Orthodontic Phasing 

In the past, orthodontics were mainly for teenagers.  More and more, adults are wearing braces as well.  Orthodontists recognize the importance of healthy teeth and gums across the life span.  Today, early proactive treatment delivered in phases during early childhood and throughout the teenage years has improved the orthodontic process.  Preventative, interceptive, corrective, and retention phases are all part of a holistic orthodontic plan.
Preventative planning is the first phase of a holistic tooth care plan.  Young children should be encouraged to stop thumb sucking or using a pacifier after about two years old.  Thumb sucking can affect the way the mouth grows.  It can influence jaw formation and alter bite patterns.  Thumb sucking can cause the front teeth to come in crooked.  When your child is old enough to understand, you should explain the consequences and encourage your child to stop thumb sucking. 
Young children should be taught good oral health care as soon as they are able to understand and follow directions.  Children should receive regular professional dental cleanings and check ups.  Additionally, it is important for your child to eat a healthy well-balanced diet.
The interceptive phase of orthodontic planning may start when a child begins to lose their “baby” teeth.  Your orthodontist can examine your child’s mouth and use X-rays to check and see if the permanent teeth are growing in at the right position.  If they are not, space maintainers may be used to regulate the space between teeth to allow the new tooth to grow in place accurately.  Space maintainers or devices may be worn in the mouth to widen the arch of the teeth as the permanent teeth grown in.  Reshaping the mouth at this time may avoid extensive orthodontic work later on.  Additionally, new less-invasive procedures for treating dental problems, such as laser treatments and non-metal fillings, can help maintain the integrity of teeth and prevent future tooth loss.
The corrective phase of orthodontics typically begins in the pre-teen or teenage years or after the permanent teeth have come in.  During this phase, orthodontics are used to actively correct tooth and jaw alignment.  There are many different types of orthodontics on the market, and they typically are worn for a few years.
The retention phase begins after the braces are removed.  This includes the regular use of a retainer.  Retainers are removable custom-shaped pieces of plastic that are worn on the upper and lower teeth.  People usually begin wearing the retainers full-time, but then taper off to a part time wearing schedule. 
Orthodontic care that is provided in phases uses a proactive approach that begins at an early age.  Addressing issues early can help promote healthy habits, straight teeth, and simplify future orthodontic needs.  Ask your orthodontist about getting your child started!

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The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.