeth present (early or Phase 1 treatment).

Some orthodontic problems that may benefit from treatment during this phase include:

  • Bite problems that interfere with proper function and could disturb normal growth and development.
  • Severe problems that may not be possible to correct completely at a later age.
  • Some moderate to severe crowding problems.
  • Protruding front teeth that may be at risk for trauma.
  • Cosmetic problems that may harm the patient’s self-esteem.
  • Teeth that may become impacted or unable to erupt.

Early treatment usually lasts 12-18 months. The primary advantages of early treatment are:

  • Creating a bite that allows better function
  • Improving jaw relationships
  • Enhancing appearance during early or Phase 1 treatment, we have no control over the unerupted permanent teeth. Almost all patients who have early treatment benefit from a second phase of treatment after the eruption of more permanent teeth. This second phase of treatment corrects problems that could not be corrected during the first phase.

ARE TWO PHASE TREATMENTS USUALLY NECESSARY?

The majority of patients can expect an excellent result in a single phase of treatment when treatment is timed correctly. Patients who do not need Phase 1 or early treatment enjoy several advantages including shorter total treatment times and less cost.