Around three million kids get braces every year — many are under the age of 14. This is because early orthodontic treatment is linked to better potential for kids to have a healthy mouth and teeth as they grow, better oral health longevity, reduced need for extractions, and happier kids! 

Imagining your child in braces at a young age may seem scary and unnecessary, but there are several benefits of early (phase I) orthodontic care because your child has a better chance of a healthy mouth as they age. With multiple orthodontics treatments like braces and Invisalign available for kids in Palo Alto, you’ll need a trusted orthodontist to help guide you through the first steps.

Continue reading to find out if phase I orthodontics is right for your child and where to find the best orthodontic treatment, Invisalign, and braces in Palo Alto. 

What Is Phase I Orthodontics? 

Misaligned teeth and incorrect jaw positioning can cause an array of problems for a child. If not addressed early, these problems can end up causing your child more trouble down the road — and become more costly for you. Phase I orthodontics refers to early orthodontic interventions that can help lessen or avoid the need for additional orthodontic treatments and prevent the extraction of permanent teeth when your child gets older. 

Phase I orthodontics focuses only on addressing orthodontic problems, not cosmetic concerns. However, by tackling these concerns, some cosmetic enhancements often occur naturally. This initial phase typically involves treatments like:

  • Palatal expanders                                                    
  • Dental appliances 
  • Bite plates
  • Braces
  • Mouthguards 
  • Custom sports guards
  • Tooth extraction
  • Retainers
  • Elastics 
  • Retainers  
  • Corrective jaw surgery

Does My Child Need Phase I Orthodontics? 

The most telling sign that your child may need phase I orthodontics is if they have severely crowded or misaligned teeth. For some kids, this may be obvious — but for others, problems may go unnoticed until you visit an orthodontist. This is why it is important to have your child evaluated by an orthodontic specialist by age seven and even earlier if you notice potential problems. Some things to keep an eye out for are: 

  • Misaligned bite
  • Missing teeth
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Underbite
  • Overbite
  • Open bite 
  • Crossbite 
  • Flared front teeth 
  • Teeth that erupt improperly 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Snoring
  • Mouth breathing
  • Trouble chewing 
  • Thumb sucking 
  • Speech problems
  • Clicking of the jaw
  • Crooked smile
  • Facial asymmetry
  • Frequent cheek biting

What Is the Best Age for Phase I Orthodontics? 

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children get their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7. However, if your child has any signs or symptoms of potential orthodontic problems, a visit before age seven is a good idea. Some of the signs of potential issues you should look out for include: 

  • Enlarged tonsils 
  • Mouth-breathing 
  • Chronic or recurring sinus infections
  • A lower jaw that appears too small or set too far inward (micrognathia) 
  • A tongue that appears too large (macroglossia) 
  • ADHD or ADD diagnosis 
  • Childhood obesity 
  • Exessive daytime sleeping 
  • Symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), which can include pain of the jaw, pain in one or both ears and difficulty chewing 

Your child’s regular dentist may not have enough orthodontic experience to identify problems early, so seeing a pediatric orthodontist is best. 

Can You Put Braces on Baby Teeth?

A common misconception among parents is that orthodontists can’t put braces on primary teeth. In reality, correcting orthodontic issues before all adult teeth have erupted is a common practice, and there is little risk of damaging any adult teeth growing underneath. Since the roots on baby teeth are not as long as those of adult teeth, orthodontists will simply use gentler techniques to move the teeth with braces or appliances. 

How Long Does Phase I Orthodontics Take? 

Each child is as unique as their smile — and so is their orthodontic treatment plan. Phase I orthodontics can take as little as six months to as many as 24 months, depending on what type of problems are being addressed and the severity of those problems. Your child’s orthodontist will be able to give you a rough estimate of what to expect in terms of timeline. 

Benefits of Phase I Orthodontics

Early orthodontic treatments play an important role in addressing things like misaligned teeth, speech problems, and improper development. Early intervention can also be more cost-effective, simplifying or sometimes eliminating the need for further or future treatment. Additionally, correcting these issues early can help boost your child’s confidence and self-esteem. 

Research also shows that early expansion of the upper jaw can eliminate or reduce childhood sleep apnea — and improve the overall quality of your child’s sleep. If you’re not sure if your child is suffering from a sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD), an orthodontist can help you get a diagnosis. 

Early orthodontic corrections will not only give your child a beautiful smile but will also help your child be able to maintain better oral hygiene and reduce the complexity of orthodontic treatment in the future. 

Where to Find the Best Pediatric Orthodontist in Palo Alto 

Deciding whether or not to do phase I orthodontic care for your child is a big decision — and finding an orthodontist you trust can trust with your child's smile is a very important first step. Dr. Merna Tajaddod is an expert in early interventions and takes pride in providing the highest-quality care to the Palo Alto community. 

Merna Tajaddod Orthodontics is uniquely equipped to screen for obstructive airway conditions that may be affecting your child’s sleep, school performance, and overall behaviors. 

As a leader in pediatric orthodontics, Tajaddod Orthodontics is ready to guide you through customized treatment plans focused on the best possible outcomes and refer you to an ENT or sleep specialist if necessary. 

Ready to get personalized phase I treatment options, as well as braces and Invisalign, from one of the best pediatric orthodontists in Palo Alto?