Phase 1 Orthodontics: What Is It and Why Is It Important

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Phase 1 orthodontics is for children between the ages of 7 and 10. Learn more about what this phase entails and why it matters here.

Do you know the recommended age for a child’s first orthodontic visit? Many individuals think of braces as part of the teen experience.

However, experts now recommend early childhood screenings for orthodontic problems. This allows the dentist or orthodontist to identify oral health problems early.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) top two priorities when it comes to oral health are cavities (caries) and gum disease. Their third is malocclusion. They estimate between 39 and 93 percent of children and teens have this problem.

These numbers vary greatly based on living conditions, nutrition, and access to healthcare.

Phase 1 orthodontics involves early intervention between the ages of seven and ten. Keep reading to learn more about phase 1 orthodontics and why it’s important.

Value of Orthodontics for Children

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) provides guidelines for oral health. They recommend the screening of children by an orthodontist at the first sign of a problem. The AAO goes on to state that this screening should take place by the age of seven.

These guidelines promote early detection of problems and allow for early intervention. This can help prevent serious problems later.

What Is Malocclusion?

The term occlusion describes how the upper and lower teeth fit together. Proper alignment means a smooth meeting of molar points with opposite molar grooves.

Our upper teeth keep us from biting our lips and cheeks. Our lower teeth protect our tongue.

Malocclusion means that the teeth aren’t aligned correctly. This can lead to incorrect bite patterns or tooth overcrowding.

Alignment problems are often passed down through families (hereditary). Hereditary causes may include different upper and lower jaw sizes or tooth sizes.

Other factors can also contribute to malocclusion. The following describes potential causes for alignment problems:

  • Birth defects (such as a cleft palate)
  • Mouth or jaw tumors
  • Thumb sucking
  • Mouth breathing
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Reverse swallowing
  • Pacifier use past the age of three
  • Prolonged bottle use
  • Abnormally shaped teeth
  • Lost, impacted, or extra teeth
  • Incorrect fitting of dental crowns, appliances, braces, fillings, or retainers
  • Incorrect alignment after a jaw fracture

This emphasizes the importance of having your child screened early for dental problems. Early intervention can save time and money, as well as physical and emotional discomfort.

Potential Health Impact Related to Malocclusion

Malocclusion can increase your risk of developing gum disease. When the teeth are overcrowded, it’s hard to brush or floss between them. Misaligned bites can cause wear and tear on the tooth enamel.

These issues can lead to the development of cavities, gum disease, and infections. The gums have many blood vessels. If the infection gets into the bloodstream, you may develop a blood infection (sepsis).

Sepsis is a serious diagnosis and can be fatal. Gum disease also increases your risk of diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and stroke.

Misalignment of the jaw can put excess strain on your jaw. This may lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. TMJ can cause jaw pain, headaches, teeth grinding, and/or jaw popping or locking.

When Should Kids Get Braces?

There is no one answer to the question, “What is the right age to get braces for kids?” Each child needs an individualized plan of care.

That’s why it’s important to schedule a dental exam within six months of their first tooth eruption. All children should see a dentist by the time they reach age one.

Often, the dentist is the first to discover problems with the teeth and/or jaw. They will recommend that you see an orthodontist for further evaluation and treatment.

Experts recommend that children have an orthodontist screening between ages seven and ten. This doesn’t mean they will start braces at this time. The goal is to identify problems early and develop a plan of care.

What Is Phase 1 Orthodontics?

Phase 1 orthodontic treatment often begins when the child has a mix of baby and adult teeth. Many orthodontists start this phase when the child has their first four baby teeth. It’s also ideal to undergo Phase 1 before all the permanent teeth have come in.

This treatment uses special retainers, spacers, headgear, and functional and expansion appliances. Some braces may be put on selected teeth as needed.

These appliances create space and guide the alignment of permanent teeth as they come in. This helps prevent overcrowding and the need to remove teeth in the future.

Phase 1 usually lasts about nine to twelve months. The orthodontist will then watch your child’s alignment over the next two years. They may recommend the use of a retainer to maintain correct positioning.

Importance of Phase 1 Orthodontics

The goal of phase 1 orthodontics is to decrease or even avoid the need for future braces. In the past, the orthodontic process began when problems with malocclusion developed. This included visibly crooked teeth, jaw pain, and overcrowding problems.

Now, instead of waiting, the orthodontist can guide the proper growth of the jaw. They also control where the teeth “grow in” to prevent future problems.

Phase I orthodontics is key to reducing many issues. This can include underbites, overbites, and incorrect tooth placement. It also decreases problems with teeth having difficulty erupting through the gum.

While every case is different, most children undergoing this treatment have positive outcomes. If they do need further orthodontic therapy in the future, it should be less invasive.

Is It Time to Find the Best Orthodontist Near You?

This article provided an overview of phase 1 orthodontics. For many individuals, this describes a new approach to children’s dental care.

Garn Mason Orthodontics has served Chandler, Phoenix, and Queen Creek AZ for 55 years. We’re passionate about providing an amazing patient experience.

Our orthodontists are Board Certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. This puts us in a group of less than 30 percent of Board-Certified Orthodontists in the area.

Our services include braces, Invisalign, Biolase lasers, and iTero scanning. Warm, fresh-baked cookies are waiting for you. Contact us today to ask questions and schedule an appointment.

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