You may have heard the terms “early orthodontics,” “two-phase orthodontics,” or “dentofacial orthodontics,” but until you understand what they mean, you have no way of knowing whether or not your child might these types of treatment.
Early orthodontics generally starts around the ages of 7 or 8, when some baby teeth may have fallen out but not all adult teeth have come in. This is called “mixed dentition.”
Only about 10-15% of kids need early orthodontics at age 7, but their needs may change as they grow and more of their permanent teeth appear, so it is important to have them continue to see an orthodontist periodically.
The benefits of early orthodontics include:
- Can save time and money by fixing some issues early
- Reduces the possible need for tooth extractions later
- Provides more room for adult teeth
- Creates facial symmetry by encouraging proper jaw growth
Although most people picture braces when they hear the word “orthodontics,” early orthodontics often doesn’t use braces. Instead, an appliance, headgear, or expander is used to expand or realign the jaws in preparation for the rest of the permanent teeth.
If braces are used in this phase, they are often a partial set consisting of four brackets on the front teeth and two brackets on the back teeth with a wire connecting them. This treatment is used to fix issues with the front teeth, particularly if they stick out too far.
Dentofacial orthodontics is a subcategory of early orthodontics that corrects jaw growth and alignment to allow space for adult teeth to come in straighter. While this treatment can be done at a later age, it is most effective and takes less time if it is done while the jaws are still growing, around age 7 or 8.
Two-phase orthodontics is the combination of early orthodontics (phase one) and what people traditionally think of as orthodontic treatment - moving teeth with braces or Invisalign after all of the adult teeth have erupted (phase two).