Orthodontic Treatment for Children

Aug 31, 2023 | Blog

Orthodontic treatment is a crucial aspect of maintaining oral health, especially for children. As kids grow, their dental needs evolve, and addressing these needs at the right time can have a significant impact on their overall well-being. This post delves into the concept of orthodontic treatment for children, focusing on the differences between Phase 1 and Phase 2 treatments, as well as the various indications that guide their use.


When it comes to a child’s dental health, orthodontic treatment plays a vital role in ensuring a beautiful smile and proper oral function. The two main phases of orthodontic treatment for children, Phase 1 and Phase 2, are designed to address specific dental issues at different stages of development.

Understanding Orthodontic Treatment Phases

What is Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment?

Phase 1 orthodontic treatment, also known as early interceptive treatment, occurs when a child still has a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth. This phase focuses on addressing potential problems before they become more severe. It often involves the use of orthodontic appliances to guide jaw growth, create space for incoming teeth, and correct harmful oral habits.  Generally, children who are undergoing orthodontic treatment and are still in elementary school are most frequently going through a phase 1 treatment.

What is Phase 2 Orthodontic Treatment?

Phase 2 orthodontic treatment takes place when a child has transitioned into full permanent dentition. This phase aims to fine-tune tooth alignment and bite issues using braces or aligners. Unlike Phase 1, Phase 2 concentrates on achieving the final desired alignment of teeth.  Once phase 2 has completed, the goal is to have a stable, functional and esthetic “bite” for the rest of the person’s life.

Differences Between Phase 1 and Phase 2 Treatments

Treatment Goals

Phase 1 treatment primarily aims to prevent the progression of dental issues and create a conducive environment for the eruption of permanent teeth. In contrast, Phase 2 treatment focuses on detailed tooth alignment for a perfectly functioning bite.  I often describe phase 1 to parents as a “misalignment” between the growth of the child’s teeth and their jaws.  The goal is to get that growth back on track to where the growth of their upper and lower jaws and their teeth are developing harmoniously.

Timing of Treatment

Phase 1 treatment occurs around the ages of 6 to 10 when children still have primary and mixed dentition. Phase 2 treatment typically starts around the ages of 11 to 13 when most permanent teeth have erupted.

Types of Orthodontic Appliances

Phase 1 treatment often involves appliances like expanders and partial braces. Phase 2 treatment commonly employs fixed braces or clear aligners for precise tooth movement.  Occasionally, surgery may be involved with some individuals during a phase 2 treatment due to extensive jaw discrepancies that can’t be addressed with braces or aligners alone.

Indications for Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment

Early Signs of Misalignment

Phase 1 treatment is recommended when early signs of misalignment are detected, such as crowded or spaced-out teeth.

Jaw Irregularities

Children with jaw growth discrepancies, like an underdeveloped or protruding jaw, may benefit from Phase 1 treatment to guide proper growth.  A well timed phase 1 treatment may be able to prevent a patient from the need for surgical intervention later in order to correct such jaw discrepancies.

Bite Problems

Phase 1 treatment addresses bite problems like crossbites, overbites, openbites and underbites to improve overall oral function.

Indications for Phase 2 Orthodontic Treatment

Permanent Dentition Phase

This phase ensures that all permanent teeth are aligned correctly and occlusion (how teeth fit together) is optimal.

Specific Orthodontic Issues

Phase 2 treatment is crucial for addressing specific issues that weren’t fully tackled during Phase 1, such as complex bite problems or remaining alignment concerns.

The Importance of Timely Intervention

Early orthodontic intervention (Phase 1) can prevent the worsening of dental issues, potentially reducing the need for extensive treatment in the future.

Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment for Children

Orthodontic treatment enhances a child’s self-esteem, promotes proper oral hygiene, prevents dental complications, and contributes to better overall oral health.

Addressing Common Concerns

Pain and Discomfort

It’s normal to experience some discomfort during orthodontic treatment, but the benefits far outweigh this temporary discomfort.

Duration of Treatment

The duration varies depending on the complexity of the case. Phase 1 typically lasts 6-12 months, while Phase 2 can range from 1-3 years.

Maintenance of Oral Hygiene

Maintaining excellent oral hygiene is essential. Orthodontic appliances can make cleaning a bit challenging, but with proper care, it’s manageable. Often times, we may recommend more frequent cleanings with our office during orthodontic treatment so that we can monitor hygiene issues more closely before they become a problem.


Orthodontic treatment for children, encompassing Phase 1 and Phase 2, plays a vital role in ensuring healthy dental development. Timely intervention and proper guidance can lead to a lifetime of beautiful smiles and functional bites.  Dr. Matson performs a thorough orthodontic evaluation at every appointment and will happily discuss his findings with you.  He will always make parents aware of any concerns that he has and will refer you to an orthodontic specialist when the timing is appropriate.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. At what age should my child first see an orthodontist? The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children have their first consultation with an orthodontist around age 7.
  2. Do orthodontic treatments hurt? While there might be some discomfort, it’s generally manageable and temporary.
  3. Can Phase 1 treatment eliminate the need for braces later? While Phase 1 can address some issues, Phase 2 is likely necessary for fine-tuning.
  4. How do I ensure my child maintains good oral hygiene with braces? Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups are crucial. Your orthodontist and pediatric dentist will provide guidance.
  5. What happens if my child doesn’t receive orthodontic treatment? Untreated orthodontic issues can lead to more severe dental problems and impact self-esteem.

We encourage you to contact us if you would like your child to be seen at Destination Pediatric Dentistry and receive an orthodontic screening as part of our routine exam!

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