Have you been told that your 7, 8 or 9-year-old child needs a Phase 1 treatment? Before you go ahead, there is one important question you should ask the orthodontist: What are you going to do about the 12-year molars?
The 12-year molars are also called 2nd molars. They erupt at about age 12. Most orthodontists who do Phase 1 treatments on young children never work on the 12 year molars, because they are not present until about age 12.
The 12-year molars are too far back in the mouth to be seen when the patient smiles. Why does it matter whether they come in crooked? Why does it matter if they are never straightened?
It matters because if the 12-year molars are left crooked, they often cause TMJ problems. If they are left crooked, they can interfere with proper occlusion of all the teeth. Bad occlusion results in TMJ pain.
If the orthodontist starts a Phase 1 treatment at age 7, 8 or 9 and finishes it before the 12-year molars are in, there are only 3 options open:
1. Do another full treatment, including the 12-year molars.
2. Add more braces and keep the child in continuous treatment for about 5 years total.
3. Leave the 12-year molars crooked.
When interviewing an orthodontist who is recommending a Phase 1 treatment, ask this question: What are you going to do about the 12-year molars? If the 12-year molars need straightening, will that be a separate treatment with an additional fee?
It is a good idea to bring your child in for a free orthodontic exam at age 7, 8 or 9. In most cases, I will put the child on “recall” and schedule free “wait and see” appointments until the 12-year molars are in and treatment can be done all at once, for a single fee.