Two Phase Orthodontic Treatment?
Two phase orthodontic treatment is an approach to orthodontics in which patients are seen for an initial examination by a doctor around ages 7-9. This is surprising to some patients and their families because patients are unlikely to have all of their adult teeth at this age, and it is traditionally thought that orthodontic treatment is reserved for patients in their teenage years.
Two phase orthodontic treatment isn’t about applying braces at an early age. This early examination is to provide the opportunity for an orthodontist to assess whether orthodontic treatment is likely to be required in the future, identify potentially difficult cases, and make plans for future orthodontic treatment accordingly. The primary benefit of two phase orthodontic treatment is based on the idea that potentially challenging or severe orthodontic cases are easier to address in younger patients whose dental and skeletal structures are still developing and are therefore more malleable and receptive to orthodontic care. While orthodontics is an incredibly advanced area of medicine in which nearly any condition can be treated at any age, the fact of the matter is that waiting until later in life to treat moderate to severe orthodontic conditions will result in more intensive treatments and therapies. A problem that could be corrected using more passive treatments such as gradual expansion and braces, if left until adulthood to treat, could require oral surgery to correct in a fully developed individual. Naturally, each case and each patient is unique, but the overarching concept behind two phase orthodontic treatment is that if a condition is present in a patient, then it will be easier to correct if treated sooner.
Distinct goals are created for each phase of treatment. Phase one treatment will generally focus on optimizing the growth and configuration of a patient’s facial and muscular structure. This is a gentle and gradual process which generally occurs while the patient has some permanent teeth and some teeth which remain unerupted. Optimizing the existing teeth helps to create a more ideal condition for new permanent teeth to grow into. Waiting for all the patient’s permanent teeth to erupt before pursuing orthodontic treatment doesn’t mean the condition will not be treatable, but it can exacerbate the condition, and the philosophy of two phase orthodontic treatment is that if treatment can be made easier on the patient through early intervention, then it should be treated early.
Depending on the patient’s case, there is generally a period of time in between phases ranging from several months to a few years. The orthodontist will use their intuition and periodic examinations to determine the ideal time to begin phase two treatment. Phase two treatment is when braces or other orthodontic devices will be applied to the patient’s teeth to control their positions and create an optimized smile and positioning of the jaw. Phase two treatment is essentially the same as when a patient seeks orthodontic care for the first time with a mostly or fully developed dental structure. The difference between two phase orthodontic treatment and just getting braces as a teenager or adult is that a patient in a two phase treatment program will have the added benefit of the phase one treatment and will likely be in a position to require more simple and shorter treatments.
It’s important to note that two phase treatment is not necessary for all patients. For mild cases, a patient will be sufficiently treated with braces or another treatment (foregoing phase one and just waiting for phase two treatment). In simple cases just getting braces at the appropriate time is sufficient, and early orthodontic treatment may increase the patient’s lifetime of treatment costs unnecessarily. On the other hand, for some more challenging cases waiting to get braces can cause that second treatment phase to be longer, more challenging, and more expensive, particularly if more intensive methods like orthognathic surgery are required to pave the way for braces. Therefore, the best course of action is for patients to be evaluated at an early age. At Premier Orthodontics, we only recommend two phase orthodontic treatment when it is genuinely in the best interest of the patient, when it will save the patient in the cost of their overall treatments, and when it will save them from undergoing more intensive treatment methods later in life. By receiving an early evaluation, if two phase treatment is the best course of action, then you’ll know and make a decision to begin treatment or wait, and if two phase treatment is not necessary, then we’ll advise you on when you can expect to begin treatment in the future.