You may hear us at Amazing Smiles refer to something called Developmental Orthodontics after your child has completed his or her orthodontic evaluation with us. It can sound a bit daunting, especially if you are new to this term. But there is hope! It is definitely not as intimidating as it might seem, in fact, it is actually pretty straight forward. Developmental Orthodontics is just an orthodontic process that is recommended and completed before all of the adult teeth have come in, and does not involve straightening all the teeth. It corrects a skeletal imbalance or other developing problem that should not wait to be corrected. Facial harmony and balance can be improved dramatically, and future treatment can oftentimes be kept to a minimum by correcting certain orthodontic problems as soon as they are found, even before the remaining permanent teeth are in. This type of treatment helps us at Amazing Smiles to deliver long-lasting and healthy, beautiful smiles to our patients.

Developmental Orthodontics is usually done earlier than regular— also referred to as Comprehensive— orthodontic treatment. Orthodontic issues still in their initial stages can be improved or even completely fixed because of the early work being done, so they do not develop into serious problems down the line. Treatment will usually start between the ages of eight to ten, while the permanent teeth are still arriving.
Once all permanent teeth have erupted, Dr. Jeff will know if Comprehensive Orthodontics may be needed. Comprehensive treatment cannot be performed while baby teeth are still present because it is used to align the permanent teeth and establish a healthy bite that lasts a lifetime.

In our office, the same thing is never done twice!  The orthodontic work done during Developmental Orthodontics and Comprehensive Orthodontics are two very different things.  And to put your mind at ease, it does not cost twice the money or take twice the time either. If you are still a little fuzzy on what two-phase treatment might entail, let us take a closer look so you can get a good feel for the finer details.

Developmental Orthodontic Treatment

When a young patient with permanent teeth still coming in has a problem that is getting worse, we sometimes recommend Developmental Treatment. This may be a treatment to help a tooth that is impacted or stuck, a palate that is narrow, front teeth that stick out from a thumb sucking habit, or a tooth that is damaged from other teeth forming around it. The treatment we perform typically does three things: corrects the problem currently happening, averts future potential issues, and minimizes future risk by adjusting the child’s dental growth and development. Developmental Treatment occurs when patients usually still have their baby teeth but are also getting their permanent teeth. This phase most times occurs between the ages of eight to ten. It is only ever suggested if there is a dental or jaw development problem that would progressively worsen if left untreated.

girl with braces leaning chin on knees outdoors

Many children do not require orthodontic treatment so early in their lives. To be sure about your child’s dental development, the American Association of Orthodontics and our own Dr. Jeff highly recommend children receive their first orthodontic evaluation by age seven. The best way to ensure your child’s growth and dental development is on track is for it to be as healthy as it can be.

Developmental Orthodontics is commonly recommended by orthodontists for things such as:

  • skeletal crossbites
  • disproportionately overlapping or deep bites
  • jaw growth or jaws that are not in proportion to each other
  • severely protruding teeth
  • the instance of unhealthy oral habits, such as extended thumb-sucking, bottle, or pacifier use
  • clefts
  • underbites
  • open bites (situations in which the front teeth do not contact)
  • severe crowding or spacing of the teeth
  • dental crossbites
  • dental or skeletal asymmetries

A Period of Rest

All teeth are only aligned to their permanent positions during Comprehensive Treatment, not at the end of Developmental Orthodontics. Therefore a period of rest is instated after Developmental Treatment so that the permanent teeth have an opportunity to emerge into a more healthy position. Retainers are typically not used during this period of rest because teeth should not be held in place too tightly as the remaining permanent teeth come in.

Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment

After Developmental Treatment and a period of rest, some patients will benefit from Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment. Most patients are somewhat familiar with the orthodontic treatment that happens in this phase because Comprehensive Treatment consists of installing braces on the upper and lower teeth. We pay special attention to ensure that each tooth has a dedicated, optimal place in the mouth where it can peaceably exist among the lips, tongue, cheeks, and other teeth. We can achieve this balance by using orthodontics, and then teeth will finally function as they are intended, for a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Close up shot of attractive happy cheerful dark-skinned young woman looking and smiling at the camera, showing white teeth with braces, holding hands at her face. Human face expressions and emotions

After Treatment

To help preserve results after your child has completed Comprehensive Treatment, they will probably be given retainers. Retainers are important to limit the relapse that always occurs to some degree, so they can keep their beautiful, straight smile for years to come.

Dr. Jeff is extremely conservative when it comes to prescribing orthodontic treatments. He believes in letting nature take its course whenever possible. Most of our patients do not undergo an early phase of Developmental Treatment for this exact reason. When it is indicated, however, it is extremely helpful and will save parents both time and money in the end. In many cases, early identification of a problem is the best way to get long-lasting, permanent results.

If your child is already seven, and you live in the St. Louis area, stop by one of our two convenient offices or call us today to set up your evaluation. We will be sure to answer all of your questions and provide you with excellent information about what to expect in the future. Let us get you on the road to an amazing smile!