The American Board of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first orthodontist appointment by the age of seven, but any child with an underbite (upper teeth behind lower teeth) should be seen by an orthodontist as early as four years old. This is important because at these early ages, an orthodontist in Portland can begin to understand how the adult jaw form is taking shape and take any steps necessary to help guide the teeth, jaw growth and smile development.
For most young patients, their smiles will be monitored to make sure that everything is humming along as it should. Dr. Leemin strongly believes in intervening early with two-phase treatment ONLY when it is absolutely necessary. For those who need intervention, early orthodontic treatment can guide the growth of the jaw and help teeth erupt properly. In turn, this can reduce future complications like dental impactions or severe malocclusions that require surgeries later.
Early orthodontic treatment aims to guide the growth of the jaw, ensuring that the upper jaw is wide enough to fit with the bottom jaw and adequately hold all the permanent teeth. If your child has an underbite or crossbite, has lost baby teeth at an early age, or uses solely their mouth to breathe, he or she may be an ideal candidate for early orthodontic treatment. Severe crowding that prevents eruption of permanent teeth also warrants early intervention. Likewise, if your child used a pacifier or sucked their thumb for an extended period of time, or has an unusual tongue habit, orthodontic treatment may be beneficial. Common things to look for include:
During early orthodontic treatment, the orthodontist is working to promote jaw growth, hold space for erupting permanent teeth, or prevent teeth from moving into undesirable locations.
For children who may have more severe malocclusions, seeking out treatment while the jaw is still growing is important – the orthodontist can work to realign a jaw that is out of proportion, making it easier to then align the teeth. Waiting to seek out treatment until the jaws have finished growing may result in the need for surgery in order to properly correct the issue.
Once the first phase of treatment has finished and the jaws have been positioned properly and permanent teeth have erupted, the straightening phase of treatment (phase II) can begin. Braces or clear aligners will work to guide the teeth to their proper locations, creating a straighter and more harmonious smile.
For most patients, two-phase orthodontic treatment is not necessary, and braces or clear aligners after all permanent dentition have erupted will be adequate to provide the ideal smile. For these patients, Dr. Leemin will simply monitor the patient through childhood and start orthodontic treatment at the most optimal time for a short and effective treatment experience.
Whether your child has two-phase treatment or braces only once, a retainer will need to be worn once treatment is completed to keep the smile as beautiful as it was on the day the braces were removed. Dr. Leemin will guide the patients through proper retainer wear and follow up with evaluation visits to help your child keep his or her new smile for decades to come.