During childhood, the teeth, jaws, and mouth are still growing and developing, making them more malleable and easier to treat. This provides the orthodontist with the opportunity to identify issues that may become more serious problems later on, and begin to treat them straight away.
The general consensus among orthodontists is that children should be evaluated by an orthodontist by the time they've reached the age of 7.
By this age, most children have all their baby teeth, and some adult teeth have started to erupt. This allows the orthodontist to identify and treat problems that are just starting to develop.
What sorts of problems?
There are many problems that orthodontists can identify early on, and impede.
The permanent teeth may be coming in crowded, impacted, or crooked. Other problems include prolonged thumb sucking, early or late loss of baby teeth, improper jaw alignment, tongue thrusting, and cross bites. All of these lead to more serious problems as your child gets older. Treated early on, however, an orthodontist can reduce their impact.
What does Phase I Treatment Involve?
The details of early interceptive treatment will vary depending on the problem being treated, and its extent. Typically, though, it includes things like palatal expanders, partial braces, temporary anchorage devices, or head gear.
Bad habits like thumb sucking and tongue thrusting can be dealt with using various temporary or permanent habit-breaking appliances and habit-breaking therapy.
Your child may still need braces when he or she is older, but Phase I treatment will help make Phase II treatment (full braces) easier and less extensive later on.