two young brothers smiling, one wearing braces

Lots of people are wearing braces. It is a common sight in schoolyards around the country and has been for many decades. Indeed, teenage years would not be quite the same without the spectre of braces lurking somewhere in the background. Of course, your child’s teeth start growing a lot earlier than the teenage years, and you might be wondering when you should see the orthodontist to discuss the potential of orthodontic treatment.

Identify Problems Early

So, when is it too early to think about your child wearing braces? Is there such a thing as too early when it comes to orthodontic treatment?

You might be surprised to learn that some kids start orthodontic treatment, or preventative measures, at the age of 7. It might sound like they’re too young, but by the age of 7 any early dental problems will start to show. They are also getting their first adult teeth around this age, so it’s a good time to have an initial check-up done even if you don’t need to proceed with any orthodontic treatment.

The short answer then is that a child should see an orthodontist at around the age of 7. However, the long answer is more complex and involves an array of other factors.

What is Phase 1 Treatment?

It’s during this time in your child’s life that many dental problems can be identified. Things like a crossbite, malocclusion, teeth that stick out, and a narrow jaw can hinder your child’s normal dental development. By discovering these problems early, treatment options can be put in place where necessary.

Because the skeleton is still early in its stage of development, the trajectory of many dental problems can be altered more easily if they are recognised and intercepted early enough. Between the ages of 7 and 10, any orthodontic treatment is called Phase 1 treatment. This is where underlying issues, such as a crossbite, can be treated so that any later orthodontic treatment your child might need is going to be easier.

In this context, Phase 1 treatments are part of the continuum of orthodontic treatment and will have a positive impact on later treatments. If your child does require this early intervention, you should certainly view it as a positive thing for your child’s normal dental development.

What are the Typical Phase 1 Treatment Options?

Phase 1 treatment is a great opportunity for your child to engage with the orthodontist. It’s also a good time for you to learn about the positive benefits of treatment at this stage and any treatment in the future. Many young children have to deal with bullying even in early childhood education environments and issues like protruding teeth can be the cause of a lot of distress. By intervening early, these dental issues can be minimised. Furthermore, jaw pain and damage to the teeth can be addressed early through Phase 1 treatments.

Typically, Phase 1 treatments will often consist of the following:

  • Expansion of the lower jaw through the use of plates,
  • Wearing partial braces,
  • Wearing a retainer.

Check-ups during this time will occur regularly and a retainer will likely be worn until all of the adult teeth have come through.

Should you Consider Phase 1 Treatments?

It is true that most children don’t require Phase 1 treatments. In most cases, they are reserved for serious dental issues. If your orthodontist has recommended Phase 1 treatments, it is because in their medical opinion, this is best for your child’s dental health, now and in the future. The goal of the treatment is to change the trajectory of developmental issues and make Phase 2 orthodontic treatments more efficient and effective. Phase 2 treatments include all of the orthodontic options most people are familiar with, including wearing braces, Invisalign, lingual braces, and ceramic braces. If your orthodontist recommends Phase 1 treatment, you should consider it.

Help your Child Deal with Wearing Braces

It’s perfectly natural for children to feel nervous and even fearful about wearing braces. After all, there are certainly plenty of grown adults who still avoid going to the dentist for a check-up! So, how can you help your child come to terms with the fact that they are going to have orthodontic treatment?

Consider the following advice:

  • Talk to them honestly: Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to any orthodontic treatment. Once you’ve come to a decision about the treatment, it’s wise to discuss it with your child. They will certainly be nervous, but if you go through it with them step by step, they may feel more engaged in the process and less afraid. Discuss why they will be having it. Talk openly about what the orthodontist is trying to fix and why. If you focus on the positive aspects of the treatment, your child is more likely to feel more confident.
  • Address their concerns: A big part of discussing treatment with your child is listening to all of their worries and fears. It’s more than likely that they won’t have had to sit for so long in a dental chair before, so talk about how long the procedure will take. If they’re having braces installed, tell them about what happens. Talk about the braces and how they will be stuck to the teeth. Talk about what it will feel like. If you listen to them without judgement, they’ll feel engaged in the process.

Make the Right Decision

If you have concerns about your child’s dental development, it’s always best to see your local dentist. Since dentists work closely with orthodontists, they can recommend whether or not you should make an appointment.

At 7 years of age, the adult teeth are starting to come through and some dental issues are already showing. At this time, some children may need Phase 1 orthodontic treatments in preparation for wearing braces. It’s not required in most cases, but you shouldn’t feel worried if your orthodontist recommends it.

To speak to an orthodontist about your child’s dental development, book a consultation with Evolution Orthodontics