Amazing advances in technology have brought the profession of orthodontics (braces) to a new age. No longer is treatment limited to teenagers but is available to adults of all ages and to children very early in their life. It is the early treatment stage that I would like to discuss.
For many years, orthodontists waited until all the permanent teeth were in to begin treatment of children. However, many disadvantages were evident with this waiting. In many cases permanent teeth needed to be removed in order to gain enough room to align the teeth properly. Because of this, facial profiles often became less attractive. Lips can become pencil thin rather than full and attractive; noses can look larger than they really are, etc.
As orthodontists we have always had the option of treatment early. However, long term advantages were minimal. Our treatment basically amounted to holding or maintaining space. If the jaws were too small there still was not enough room for all the permanent teeth!
For the past 30 years, our practice has used early two phase treatment to not only hold space, but to gain space. This has been accomplished through various types of “expanders” as well as braces. When used properly these devices will:
- Make enough room so that permanent teeth do not need to be removed.
- Assist the orthodontist in creating a beautiful natural smile.
- Eliminate the use of headgear.
- Eliminate the use of large retainer-type devices that pull the lower jaw forward and are uncomfortable to wear.
- Correct asymmetries
The goal of early active treatment is mainly Orthopedic. That is, we concentrate on the proper development of the upper and lower jaws.
The tooth straightening portion of orthodontic treatment has also been revolutionized. Space age wires (titanium) allow us to treat in fewer visits with less interruption of school and work schedules and with very little discomfort for the patient. Add to this our routine use us of clear, non-staining ceramic braces (metal are also available) and it is easy to see what a wonderful investment early orthodontic treatment is. I usually recommend that children be seen for the first time at four or five years of age to check facial development, although in most instances treatment does not begin until the patient is six or seven years old.