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Phase 1 Braces

Phase 1 Braces

Interceptive Orthodontics and What It Means For Your Child 



I think that you will agree that kids are getting braces on younger and younger each year.  I have two daughters, ages 7 and 8.  They constantly ask me if they can get braces. They want to fit in more than anything, but they don’t understand that every kid doesn’t need braces at a young age.

What matters to them is that since their other 2nd grade classmates have braces, they also want braces. But what they want and what they need are often two different things.

This begs the question, who actually needs early braces?

Understanding what children need Phase 1 braces will help you as a parent make appropriate decisions for your child’s well being and quality of life. 

In this article, we will guide you through answering all of your questions about phase 1 braces and what it means for your child.


What Is Phase 1 Braces?

Phase 1 braces is a problem-focused treatment where we generally address one major problem in a young child’s mouth. This type of treatment generally lasts 12 months. However, it can be as short as 6 months or as long as 18 months. 

Phase 1 braces treatments can range from a single orthodontic appliance to limited braces with the removal of select baby teeth. Early braces treatments can use metal, clear or gold braces. Appliances such as a palate expander, thumb sucking device or an orthodontic headgear.

These orthodontic appliances can also be used alone as the sole feature of your child’s phase 1 treatment. This will mostly depend on the main objective that your orthodontist establishes for your child’s treatment.  Because Phase 1 braces typically start while a child is in the mixed dentition phase, your orthodontist may even decide to put braces on some of the baby teeth.

Early braces treatments are pro-active in nature and look to address significant problems early before they become bigger problems later in life. There are many significant advantages to treating a child with phase 1 braces, including being able to take advantage of a period of active growth in the child. Orthodontists can use this growth period to treat severe overbites and create space for over-crowding. 

However, not every child is a candidate for phase 1 orthodontic treatment. Children with poor oral hygiene, cavities, or that will not comply with food restrictions for braces are not ideal candidates. This opens up the potential for the treatment to do more harm than good.

Your orthodontist will have an open and honest discussion with you regarding your child’s readiness for early orthodontic treatment. If your child is not quite ready, your orthodontist will place your child in an observation period to determine the best time to start treatment.

Establishing a good pediatric dental home is the first step towards evaluating the need for phase 1 braces for your child. At each check-up, they will monitor the growth and development of the jaws and eruption of the teeth. If your pediatric dentist notices a problem developing, they will refer to your local orthodontist to determine if your child needs Phase 1 Braces.


Who Needs Interceptive Orthodontics?

Any child who has a severe jaw or tooth problem at a young age is a great candidate for phase 1 interceptive orthodontics.  Cosmetic treatments alone are usually not treated with early braces. However, if your child is experiencing social anxiety, bullying or lack of self-esteem due to their teeth or bite this is a legitimate reason to begin interceptive orthodontics. 

Here’s a list of dental conditions that are typically treated with interceptive orthodontics

  • Crossbite of Front Teeth
  • Crossbite of Back Teeth
  • Crowding
  • Open Bite
  • Flared Upper Teeth
  • Deep Over Bite
  • Underbite
  • Spacing
  • Thumb or Finger Sucking Habits




What’s The Best Age For Early Braces?

The best age for braces will depend on your child’s individual needs. While most kids won’t start braces until all of their permanent teeth have erupted, some children will need to start braces early due to poor development of their teeth and bite.

After establishing a pediatric dental home, your pediatric dentist will monitor the oral health of your child as they grow.  They will recommend an orthodontic visit at the first sign of trouble for your child. If your child experiences normal growth and development of the teeth and jaws, your pediatric dentist may not refer you to an orthodontic specialist for treatment and eventual phase 1 braces. However, even without treatment, your child will still require observation from an orthodontist.

This is because according to the American Association of Orthodontists, your child’s first orthodontic consultation should happen no later than age 7.  While your pediatric dentist will focus on the teeth and gums, prevention of decay and good oral hygiene, your orthodontist may notice more subtle skeletal growth problems. Your orthodontist also monitors breathing troubles, speech difficulties and bad habits such as teeth grinding in small children.


At your child’s first orthodontic consult you can expect to hear 3 possible outcomes:

  • No Treatment Necessary
  • Treatment May Be Needed In The Future
  • There Is A Significant Problem That Needs Early Treatment

Be sure to discuss the outcome given for your child with your orthodontist. Use our list of 21 Must Ask Questions for your child’s braces consultation.

