Phase I Treatment
When many individuals think of orthodontic treatment, they think of "Phase II" treatment with traditional braces and wires. Once most adult teeth erupt, such as at ages 12 to 13 years, Phase II treatment can be efficiently started.
Our office, however, is passionate about seeing children for their first orthodontic consult between the ages of 7 and 9 years. The reasoning behind seeing children earlier is to assess jaw and facial growth. If, for example, a child's upper jaw is growing slowly in width, we can increase the size of the upper jaw with little to no discomfort at age 7 years, but this growth modification is difficult or even impossible to achieve conservatively at age 13 years. Why?...the bones of the face are soft and moldable at a young age, similar to the top of a baby's head. Upon reaching the early teen years, the bones of the face have largely calcified to their adult hardness. The only way to modify the size of facial bones at that time is with surgery, and we prefer to avoid that if at all possible.
In addition to creating more room for all of the adult teeth to erupt, the greater benefits to growth modification in children with small jaws are to make the adult teeth easier to clean, decrease the incidence of periodontal disease (such as recession and bone loss between the teeth) and to make Phase II orthodontic treatment faster! Phase I treatment is, in our opinion, one of the best things you can do for the long-term health of your child's mouth!
What this ultimately means is that even if you feel your child is growing normally and his/her teeth are straight, it is to your child's benefit to be seen between the ages of 7 and 9 years for a free orthodontic consult to assess facial growth. We will gladly let you know if your child's growth is on track for a future healthy and beautiful smile. If not, there are simple treatments that can be performed to improve jaw growth and size.
One of the most commonly performed treatments in our office for children with small upper jaws is rapid palatal expansion (RPE). See the video below for a visual explanation of this treatment. And, remember, at an early age, this treatment is almost painless!