Today many children are recommended to see an orthodontist around age 7. You might be thinking wow that is so young to have braces. The truth is the orthodontists’ just wants to check and see what issues might be happening or what to expect later on.
Many children are having their orthodontics done in two phases. The first phase is before all of their baby teeth are out, and the second phase is when almost all of the adult teeth are in.
Phase 1 usually includes a palate expander (official name is a rapid palate expander, RPE, or Maxillary expansion appliance, MEA). This appliance is used to create room for all of the upper teeth to fit in the mouth once the baby teeth have fallen out.
Years ago children would get adult teeth pulled to create room. Orthodontists try not to do that anymore. This is why this first phase is so important and needs to be done before the child’s growth plate on their palate fuses. This usually happens between ages 14-17 years old.
This expander also will move a person’s bite out of crossbite. This just means a person’s upper molars should be just outside of the lower molars when biting down. You want the upper teeth and lower teeth to fit well together.
Some parents feel like this appliance is a torture device. It isn’t! It is very common and simple, and the child may feel a weird little tingle when the device gets expanded, however there is little or no pain. The worst part for the children is no more gum, and sticky, chewy, foods.
After a few months the patient will usually get a few braces on the top front teeth (usually the front four, if they have all come in).
The palate expander stays in, and it works as a cast to “hold” the expansion that has been done. Most phase 1 treatments usually last around 9-12 months. At that point the braces and expander are removed together. The patient will need to wear a retainer and be seen periodically to check on how the adult teeth are coming in.
It is likely that the child will need a full set of braces later on, however they now have room for all of their teeth to come in and will no longer be in crossbite.
So go ahead and make that consultation appointment.
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