Overall, keeping your child active in the dental setting, between your pediatric dentist and orthodontist, will ensure that they are being monitored for good dental health and good skeletal development. If your dental professional notices a problem early, they will recommend the appropriate treatment at the appropriate age for your child.


Are Phase 1 Braces Necessary?

Phase 1 braces are necessary when a pending problem is discovered AND leaving the problem untreated poses a greater risk to the child at a later date. To help illustrate this point, here are 3 very common examples that orthodontists see in their offices every day. These early problems will lead to bigger, more difficult and more expensive problems down the road.

Example 1- Single Tooth Crossbite In The Front

Leaving the tooth in crossbite can lead to gum recession, a worn-down tooth or even risk of fracturing a tooth. In adulthood, the child may need a gum tissue graft, root canal or a ceramic crown to correct the damage caused by leaving the problem untreated. 


Example 2- A Thumb Sucking Habit

A severe thumb-sucking habit can cause lots of damage. Not breaking the habit can lead to a constricted upper arch, posterior crossbite and an open bite in the front. In adulthood, constricted upper arches and open may need to be corrected with jaw surgery to correct the damage caused by not breaking the thumb sucking habit


Example 3- Flared Upper Front Teeth

Leaving the upper teeth flared to can put the teeth at risk of damage during sports or at playtime. Most importantly flared teeth make an easy target for bullying in school. This can have a profound effect on your child and their desire to participate or even attend school. The lasting negative effects of bullying in children have been well documented. Leaving upper teeth flared could potentially have painful emotional and social effects in adulthood.

protruding upper teeth


Phase 1 braces aren’t necessary for every child, however, when problems are observed by your dental professional it is best to take a proactive approach to avoid additional complications at a later date. These situations, treatments and treatment options must be discussed in an open and honest dialogue with your orthodontist.

11 Pros Of Early Orthodontic Treatment

There are many pros of early orthodontic treatment. The biggest and most important is the boost in confidence and self-esteem that your child gains from undergoing treatment. The benefits of greater self-esteem and confidence can help your child improve their performance in school and can help decrease the social anxiety and stigmas that follow bad teeth or a crooked smile. These benefits of early orthodontic treatment are all about improving the quality of life of your child! Here’s our list of 11 pros of early orthodontic treatment.

  1. Bite Correction
  2. Closing unsightly spaces
  3. Breaking damaging thumb or finger sucking habits
  4. Correcting mouth breathing problems
  5. Possible prevention of permanent tooth extraction in the future
  6. Making space for future larger teeth erupting
  7. Boost in your child’s confidence and self-esteem 
  8. Increase ability to clean teeth and gums
  9. Improved ability to chew foods properly
  10. Improved ability to speak 
  11. Reduce the complexity and time in treatment for full comprehensive braces


8 Cons of Early Orthodontic Treatment

There are also a few cons of early orthodontic treatment. For most orthodontists, the biggest worry is poor oral hygiene leading to enamel decalcification and tooth decay. This is particularly worrying because we always want our patients to finish treatment better off than when they started. Decalcification and cavities are a disservice to the patients that we care for. Here’s our list of 8 cons of early orthodontic treatment.

    1. Decreased oral hygiene during treatment 
    2. Patient burn out from orthodontic treatment
    3. Every child’s personality does not mesh well with early treatment
    4. Early orthodontic treatment requires a substantial financial commitment 
    5. Early orthodontic treatment requires a substantial time commitment
    6. Treatment may be uncomfortable at times
    7. Early orthodontic treatment requires food restrictions 
    8. Potential to miss school days for treatment appointments

Why Put Braces On Baby Teeth?

Putting braces on baby teeth is a valuable tool that your orthodontist can use to solve specific dental problems. Most patients will not start treatment while they still have baby teeth, however, there are situations where we will put braces on baby teeth as part of phase 1 orthodontic treatment to achieve the desired outcome.

In these certain situations, we can use the baby teeth as anchor teeth to close spaces, alleviate crowding or even close open bites with the help of rubber bands. Baby teeth function just like permanent teeth with regard to tooth movement. The rules for bonding braces, using elastics and avoiding hard foods all apply for using braces on baby teeth. 

