A greater understanding of the jaw and its relationship to the teeth allows many dentists and orthodontists to see the need for braces long before a child loses all their baby teeth. If this is the case, they may recommend something called two-phase treatment.
What is Two-Phase Treatment?
Two-phase treatment is exactly what it sounds like, a first phase to lay some groundwork for proper development, a resting period, and then a second phase to finalize and refine your child’s orthodontic work. The purpose of two-phase treatment is to use your child’s natural development to make treatment less painful and often less invasive than waiting until your child is a teen.
The first phase involves x-rays, diagnostic records, and the use of palatal expanders and other appliances that are either removable or fixed depending on the child’s needs. These help the jaw develop in a way that allows the adult teeth to come in without crowding. Treatment begins between the ages of 7-11 and lasts about one year. Phase one usually doesn’t involve braces, but every child’s needs are unique.
After phase one, a retainer is used to preserve the work done during phase one until all or most of your child’s adult teeth have come in.
Once most of your child’s adult teeth have come in (usually around 12 years of age), phase two can begin. This commonly involves braces or, for some ideal candidates, Invisalign. The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has a precise spot in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. Phase two can take as little as a few months or up to two years, depending on the treatment plan.
Benefits of Two-Phase Treatment
Two-phase treatment can:
- Help the jaw develop in a way that allows space for all the permanent teeth and may reduce or eliminate the need for extractions to make that room.
- Equalize jaw growth to prevent an overbite or underbite.
- Eliminate the need for corrective surgery as a teen because phase one works with the natural growth cycle.
- Help prevent the removal of permanent teeth later in life, or the need for surgical procedures to realign or widen the jaws as an adult.
If your orthodontist recommends two-phase treatment, it’s to work with your child’s natural growth and development cycles. This makes a once tedious and painful experience more bearable. It can also prevent the need for extractions, which helps maintain your child’s natural bite, and it can (in some cases) eliminate the need for oral surgery to widen your child’s jaw.
Two-phase treatment may take place over an extended period, but it can reduce the need for more drastic procedures in the future and the pain associated with them.