Sometimes a two-phase orthodontic treatment option is the best way to achieve optimal results and avoid more invasive treatment later on. In fact, this approach may actually shorten the overall treatment time.
Children above age 6 who show signs of jaw problems—the jaw is too narrow or appears to be growing disproportionately—can benefit greatly from early intervention. And if a child’s front teeth are crowded at about age 8, this two-step approach may do away with the need for extracting teeth later on.
Phase One focuses on the shape of the jaw itself. Treatment at this stage is designed to promote jaw development that allows the upper and lower permanent teeth to fit together as they should. At the initial visit, the doctor makes records—photographs, X-rays, and models of the teeth —to determine if early treatment is desirable and what steps should be taken. Certain devices—such as headgear or space maintainers—may be recommended to bring the jaw and teeth into proper alignment. The aim of this first phase is to create room for the remaining permanent teeth to grow in properly during a break in the treatment.
Phase Two begins once all the permanent adult teeth have emerged. Braces are usually recommended at this time, followed by a retainer, to ensure that all the teeth have been stabilized in their correct positions. To learn about braces, see our Braces page.