Braces and Early Interceptive Treatment

Braces and early treatment options are a cornerstone of orthodontic care. The most common orthodontic treatment offered today is traditional metal braces. Traditional braces have successfully been used for over 50 years to straighten smiles and help patients achieve a healthy, functional bite that lasts a lifetime. With advancements in materials and computer integrated technologies, modern orthodontics are more efficient, lighter-weight and lower-profile than ever before. These advancements offer patients greater comfort during treatment as well as a shortened treatment duration. 

Parts of Braces

When you first get braces, it can seem overwhelming as there are a lot of new terms that you will hear the orthodontist and technicians use. Grosso Orthodontics offers a few of the most common terms you will hear when getting braces below. There are four main components used in traditional orthodontic treatment including:

  • Separator – Often called spacers, these small rubber bands are placed in between the back molars and used to make space for about a week or two before getting braces. The space allows the bands to fit securely over the molar.
  • Brackets – Sleek, stainless steel brackets are smaller and are bonded to the front of the teeth to hold the archwires in place. Brackets can also be clear or tooth-colored.
  • Bands – Thin, stainless steel rings are placed on the back molars to provide an anchor for the archwires.
  • Archwires – Flexible, thin wire that is placed in the brackets and stretches around the arch from one band to the other. Archwires come in a variety of sizes and they will be changed at each orthodontic visit.
  • Elastics – Colorful and stretchy ties that hold the archwire in place. Your elastics will be changed at each orthodontic visit and you can choose any colors you wish. 

Clear Braces

Grosso Orthodontics is pleased to offer clear braces for adult and teen patients looking for a more aesthetic option during orthodontic treatment. Clear brackets are made of plastic or ceramic and are bonded to the front of the teeth just like traditional metal brackets. They are much less noticeable than metal brackets; however, the archwire is still made of the same metal material. Patients can choose from a variety of colored elastic ties or pearl or neutral colored ties for an even more discreet look. Clear brackets tend to be slightly more brittle than the metal brackets. If you are interested in clear braces, Dr. Grosso can determine if your clear brackets are right for your unique orthodontic needs. 

Types of Malocclusion

There are several types of bite irregularities or malocclusion that can affect the function of the bite as well as the health of your teeth. Some common bite irregularities include:

  • Crowding – when teeth are too close together or overlapping. The condition occurs when teeth are large or the jaw is smaller than normal.
  • Spacing – when there are large and uneven spaces between the teeth. Gapped teeth are usually caused by missing teeth or smaller than normal teeth in relation to the size of the jaw.
  • Rotation – when a tooth turns or tips out of its normal position.
  • Crossbite – occurs when any or all of the upper teeth are positioned significantly inside or outside the lower teeth. A crossbite can cause chewing problems.
  • Open bite – when the upper and lower front teeth don’t meet, creating an opening on one or both sides of the mouth. Because the front teeth don’t share equally in the biting force, the condition may lead to premature wear of the back teeth.
  • Misplaced midline – when the front centerline between the upper front teeth doesn’t match up with the centerline of the lower front teeth.
  • Overjet – when the upper front teeth angle horizontally outwards. This type of malocclusion is usually referred to as “buck teeth.”

Early Interceptive Treatment or Phase 1

What is Early Treatment

Early treatment, also referred to as interceptive treatment or Phase 1 treatment, begins with having an orthodontist perform an examination of your child’s teeth to check oral growth and development. The goal of early treatment is to catch a developing problem before it becomes exaggerated due to facial and jaw bone growth. This gives you an opportunity to get the best results for your child in the most efficient way, and to help prevent more serious bite issues in the future.

When Should My Child Visit the Orthodontist?

In accordance with the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), Grosso Orthodontics recommends children see an orthodontist by the age of 7. This is an important developmental time in children as they have mixed dentition, some newly erupted permanent teeth, as well as baby teeth. Orthodontists are trained to recognize subtle abnormalities in jaw growth and development that can lead to more complicated cases of malocclusion. By intervening early, we are able to guide the development of the jaw and make room for permanent teeth. Not all children are candidates for early treatment, but some may benefit from treating orthodontic problems sooner rather than later. Here are some cases where your child may benefit from early treatment:

  • Thumb sucking or pacifier use causing an open bite – front teeth protrude forward narrowing the palate 
  • Protruding upper teeth increases risk of trauma to teeth 
  • Severe underbite
  • Severe crowding of front or back teeth
  • Difficulty chewing or biting
  • Crossbite of front teeth may increase risk of trauma to the edges of the front teeth
  • Crossbite in the back teeth may cause the jaw to shift and grow to one side
  • Excessively spaced teeth
  • Extra or missing teeth

Rapid Palatal Expander

Oftentime, the only intervention or Phase 1 treatment necessary is an orthodontic appliance called a palatal expander. The palatal expander is attached to the upper rear molars and designed to gradually widen the upper arch to make room for larger, permanent teeth. This treatment is most beneficial for children who have a narrowed upper arch from thumb sucking or pacifier use or severe overcrowding. Creating space for newly emerging permanent teeth offers many benefits including: broadening the smile, avoid extracting permanent teeth, shorten overall orthodontic treatment time as well as improve breathing. 

What to Expect

First, an impression is made of your child’s upper jaw. Then, your child will receive spacers or separators between the upper back molars for about a week. The palatal expander is custom-made to fit your child’s upper arch. Once the appliance is bonded to the upper arch, a midline screw will be turned each night to gradually spread the palate open and make room for emerging permanent teeth.

Palatal expansion usually takes about 6 months. However, the device is usually worn for about a year. Once the expansion is complete, the appliance will be removed and your child will begin a period of rest. During this rest period, all of the baby teeth will be lost and permanent teeth will erupt. The next phase of treatment is braces to straighten and align teeth.