Interceptive orthodontics, also known as early orthodontic treatment, is when children begin treatment while they are still growing and developing. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children receive their first orthodontic evaluation at age seven when most of their primary teeth have grown. At this stage in life, orthodontists can determine if the developing adult teeth and jaws are maturing properly and functionally. Spotting these developmental issues early on can prevent more severe or invasive treatment once the jaw bones and adult teeth fully develop, thus making treatment easier down the road.
Interceptive orthodontic treatment typically includes expander therapy, in which the jaws are expanded to ensure adult teeth can grow correctly and a functional bite is obtained. Using expansion therapy to broaden the upper and lower arches of the mouth at an early age helps prevent the need for tooth extraction later in treatment. Similarly, orthodontists use appliances like space maintainers to “maintain space” after the loss of a baby tooth to keep the site available for developing adult teeth to erupt without complication or obstruction.
Having crowded teeth is one of the most common complaints of orthodontic patients regarding both aesthetics and functionality. When our teeth are crowded, plaque and bacteria become wedged in hard-to-reach places, making brushing and flossing more difficult and increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. By preventing crowding of the teeth, interceptive orthodontics can help improve comprehensive oral care as children practice and develop their oral habits.
Children who receive interceptive orthodontics often require a second orthodontic treatment phase, typically in their teens. While phase one of orthodontic treatment focuses on laying a solid foundation for adult teeth to make an appearance and the jaws to form, phase two is about refining the permanent teeth and their orientation to perfect the bite, creating a beautiful, healthy smile.
What are the advantages of interceptive treatment?
- Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth
- Creating facial symmetry by influencing jaw growth
- Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
- Preserving space for unerupted teeth
- Reducing the need for tooth removal
- Reducing treatment time with braces