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Often referred to as Phase 1, early interceptive treatment is the first stage of orthodontic treatment offered by orthodontists to mitigate some forms of malocclusions such as crowding, overbite, underbite and crossbite. Early interceptive treatment addresses the spacing issues in the upper arch to accommodate incoming larger permanent teeth. The goal of Phase 1 treatment is to catch developing problems early before they become big problems, which may require extractions. 

Early interceptive treatment allows the orthodontist to guide the growth and development of the jaw to build a proper foundation for a healthy, functional bite. At Fredericksburg Orthodontics & Invisalign Center, our goal is to make room for all of the permanent teeth by offering palatal expansion at the ideal time. The first step in creating a foundation for your child’s beautiful smile is to have him examined by an orthodontist.

When Should My Child See an Orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist by the age of 7. At this age, children have mixed dentition (a combination of primary and permanent teeth), and an orthodontist can assess the space available and any occlusal issues your child may have. The orthodontist will let you know if your child may benefit from early interceptive treatment, and if so, the ideal time to start.

Is My Child a Candidate for Phase 1 Treatment?

The best way to determine if your child is a candidate for Phase 1 orthodontic treatment is to bring him to Fredericksburg Orthodontics & Invisalign Center for a complimentary consultation. Our team will examine your child and take digital x-rays and images. We will assess if your child will benefit from early interceptive treatment based on the x-rays and examination. While some children are not candidates for early treatment, some children will benefit from palatal expansion. Here are some clues you can look for that indicate your child may need Phase 1 orthodontic care:

  • Protruding upper teeth (overbite)
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite
  • Crowding of front or back teeth
  • Thumbsucking habit
  • Pacifier habit
  • Difficulty chewing or biting
  • Extra or missing teeth

Dr. Almy and the Fredericksburg Orthodontics & Invisalign Center team offer a conservative approach to treating children with Phase 1 orthodontics. Once it is determined that your child will benefit from early treatment, Dr. Almy will discuss the various treatment options available to expand the upper arch. Palatal expansion usually takes 6-9 months to complete; however, the appliance will be left in place for approximately a year. Schedule your child’s appointment today at (540)898-7211.

Benefits of Early Interceptive Treatment

Studies have shown that children who receive early interceptive treatment tend to spend less time in Phase 2 (braces) and require less complicated or invasive treatment. This is not the only benefit to having Phase 1 treatment. Expanding the palate has other benefits, which include:

  • Reducing or eliminating crowding issues
  • Reducing the risk of trauma to teeth that may be protruding out due to an overbite or an open bite
  • Helping to break a prolonged thumb-sucking or pacifier use habit
  • Minimizing need for extraction of permanent teeth in the future
  • Creating facial symmetry
  • Broadening the smile
  • Guiding jaw growth and development
  • Reducing the risk of pediatric sleep apnea and improve breathing

The Palatal Expander

A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance placed in the upper arch and anchored with bands around the back molars. Once placed and activated, the expander will gently and gradually begin to open the upper arch creating room for permanent teeth to erupt. Children who have used a pacifier or have a thumb/finger sucking habit can benefit greatly from palatal expansion. Oral habits such as pacifiers and thumbs tend to narrow the upper arch and pull it forward, causing an open or overbite. 

If one or a few of your child’s permanent teeth appear to be erupting inside the lower teeth or palatally, this is known as a crossbite and can also be corrected with upper arch expansion. Widening the upper arch helps broaden the smile and open the airway, which is extremely beneficial for children as they grow and develop. 

Fredericksburg Orthodontics & Invisalign Center offers Invisalign First®, a newer, modern way to expand the palate. Invisalign First® is designed to work with your child’s developing dentition and grow with your child, all the while guiding teeth into their proper position. While Invisalign First offers the same great benefits as Invisalign, your child will need to comply with the prescribed amount of hours of wear to get the best results. 

Braces During Early Interceptive Treatment

While most children just require palatal expansion during Phase 1 treatment, some children may also require a few brackets on the upper front teeth. Often called “pre-braces,” children who have used a pacifier or sucked their thumb/fingers for an extended amount of time may need to have the upper front teeth pulled back slightly during palatal expansion. This reduces the risk of injury to front teeth from chipping or getting knocked out since they sit further out than the other teeth. Braces during early treatment are tolerated well and make a significant difference in shaping the bite.

What to Expect

If your child is a candidate for Phase 1 treatment, the first appointment will include an impression of the upper arch and the placement of spacers in between the upper back molars. Over the next week, as the spacers create room for the bands, Dr. Almy and the team at Fredericksburg Orthodontics & Invisalign Center will create the palatal expansion appliance for your child. 

At the next appointment, we will fit and bond the appliance into the roof or palate of your child’s mouth. We will check the progress of the expansion approximately every 6 weeks to make sure that the expansion is working effectively. It is not uncommon for a band to pop loose during the adjustment period. If this happens, we request that you save the appliance part and schedule an appointment with the office to have it re-bonded. 

After the expansion is complete, Dr. Almy and the Fredericksburg Orthodontics & Invisalign Center team will deactivate the appliance. It will remain in the mouth for a while longer. Once it is time to remove the palatal expander, your child will enter a resting phase of treatment. This is when all of the primary teeth are lost, and the permanent teeth will erupt. After the resting period, we will discuss treatment options for Phase 2.   

If your child is around the age of 7 and you would like an orthodontic evaluation, schedule a complimentary consultation today at (540)898-7211.