The roots on baby teeth are not as long as their permanent replacements, however, as long as we keep the tooth moving forces low we can move teeth safely. There also is very little risk of damaging the growing permanent teeth underneath.

Overall,  putting braces on baby teeth is a great tool in the toolbelt of your orthodontist and is totally safe when diagnosed and treatment planned properly.


How Much Does Phase 1 Braces Cost?

The cost of phase 1 braces is a legitimate concern for most families.  The price of Phase 1 braces will vary greatly depending on your city and state and the extent of the treatment needed.

Fees for Phase 1 braces can range from $495 to over $3000. An appliance only treatment for your child may cost between $495-$1295. This fee range will include your orthodontic exam, orthodontic Xrays, and appliances such as a palate expander or habit appliance.  A phase 1 treatment that uses braces and appliances may cost upwards of $2500-3000 and last about 12 months. 

Obviously, this can be a heavy expense for most families. Consider that fact that most children who undergo a phase1 braces treatment, will also need a phase 2 treatment, and you can easily total treatment fees upwards of $5000-8000.

This should be an important consideration for your family. Orthodontic insurance benefits can help soften the financial blow of an early braces treatment. However, keep in mind that orthodontic insurance will only cover orthodontics once per lifetime. This means that if you exhaust your orthodontic benefits for Phase 1 braces, you will not be able to use it for the more expensive Phase 2. 

Early orthodontic consultations can help your family plan ahead for necessary and pending treatments that your child may need.

PROTIP: Book orthodontic consultations early and often to help ward off large financial treatment surprises for your child.


Phase 1 Braces Before and After

The results from a successful Phase 1 can be amazing! Check out a few Phase 1 braces before and after photos from actual patients from our office!

Meet Jacob

Jacob suffered from a constricted upper arch, dental crowding and an anterior open bite. His family decided that Phase 1 was right for him. After 12 months he had a beautiful result and was much happier with his teeth, bite and overall confidence. Check out Jacob’s Smile Story here!


Meet Azul

Azul had severe dental crowding which causes an upper tooth to become impacted. This was a serious cosmetic problem that caused a lack of confidence in all of her social setting including at school. Azul’s family sought out our office for Phase 1 braces. She has been in treatment for approximately 3 months now and her front tooth is already coming down! Check out Azul’s Smile Story here!



Phase 1 And Phase 2 Braces

There are multiple differences between Phase 1 and Phase 2 braces. The biggest differentiating factor between phase 1 and phase 2 is the overall treatment goal.

Phase 1 orthodontic treatment is problem-focused and the goal is to correct one major problem. On the other hand, Phase 2 orthodontic treatment has a goal of addressing multiple problems with the teeth and bite. 

Phase 1 orthodontic treatment is problem-focused and the goal is to correct one major problem. On the other hand, Phase 2 orthodontic treatment has a goal of addressing multiple problems with the teeth and bite.

There are also minor differences between the two treatments. Phase 1 braces usually last about 12 months and happen when baby teeth are still present and/or loose. Phase 2 braces can last between 12-36 months depending on how severe the case is. Most comprehensive orthodontic cases generally begin when all the permanent teeth are present.

We always mentally prepare parents at our office for 2 phases of treatment, if their child needs a phase 1 treatment. However, one of the benefits of phase 1 braces is to make phase 2 braces easier when the time comes. For the children that do need braces at an early age, the expectation is that only the comprehensive phase of orthodontics will be necessary.

Conclusion: Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment

Phase 1 braces can be an excellent solution to help build your child’s confidence and boost their self-esteem by improving their smile and bite. A well planned and efficient Phase 1 can provide a strong emotional, physical and social lift for your child during these important formative years.

Always remember that the decision to start early braces has its own pros and cons. Each family must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of proceeding with the potential benefits that treatment will provide for your child and family. 

Your orthodontic professional should spend the time with your family to make sure that you have all of your questions answered. This will allow you to take their professional recommendation and your desires for your child into consideration to make the best decision for your child. 

In summary, now you know everything about Phase 1 braces, who is a good candidate and how interceptive orthodontic treatment works.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with the resources and tools needed to educate you on interceptive orthodontics. 


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