Growth Guidance

Monitoring your child’s dental growth and oral health can be a daunting, confusing task especially when the process can seem unnecessary for your young child. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children receive an orthodontic evaluation by age 7. At this age, most patients will not be ready for an active phase of orthodontic treatment (i.e. braces). However by age 7, your child has begun the transition from primary to permanent teeth, making him or her an ideal candidate for a passive phase of treatment we refer to as Growth Guidance.

Our Growth Guidance program allows us to monitor your child’s dental development, screen for any growth issues and determine the most appropriate time to begin treatment of any issues found. Beginning with an evaluation by Dr. Dougherty, a baseline of growth will be established and comprehensive x-rays and photos will be taken for reference. We do this because while a child’s teeth may appear to be straight, there could be a problem that only a proper orthodontic evaluation may detect.

During this evaluation Dr. Dougherty will be looking for things like late loss of primary teeth, missing permanent teeth, difficulty chewing, mouth breathing, thumb sucking, crowded teeth, crossbite, overbite, inability to close lips, speech problems, grinding of teeth and clicking of jaw joints. We will also give you a growth ruler to take home and keep track of growth spurts. In most cases no treatment is needed at this age, and the child is placed in the Growth Guidance program for continued monitoring. Monitoring appointments are complimentary and take place every 3-12 months depending on the assessment. The duration of the these appointments is only around 15-20 minutes but that does not take away from its importance. During each appointment, records (photos and scans) will be updated to maintain the most accurate information and help Dr. Dougherty monitor and identify changes. We will carefully watch growth patterns and determine the ideal time to intercept that growth and use it to our advantage when starting orthodontic treatment.

In regards to the Growth Guidance program Dr. Dougherty’s goal is to create and maintain the healthiest environment possible for the full eruption of permanent teeth. In our office, patients who graduated our Growth Guidance program and went on to have orthodontic treatment often had excellent treatment outcomes because of their prior experience with the doctor and their willingness to comply with prescribed treatment. By putting your child in our Growth Guidance program you are setting them up for a lifetime of good oral health.

We understand the perceived inconvenience of taking your child to an orthodontist at such a young age and maintaining years of monitoring, but we cannot understate the importance of this complimentary program. Typically 65% of facial growth occurs by age 10, and in some cases early detection and treatment allows an orthodontist to achieve a result that would not be possible had they waited for the face and jaw to finish growing. Patients in Growth Guidance all receive appointment reminders via text and email before their upcoming appointments. Regarding our Growth Guidance program, timing is everything.