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What Are Phase 1 & Phase 2 Orthodontics?

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young boy with bracesIf your child has noticeably crooked teeth or a misaligned bite, you, like most parents, probably assume they just need to get braces. While this approach is used with many children, sometimes, an orthodontist will utilize a more sophisticated method involving what is called Phase 1 & Phase 2 Orthodontics. What is the difference between the phases? Will your child need just one or both? When should the treatment begin? Below, you’ll find the answers to these questions and more in today’s blog.

What is Phase 1 Orthodontics?

Phase 1 Orthodontics is used to help a child straighten their baby teeth so that their adult teeth have the best possible chance of coming in correctly. Even though the baby teeth are destined to fall out, they play a big role in the initial alignment of the permanent teeth, as they essentially help set the path for them. They also aid in the development of the jawbone and face, ensuring a child has a symmetrical and well-balanced smile. Phase 1 can also help break certain habits that can negatively affect the orientation of the teeth over time, such as thumb/finger sucking or tongue thrusting.

When you bring your child in for an initial orthodontic screening (which should happen around age 7), their orthodontist will look at their baby teeth, take an X-ray to examine their adult teeth within their gum line, and this will help them determine whether or not your child could benefit from Phase 1 Orthodontics. If they will, your child will be given a series of removable oral appliances that will gently shift their baby teeth and create enough room for their future adult teeth.

On average, this process takes about a year. Once most of your child’s baby teeth are gone and their permanent teeth have started to come in, their orthodontist will reexamine their mouth and recommend whether or not Phase 2 orthodontics is needed.

What is Phase 2 Orthodontics?

While Phase 1 Orthodontics mostly focuses on the baby teeth, the primary goal of Phase 2 Orthodontics is to correct any problems found in the permanent teeth and bite. This can include crowding, crookedness, gaps, or issues like an overbite, underbite, or cross bite. You’re probably already familiar with the most popular treatment used for Phase 2—traditional braces. With metal brackets and wires, the adult teeth are slowly moved into their ideal positions to create an attractive smile and functional bite. When paired with Phase 1 orthodontics, most children end up spending much less time in treatment overall because so many problems were taken care of early.

Will My Child Need Both Phases?

The answer to this question really depends on your child’s individual needs. While many children can benefit from Phase 1 Orthodontics, for some, simply waiting for the baby teeth to fall out and then applying braces is the best approach. Your child’s orthodontist will go over your options when you bring your little one in for a screening. Just know that if they recommend Phase 1, this will likely save you time in the long run and ensure your child gets the beautifully straight smile they deserve as quickly as possible.

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is an award-winning orthodontist who has been voted as one of Columbus’ Top Orthodontists every year since 2011. He’s able to help patients of all ages and has used Phase 1 and 2 orthodontics to successfully treat countless children. If your child needs to have their teeth straightened, he’d be more than happy to answer your questions and go over their treatment options at a FREE consultation. To schedule this appointment and start improving your child’s smile today, give us a call.