WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF EARLY INTERVENTION AND TWO-PHASE TREATMENT?
These are questions that can be very confusing to many parents. They may see a child in the second or third grade with some form of orthodontic braces, while the child of a friend or neighbor is in the seventh or eighth grade and is only just beginning his/her orthodontic treatment. The answer is that both situations are probably appropriate. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an evaluation by an orthodontist by age 7. While, on the surface, it may seem extremely young, it serves several purposes. One is that it introduces the parent and child to the orthodontist and the office. Early introductions can provide a base for making decisions based on facts, rather than the experience of friends or neighbors and reduce anxiety related to guessing what the future holds. Early detection of developing problems allows for the orthodontist, patient and parent to arrive at a treatment plan that will end with a good occlusion and beautiful smile. How any given individual arrives at that final goal is dependent on many factors; the level of development of the permanent teeth, the maturity of the child, the level of anxiety of the child and the willingness of the child to actively participate in his/her treatment, to name just a few of the factors. When early treatment is indicated it is usually referred to as “Interceptive treatment” because that is exactly what it does. It “intercepts” a developing problem to either reduce or eliminate the effect of the problem as the child grows. This is also often referred to as “Two Phase Treatment”, meaning that if early interceptive treatment is undertaken, it is usually followed by a second phase of treatment when the child has a complete, or nearly complete, permanent dentition. One of the biggest advantages of early intervention is that it can often eliminate the need for the extraction of permanent teeth. Again, the final goal is a good occlusion and a beautiful smile, achieved with the least amount of stress and anxiety for both parents and children. Early initial examination is the answer to deciding whether early treatment is indicated, or if it is in the best interests of the child and parent to wait for treatment when the child is older.
Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment
Often called “full braces”, not only aligns the teeth to provide a beautiful smile, but also corrects occlusion/bite issues that may exist (over-bites, under-bites, etc.). Some patients who have severe crowding or other extreme conditions may require extractions of adult teeth to allow proper alignment. For children, comprehensive treatment is often started when the last few baby teeth are still present and are beginning to loosen. Often, comprehensive treatment can be completed within 18-24 months. Correct timing to start comprehensive treatment can greatly aid an orthodontist in providing ideal results and reduce the chance that adult teeth need to be extracted. However, it is never “too late” for comprehensive orthodontic treatment, as beautiful results can be achieved for patients of all ages including late into adulthood.