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Interceptive orthodontics is an approach to care that intercepts potential bite issues before they evolve into complex scenarios later on. By addressing them earlier, treatment is more holistic, comprehensive, and less invasive.
Growth modification is the foundation of interceptive orthodontics. With regular screenings our dentist can pinpoint potential concerns — such as crowding or impacted teeth — to take steps to naturally correct them before they become severe.
Phase I and Phase II Braces
Typically, interceptive orthodontics is referred to as “Phase I” treatment. As you might guess, it’s followed by “Phase II” at a later point in time.
Phase I orthodontics usually takes place when a child is somewhere between 7-9 years of age. Their mouths are rapidly growing, teeth are coming in, and they still have a mixture of both adult and baby teeth. They may need what looks like a full set of braces but more often than not, they’ll have fewer brackets and a combination of adjunctive appliances.
Phase II is then used later on, closer to adolescence. These treatments mirror traditional orthodontic therapy and consist of comprehensive braces throughout the mouth. During this second phase, the permanent teeth have their alignment fine-tuned for appropriate spacing and biting relationships. Without Phase I, this stage of therapy would be more complex, lengthier, and potentially even require surgical intervention.
What is Growth Modification/Orthognathic Therapy?
The skeletal growth of your child’s jaws and facial anatomy play a crucial role in how their bite aligns. If the lower jaw doesn’t grow enough to keep up with the upper one, it can lead to a significant overbite and TMJ disorder. Waiting to address the issue until adulthood could mean significant oral surgery and reconstruction.
Instead, there’s a more holistic way to manage growth patterns. Orthognathic therapy — also referred to as growth modification — is a branch of orthodontic therapy where facial bones are encouraged to grow in a particular direction. Early interception thus prevents major skeletal differences and allows for optimal oral function. It’s not just the teeth that are a concern, but also the fit of the upper and lower jaws against one another, and the way the TMJ functions.
Orthognathics or growth modification can only take place when your child’s oral anatomy is still rapidly developing. In this case, it’s usually during the elementary or early junior high years. The sooner orthodontic screenings take place, the more likely growth modification can be utilized.
The Need for Adjunctive Appliances
Traditional bracket and wire systems are only one aspect of orthodontic therapy. During early interceptive orthodontics it’s also common to utilize other types of appliances.
For instance, palatal expanders and Herbst appliances can help upper and lower jaws grow just wide enough to ensure room for all of the teeth to come into alignment. They help to modify the growth patterns of the facial bones, facilitating healthier positioning of teeth and function of the TMJ. Tools such as space maintainers and lower lingual arches also assist in guiding teeth into the right direction. That way they don’t have to be moved a few years down the road.
Orthodontic Evaluations for Children
Dental experts agree that children need to have their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7. This stage in a child’s development is a mixture of both adult and baby teeth, or what we call a “mixed dentition.” It provides us with a window into the future when it comes to predicting and preventing common orthodontic complications.
Since your child still has a combination of baby and adult teeth, it’s possible to intercept bite discrepancies before they evolve into more complex issues. Try to schedule your child’s evaluation close to their 7th birthday or just thereafter. If you weren’t aware that your child needed a screening so soon and missed this window, go ahead and schedule an evaluation anyway. Orthodontic therapy isn’t a process to be rushed, so there may still be time to work with.
Does My Child Need Braces?
If bite discrepancies such as crossbites, crowding, or overbites run in your family, there’s a chance that your child may mirror some of those same anatomical characteristics. Investing in growth modification can lower your child’s risk for significant dental and medical complications that may not become evident until later in adulthood. It’s a safe and effective way to give your child the healthiest smile possible.
Schedule an orthodontic evaluation for your child today to learn more. We’re happy to discuss your concerns and answer any questions you may have. Call (617) 527-6061 or request an appointment online.