Two-Phase Orthodontic Treatment

Girl with braces at orthodontist

Many patients only need to undergo one phase of orthodontic work. Typically, that work only begins after the second teeth (commonly called adult teeth) all come in. For many kids, there’s no point in straightening baby teeth which will naturally fall out. 

However, your pediatric dentist or orthodontist may identify a concern which could be better treated with early intervention. In this case, a two-phase orthodontic plan may be able to save treatment time or improve the final result.

In particular, early orthodontic work can address issues with the jaw or tooth crowding. Fixing something early can minimize or eliminate larger problems down the line. Moreover, some issues which require corrective surgery in adults can be more easily remedied in a child who is still developing. In short, there are a number of reasons your orthodontist might suggest or recommend two-phase orthodontic treatment.

What is the advantage of two-phase orthodontic treatment?

Two-phase orthodontic treatment is a specialized process that combines tooth straightening and physical, facial changes. The purpose of two-phase treatment is to maximize the opportunity to accomplish the ideal healthy, functional, and aesthetic result that will remain stable throughout your child’s life.

It’s important to understand that you may see some “backsliding” between phase one and phase two, when your child’s teeth appear to get worse. As your child continues to grow and develop, and as new teeth come in, some shifting is expected. This is an ordinary part of two-phase treatment.

What if treatment is put off?

Putting off treatment can result in a need for more invasive treatment later in life that may not completely fix your child’s smile. Early treatment is most effective for achieving lasting results. Moreover, your child’s mouth is already in the process of changing as they grow. Giving it a push in the right direction is easier to do than redecorating the fully-formed smile of an adult.

The best time to address any concerns with your child’s smile is the moment you recognize them. The second best time is right now!

Phase One

A Foundation for a Lifetime of Beautiful Smiles

The goal of Phase One treatment is to help the jaw develop in a way that will accommodate all of the permanent teeth and improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together. Children often exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. An upper jaw that is growing too much or is too narrow can be recognized at an early age. If children over the age of six are found to have this jaw discrepancy, they are candidates for early orthodontic treatment. Also, if children around the age of eight have crowded front teeth, early treatment can prevent the need to extract permanent teeth later.

Planning now can Save Your Child’s Smile Later

Children benefit tremendously from early-phase treatment. Receiving early treatment may prevent the removal of permanent teeth later in life, or the need for surgical procedures to realign the jaws. An early investment in your child’s smile will pay dividends in preventing treatment as they age.

Making Records to Determine Your Child’s Unique Treatment

Orthodontic records will be necessary to determine the type of appliances to be used, the duration of treatment time, and the frequency of visits. Records consist of models of the teeth, X-rays, and photographs. During your child’s initial consultation, the doctor will take records to determine if early treatment is necessary.

Resting Period

In this phase, the remaining permanent teeth are left alone as they erupt. Retaining devices may not be recommended if they would interfere with eruption. It is best to allow the existing permanent teeth some freedom of movement. A successful first phase will have created room for permanent teeth to find an eruption path. Otherwise, they may become impacted or severely displaced.

Monitoring the Teeth’s Progress

At the end of the first phase of treatment, teeth are not in their final positions. This will be determined and accomplished in the second phase of treatment. Selective removal of certain primary (baby) teeth may be in the best interest of enhancing eruption during this resting phase. Therefore, periodic recall appointments for observation are necessary, usually on a six-month basis.

Phase Two

Stay Healthy and Look Attractive

The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. When this equilibrium is established, the teeth will function together properly. Phase Two usually involves full upper and lower braces. In most cases, phase two of a two-phase treatment is largely indistinguishable from conventional single-phase treatment. Phase one was preparation and phase two is the real deal.

At the beginning of the first phase, orthodontic records were made and a diagnosis and treatment plan was established. Certain types of appliances were used in the first phase to correct and realign the teeth and jaw. The second phase begins when all permanent teeth have erupted, and usually requires braces on all the teeth for an average of 24 months. Retainers are worn after this phase to ensure your child retains their beautiful smile long-term.

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