Orthodontics 101 from Westport Native and Orthodontist, Emily Driesman! - Westport Moms

With some children as young as 7 or 8 having expanders- or even braces now – many parents wonder “when should I visit an orthodontist?” and “how do I know if my child needs anything like that?” While a lot of the orthodontic early intervention can seem pre-mature, there is a lot of good rationale and science behind It. We sat down with Westport native and local owner of Embrace Orthodontics in Westport, Emily Driesman, to get the scoop!
Have you noticed some children are getting braces at a very early age? Why is this?
Yes!! The current school of thought is that some children need “two phase” orthodontic treatment. This means they get braces in two stages: once when they are very young and have a mixture of baby and adult teeth and then again when all the permanent teeth are in their mouth. Some children don’t need two phase orthodontic treatment and can get braces all in one, full phase.

What is a Phase 1 of orthodontic treatment?
A Phase 1 of orthodontic treatment typically occurs between the ages of 7-9. Phase 1 treatment is generally shorter than a full phase of orthodontics and usually requires a Phase 2 of orthodontic treatment when the child has more permanent teeth. Phase 2, if needed, generally starts around 11-13 years old.
Is my child a candidate for a Phase 1 orthodontic treatment?
Not everyone is a candidate for a Phase 1 of orthodontic treatment. However, some orthodontic issues (listed below) are easier to fix when treated at a younger age, when jaw growth occurs most rapidly.

  • Posterior crossbite (top teeth are behind the bottom teeth)
  • Underbite
  • Extreme overbite
  • Extreme crowding
  • A thumb or finger-sucking habit
  • Early loss of baby teeth

I hear my second grader talking about her friends who have expanders. What is an expander?
An expander is commonly used during a Phase 1 of orthodontic treatment. An expander, or “RPE,” rapid palatal expander, is used when a patient has abnormal jaw growth and their upper jaw needs to be widened, usually to correct a posterior crossbite or extreme crowding. Along with most other Phase 1 treatments, an expander can help prevent serious problems that can develop later in life.

What are the advantages of doing two phase orthodontic treatment?
Two phase orthodontic treatment helps your child’s bite become healthy and functional. If specific orthodontic issues are corrected early, the time and complexity of a second phase of orthodontic treatment can be greatly reduced. When recommended, a two phase treatment can fix smaller problems sooner, before they turn into larger problems.
So, when does my child need to see an orthodontist?
All children are different! Each child should be examined by an orthodontist to see if a two phase orthodontic treatment is right for them. The American Academy of Orthodontics recommends the first orthodontic visit to be at the age of 7. At this age children generally have enough adult teeth and jaw development for an orthodontist to make a proper diagnosis and determine if or when orthodontic treatment should begin.
For more information, ask your child’s dentist what they think, or feel free to call Emily at Embrace Orthodontics anytime – (203)227-6061.

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