As I have mentioned before, the AAO recommends that children be examined by an orthodontist starting at the age of 7. For young kids that need early Phase I intervention for one reason or another, this is great. But what about the majority of the kids who don’t need anything right now?
In our office we have a complimentary Junior Observation program. Children who do not need a Phase I intervention are followed on a regular basis- often times yearly or every 6 months depending upon their particular needs or where they are in dental development. These are generally quick check-ups, so parents often wonder why these observation check-ups are recommended. After all, the kids are getting their regular cleanings and dental exams.
The general/pediatric dentist typically looks at the overall health of the teeth. Orthodontists specifically on growth and development of the complement of teeth as well as the bite, jaw growth, and function. When I examine a child under observation I look to see if the baby teeth are coming out in the right order. I want to see if the adult teeth are erupting properly and in the right places. I also look to see if the bite and alignment has changed. At times I may need to take a Panoramic x-ray to view development under the bone. If a tooth is lost out of order, I can often catch things early and intervene with very minor solutions and prevent significant issues from developing down the road. Monitoring a child over time also gives me the ability to time orthodontic treatment at the best possible time for that child.
In addition to all these benefits, I find that the kids under observation are extremely ready and comfortable with the office and our staff once the right time does come for treatment. This makes their transition into braces easy for them.
Kids who have had Phase I treatment, and entered into our Junior Observation program once their Phase I treatment is done. This way we can not only monitor their retainer wear, but also check growth and development as they develop dentally.