The Best Time for Treatment
One of the most frequently asked questions we hear is, “when is the best time for orthodontic treatment?” Orthodontists generally agree the optimum time to treat a case is during the adolescent growth spurt. In girls, this is typically seen from ages 9 to 12 and in boys from 10 to 14. However, there are exceptions due to individual variations in growth. We recommend seeing potential patients about a year before the growth spurt to identify those children who may be one of the exceptions.
Why do we recommend early orthodontic treatment during the growth spurt? We can use the growth of the individual’s facial bones to aid in the correction of the orthodontic problem. Oftentimes, maligned or crooked teeth are due in part to a discrepancy in the facial bones. As the child grows, we can lessen these skeletal imbalances. Proper balance of the facial bones will lead to a more stable orthodontic result and a better cosmetic appearance.
Can a case be started too early? In our opinion, yes. There are some treatment options that require 2 or even 3 phases of treatment, often beginning at a very early age (5-7 years). In general, we prefer treatment plans that call for a single phase of treatment. Single-phase orthodontic treatments have been shown to be equal or superior to multiple phase treatments. The advantages of single-phase treatment include less time in appliances and less patient “burnout.” The cost of orthodontic treatment for a single-phase is usually significantly less.
Treatment for Non-Growing Patients
Patients who have missed the adolescent growth spurt can still be successfully treated. In fact, adult treatment represents the fastest growing segment of our practice, although orthodontic treatment options may differ. For example, if an imbalance exists in the facial bones of a growing patient, we may choose to modify growth to bring the facial bones into a better balance. In a non-growing adult patient, we would either accept the existing facial imbalance or consider surgery to correct it.