As a San Diego orthodontist, we’re used to parents asking us about what steps to take and when. If you’re not an orthodontist, it’s only natural that you might not know how to proceed with your child’s treatment, and when the right time to start is. Here, we’re going to answer that question, as well as look at what you can expect when you make that first appointment.
The first step: an orthodontic evaluation
If you think that your child might need dental braces to straighten their teeth, then you should get in touch with your local orthodontist to begin an evaluation. An evaluation may not immediately lead to treatment, depending on the severity and cause of the misalignment present. However, it will help you and your orthodontist start plotting out the course of treatment whenever it’s recommended. Otherwise, every child should have an orthodontic evaluation at least once by the time they are seven years old.
During the evaluation, your child’s orthodontist will introduce themselves and their team and are likely to give a tour of the office if you haven’t arranged for one beforehand. After that, they examine the child’s mouth thoroughly. Photographs and x-rays of the mouth and teeth will be taken, after which the orthodontist will diagnose any issues and recommend a course of action.
When Should Your Child Wear Braces/Aligners?
When it comes to treatments with dental braces and other aligner devices, such as Invisalign, we will usually wait until your child has lost the majority of their baby teeth and has grown the majority of their permanent teeth. Usually, this happens between the ages of 8 and 14.
Which type of care is recommended depends on your child’s needs and the type and severity of any misalignment. We will look a little more closely at the types and phases of treatment and when your orthodontist is likely to recommend them.
Phase 1 – The Planning Phase
The first phase begins with the initial evaluation that your child’s orthodontist provides. It includes a full medical evaluation too, so providing a complete medical history is important as it helps the orthodontist ensure they best understand the causes of any misalignments.
This phase usually relies on the use of casting and bite impressions as well as panoramic X-rays to create a study model of your child’s teeth. This model can be used to better diagnose issues and see how the position of each tooth affects the teeth around it.
Phase 2 – The Active Phase
This is the phase that primarily involves using orthodontic devices like braces and aligners to move the teeth into proper alignment over time. Which device we recommend, whether it’s fixed or removable, will depend on the condition of the teeth. Traditional braces are fixed in place in most cases, as are lingual braces, but removable aligners may also be an option.
During this phase, regular appointments will be held to make sure that the device is applying the necessary pressure to align the teeth. In the case of removable devices, as aligners, one set may be regularly swapped out with the next to ensure that realignment keeps going as planned.
Phase 3: The Retention Phase
Once the active phase has finished, and the teeth are properly aligned, the braces (or other orthodontic devices) can be removed and are no longer necessary. Now, the orthodontist will create a retainer that is custom-made to fit the newly aligned teeth. This retainer has to be worn for a certain amount of time every day to ensure that the teeth do not slip back into misalignment. How long they need to be worn for is something the orthodontist will tell you about, as it differs from child to child.
Once the retention phase is over and the retainer is no longer necessary, orthodontic treatment will be complete. The child may have follow-up appointments in the future to make sure that their teeth remain in the best possible alignment, but many children do not need any follow-up treatments after the retention phase.
Is it Time to Start Your Child’s Treatment With Your San Diego Orthodontist?
We hope that our San Diego orthodontist blog has helped answer some of your questions. If you’re still uncertain, then there’s no better way to get some clarity than to give us a call. We’re always glad to help you figure out the next step, whether it’s time to start treatment or not. If you are ready to make an appointment please visit our Children’s Braces and Dentistry website.