Most parents want to know the best time to take their child to the orthodontist for their first evaluation. While the majority of children in our office don't start braces until middle school, having your child evaluated at age eight will allow Dr. Seuss to detect potential future orthodontic problems and to intervene, if necessary.
If your child does not require early treatment at the time of the initial consultation, you should not feel that you've made an unnecessary appointment. Children who do not require treatment at the time of their initial exam are placed into a growth and guidance program. These patients will be seen at least once each year to monitor the growth and development of the face, jaws, and teeth. The growth and guidance program will allow us to evaluate your child on a regular basis, ensuring that we initiate your child's treatment at the right time. The office visits for the growth and guidance program are complimentary.
There are a few orthodontic conditions that do require early intervention. These are mostly related to jaw or bite problems or self-esteem issues. Crossbites that cause the lower jaw to shift, and severe overbites or underbites should be treated early. Early loss of primary teeth, or excessive crowding which can cause damage to gum tissue, are examples of spacing problems that may warrant early treatment. Early or Phase I treatment, usually lasts between 12 to 18 months. The patient then enters the growth and guidance program until ready for the second phase of treatment, once all of the new permanent teeth have erupted. Ninety-five percent of those who have Phase I treatment at 8-10 years old will require a second phase of treatment at 11-14 years old to guide the new permanent teeth into their final positions.
Given Dr. Seuss's conservative approach, most children (about 85-90%) don't require early or two phases of treatment. For these patients, there are many advantages to waiting until most of the permanent teeth have erupted (usually between ages 11 and 14). At this stage in a child's development, bone growth occurs more rapidly, increasing treatment effectiveness and yielding more stable results. Waiting means less time in braces, fewer office visits, and fewer complications.
Additionally, understanding and cooperation are better when children are more mature. From a financial standpoint, completing treatment in one comprehensive phase in middle school is less costly than a two-phase treatment plan. Since Dr. Seuss is very conservative, he prefers to wait until middle school to treat using one comprehensive phase.
Starting treatment at the optimal time allows Dr. Seuss to treat all of the permanent teeth at the same time, without wasting time waiting for permanent teeth to erupt. This means less time in braces. Starting early does not mean that the braces will come off earlier or faster, to the contrary, it results in a longer time in braces. Orthodontic treatment began at the appropriate time usually results in braces being on for 18 to 24 months, instead of for 3 to 4 years or more.
As you can see, deciding on the right time for orthodontic treatment is determined on a patient-by-patient basis. We are all unique and no two patients have the same face, jaws, teeth or bite. You can depend on Dr. Seuss to work with you, your child and your family dentist to ensure that the right treatment is rendered at the best time for your child. The result will be a naturally beautiful smile that will last a lifetime.