Interceptive orthodontics, also called a Phase I orthodontic treatment, involves the use of appliances or interventions at an earlier age while the permanent teeth are still emerging. Interceptive orthodontics is intended to treat a situation that, if left alone, would create an unhealthy environment for the development of the teeth, gums and/or jaws. Its goal is to help direct proper dental development, encourage optimal jaw growth, or create space for the developing teeth thereby eliminating or minimizing the complexity of a future malocclusion (imperfect positioning of the teeth).
This preventive method of correcting developing orthodontic problems can be beneficial to many patients. It may be as simple as encouraging the proper emergence of permanent teeth by extracting primary teeth when needed or using space maintainers to prevent teeth from shifting due to the early loss of a primary tooth.
Habit breaker appliances can be used to help children stop such habits as thumb sucking, which can lead to misaligned teeth, narrow palates, protruded incisors and open bites. Many patients who present with a crossbite (most often a narrow upper jaw) also have a functional shift, meaning their lower jaw shifts to the side when closing, which not only causes tooth wear but may also lead to facial features that lack symmetry.
By addressing orthodontic issues early on, patients may avoid the need for corrective surgery, extraction of permanent teeth, and the development of more severe orthodontic issues. They can also enjoy the benefits of a straighter smile and a healthy, functional jaw.