Early / Two Phase Treatment
Because orthodontists can detect subtle problems with jaw growth or teeth while a child still has primary, or "baby," teeth present, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends all children get a check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. Waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may lead to more serious problems making correction more difficult. While most children do not need interceptive orthodontic treatment, those that do benefit greatly. Early treatment may consist of braces, retainers, space maintainers (to minimize need for extractions) or other orthodontic appliances.
Most patients who have early treatment will require a second phase of treatment, often consisting of full braces when all the permanent teeth have erupted. Early treatment (Phase I) is not done to prevent future treatment. Instead, it is to address problems that if left alone will lead to more serious dental health problems. Phase I treatment cannot correct all of the alignment and bite problems because the patient does not have all the permanent teeth in yet. The second phase allows for a comprehensive correction building on the corrections achieved in Phase I.