Some patients as young as five or six years old may benefit from an early or first phase of orthodontic treatment. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an exam with an orthodontist by their seventh birthday. This is the age when the first adult teeth are erupting in the mouth and developing jaw and bite issues may start to show themselves.
Some of the most common problems that are treated are crossbites, underbites, severe crowding, severe protrusion, very deep overbites, dental habits (such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, etc.), space loss due to the early loss of baby teeth, or dental eruption issues. Also, other types of problems such as missing teeth should be addressed early so the appropriate treatment can be discussed and planned early on.
Many different types of treatment can be used to help correct early issues. Dr. Ben utilizes the best possible treatment for each case depending on the exact problem. For example, some situations only require an expander, some can be fixed with limited braces, and others can be corrected with special retainers. Combinations of these interventions can be used as well.
In some cases, extractions of baby teeth are used as a part of treatment. This is most common in cases where there is severe crowding, but there are other indications as well. Sometimes baby teeth will prevent permanent teeth from erupting, or cause teeth to erupt in the wrong place. In severe situations, this can damage the permanent teeth or compromise the health of the gums and jaw bone. This type of damage is often permanent. If an extraction is recommended, Dr. Ben will give a very thorough explanation and go over the benefits. An extraction may be done by either a general dentist, a pediatric dentist, or an oral surgeon.
Phase I treatment is not designed to prevent the need for comprehensive orthodontic treatment. This does happen in some cases, but most children will need full treatment once all the permanent teeth have fully erupted. Phase I treatment is designed to eliminate significant dental and skeletal problems early on and allow normal dental and skeletal development to proceed while the remaining permanent teeth are erupting.
After phase I treatment, the patient will need to wear a retainer to hold their progress. Usually, these retainers are worn for about a year. As baby teeth are lost and the patient grows, the fit of the phase I retainer becomes compromised and, after about a year, the retainer is no longer useful.
It’s important to note that the goal of early treatment is not to avoid needing full braces when all of the adult teeth come in (typically around 11 to 13 years old). More often than not, comprehensive treatment is still needed to get to an acceptable and stable final result.
The costs of Phase I treatment are part of the overall treatment fee, so the overall cost of treatment will still be the same. Any payments for phase I treatment are applied to any future comprehensive treatment. For example, if $1800 was paid for Phase I treatment and the comprehensive fee is $5000, then the Phase II fee would be $3200. In most cases where Phase I treatment was done, comprehensive treatment tends to be less difficult to complete and shorter in duration, which is why Dr. Ben has this fee plan in place.