Serving young patients for orthodontics can be tricky, as kids develop differently despite their ages, and every patient’s needs differ. Phase 1 treatment is important for children who need it to avoid possible conflicts in the future, but starting too early can be harmful to children and possibly their teeth too.
What is the Right Age for Phase 1 Treatment?
Each patient has a skeletal, chronological, and dental age, but grade can also be a factor in phase 1 orthodontics. Chronological age factors the least in determining whether it is time to start phase 1 treatment.
First and second grade is often too young. Teachers in these grades are less experienced with the needs of orthodontic treatments and rules, and children might get singled out for being the first child with orthodontic treatment. Because of this, third through fourth grade is the sweet spot, but second is a ‘maybe’ if another child in the class has expanders or other orthodontic treatment.
Skeletal age can also factor into whether or not starting phase 1 in second grade is okay. Some children, especially girls, might be early bloomers, and physical development happening younger is a clear sign that expanders should be considered in second grade.
Emotional age is a potential detractor from starting a child earlier. Emotionally immature patients, such as those crying when they visit the orthodontist, usually indicate that a child is not emotionally prepared for orthodontic treatment.
For dental age, the requirement is for the number of adult teeth that have erupted. At least six to eight front teeth are preferable, as are the first molars. These teeth are necessary for treatment, and it makes it more difficult if these teeth are baby teeth that could risk coming loose.