Knowing when your child needs to start orthodontic treatment can be tricky
Here’s a brief summary of when and why you should consider Phase 1 treatment
- Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment is a controversial topic in the orthodontic world
- While some suggest there’s no benefit, most doctors definitely agree that children can benefit from Phase 1 treatment in select situations
- Both social and clinical factors should play into your decision to sign up for Phase 1 treatment
Before we get to the nerdy clinical stuff, one of the most important factors to consider in deciding whether to treat your child’s teeth early with a quick course of braces is whether or not they’re embarrassed by their appearance. If buck teeth or a snaggle tooth is preventing your child from smiling, there’s no doubt early treatment can help improve their self esteem.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that ALL children come in for an initial consultation around age 7
If social factors aren’t a concern, there are still several clinical conditions that would lead most orthodontists to recommend Phase 1 treatment, even if everything appears pretty ‘normal’ at first glance. The most obvious list includes:
- A posterior cross-bite, where the top back teeth are closer to the tongue than the bottom teeth when biting together
- An anterior cross-bite, where the top front teeth are behind the bottom front teeth when biting together (also known as a class 3 growth pattern (or underbite)
- Severe crowding, in which one or more adult teeth are prevented from erupting into their normal position
- An anterior open bite, where the top and bottom teeth don’t touch. This is often caused by thumb sucking or tongue thrusting habits
- Early loss of baby teeth that may require space maintenance
Phase 1 treatment may help prevent common jaw growth issues and future tooth impactions
The idea behind Phase 1 treatment is that if we intervene early while a child is still growing, we have a greater ability to improve the growth and development of the teeth and jaws.
In some cases, this may prevent the development of facial asymmetry, reduce the likelihood of requiring tooth extractions, and possibly reduce the need for future jaw surgery in select cases.
Learn how to approach phase 1 treatment and what questions to ask your orthodontist
Regardless of how your child’s teeth appear on the outside, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that ALL children come in for an initial consultation to ensure the teeth and jaws are developing normally around age 7. In most cases, your orthodontist will tell you everything is normal and will recommend that you come in every 6 months to one year for follow-up visits until they are ready for comprehensive treatment. However, when Phase 1 treatment is recommended, consider asking the following questions so you’re fully informed:
- What specific problems will you be addressing with Phase 1 treatment?
- If we decide not to do Phase 1 treatment, what are the potential long-term consequences?
- Will a second phase of treatment be necessary?
Overall, Phase 1 is a great option if your child suffers from social anxiety about their teeth or if they have any notable dental or jaw issues that could be best addressed at an early age. Just keep in mind that a second phase of treatment a few years later when the adult teeth are in is almost always necessary to finalize the smile and make the bite fit together perfectly.