Some people are surprised to learn that kids as young as 7-8 years old sometimes need orthodontic treatment. However, Phase I, or early orthodontic treatment, can help:
*To resolve problems that will interfere with normal growth and development of the jaws (Read blog post here)
*To resolve problems that will prohibit permanent teeth from erupting normally
*Try to avoid extraction of permanent teeth during full orthodontic treatment (upcoming blog post)
In this blog post, I’d like to cover point #2: the main reasons why early, or Phase I, treatment may be appropriate to correct problems that will prohibit permanent teeth from erupting normally.
Some examples of problems that may interfere with the ability of permanent teeth to erupt naturally include:
Ankylosis of primary teeth. Occasionally, baby teeth, instead of being lost will fuse to the bone and prevent their successor from coming in.
Supernumerary teeth. This is when extra teeth are present; their presence can sometimes interfere with normal eruption patterns.
Ectopic eruption of permanent teeth. This is when permanent teeth erupt in places they shouldn’t. Upper canine teeth are the most common culprits. Some permanent teeth just lose their way and start heading in other directions.
Severe crowding of teeth. Some reasons for severe crowding will be covered in the next blog post, but, suffice it to say, severe crowding can result in the inability for permanent teeth to erupt.
Most of these problems can be diagnosed during the transitional dentition, typically between the ages of 6 and 11. Your general dentist may identify some of these problems with the x-rays they routinely take, but they may also miss some of these problems because they do not routinely take the type of x-ray that is best used to identify these problems. This is not a flaw of general dentists; they are doing great work keeping teeth clean/cavity free and keeping gums health, among a myriad of other things! Your orthodontist is the expert when it comes to loss of baby teeth and eruption of permanent teeth.
During early treatment, there is some added ability to create space for teeth to erupt properly. Thus, early orthodontic treatment can be successful by allowing for some problems to be addressed early, before they turn into bigger problems.