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Early Prevention

Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children

What is the difference between early orthodontic treatment and regular orthodontic treatment, and why might my child need early treatment? How will early treatment benefit my child in the long run?

These are just a few of the questions surrounding the topic of early orthodontic treatment for children. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven. At this point the orthodontist will evaluate whether your child will need early orthodontic treatment.

Early treatment (also known as Phase-One) typically begins around age eight or nine (Phase-Two typically begins around age 11 or older). The goal of early treatment is to address specific tooth/jaw problems, such as underbite. Early treatment may help to...

  • Improve the self-esteem of your child's view of their own smile
  • Decrease the risk of trauma to protrusive (sticking out) upper front teeth
  • Guide eruption of the remaining adult teeth (decrease risk of tooth impaction and subsequent surgery)
  • Regulate the width/length of the upper jaw to decrease the likelihood that future surgery would be needed to obtain an ideal outcome
  • Create more space for crowded teeth
  • Avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions later in life
  • Decrease risk of developing a permanent skeletal asymmetry and possible jaw joint (TMD) issues in the future
  • Improve some types of underbites (lower jaw is ahead of upper jaw)
  • Improve anterior crossbites (upper front teeth are stuck behind lower front teeth) where permanent damage to lower front teeth is occurring
  • Improve a finger sucking habit and its resulting minor speech problems
  • Decrease overall treatment time of Phase-Two (full upper and lower braces with straightening and bite correction of all adult teeth) once the majority of baby teeth fall out

How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will normally have all permanent teeth around age 13)
  • Decreased self-esteem attributed to the child's view of their own smile
  • Protruding teeth where the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other (underbite or overbite)
  • Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all (open bite)
  • Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
  • A narrow (V-shape) upper jaw
  • Your child continues sucking his or her thumb after age five
  • Minor speech impediments with an open bite

What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early treatment benefit my child?

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.

All children with baby teeth still present are clinically evaluated by Dr. Foley at the initial consultation where parental concerns are also addressed. At the conclusion of the consultation, a determination of the best time to start orthodontic treatment is made by the doctor. In some cases, there is a medical/dental benefit to early treatment. In these cases, children receiving Phase-One (early) orthodontic treatment could help to decrease or eliminate a developing dental/skeletal problem to provide quicker, less invasive Phase-Two (full upper and lower braces with straightening and bite correction of all adult teeth) treatment time once the majority of their adult teeth are erupted. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child may help prevent problems from becoming only correctable with surgery and/or extraction of teeth in the future.

If there is nothing to be gained by early treatment, in most cases, treatment will be recommended when the majority of adult teeth have erupted. In the meantime, the child is invited to become a member of our very own 'Little Phillies Club'! Here, they are seen for free dental/skeletal observations periodically to determine the best time to start treatment. Members receive a free prize each visit and are enrolled in all of our office contests. 

If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, or if you have been directed by your family dentist to visit the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule an appointment. Our team will provide your child with a complimentary initial orthodontic exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child's smile.

  • Testimonials

    "I am very grateful for the opportunity of meeting Dr. Foley and the experience I have had with him."

    ~ Vanessa R. Read Vanessa's Story
  • Testimonials

    "My experience with Dr. Foley is unforgettable."

    ~ Janairis P. Read Janairis’ Story
  • Testimonials

    "I would not trade him for any other orthodontist. He's the best!!"

    ~ Mother of Devon O. Read Devon’s Mother’s Story

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pennsylvania dental association american association of orthodontists american dental association middle atlantic society of orthodontists dental society of chester county and delaware county