What is Early Adolescent Orthodontic Treatment and How Do I Know If It’s Right For My Child?

What is Early Adolescent Orthodontic Treatment and How Do I Know If It’s Right For My Child?

As a parent, you have probably wondered if your child needs orthodontic treatment, and if so, when they should be seeing us. Orthodontic care for youth includes either Phase 1 followed by Phase 2 treatment, which occurs at roughly 7 and 12 years of age, or just Comprehensive (single phase) treatment, which does not occur until approximately 12 years old.

Pediatric and family dentists are well trained to recognize when orthodontic treatment may be necessary. However, some parents may notice growth asymmetry or concerning tooth eruption in their child and they come to see us directly.

No matter how a patient arrives at our office, we perform a comprehensive assessment to determine what, if any, orthodontic treatment is necessary. From there, we build a treatment plan, educate our patients and their parents on the process, and begin treatment when indicated.


Every child that comes to our office has a thorough assessment, that may include photos, x-ray imaging and a digital 3D scan of their mouth to decide if treatment is necessary.

If early adolescent Phase 1 treatment is recommended, treatment will begin shortly after. If the patient is not ready for treatment, we provide complimentary checkups every 6 months to ensure the teeth are erupting and developing normally, which allows us to begin at the optimal time they may require treatment.

This way, no opportunities are missed, and the child receives treatment when they need it most and avoids having braces in place longer than necessary.

Early Adolescent Treatment

Phase 1:

Around age 7, children will have their adult front teeth and 6-year molars, at which point Phase 1 early orthodontic treatment can commence if necessary. This phase is also known as interceptive treatment. The goal is to avoid undesirable growth and development as more adult teeth come in.

Perfect tooth alignment is not the goal of this phase. Rather, it ensures that possible complications like overcrowding of teeth or cross bites are either lessened or avoided entirely. Treatment in this phase may consist of an expander and/or front braces, focusing exclusively on the adult teeth and lasting 12 to 15 months.

Once treatment is complete, the child will be fitted with temporary nighttime retainers to maintain the progress of treatment until Phase 2, approximately 1-2 years later from the finish of Phase 1. Routine checkups every 6 months ensure we can determine when Phase 2 should begin.

Phase 2:

When children reach approximately 12 years old, all of their adult teeth are in and they become eligible for Phase 2 of treatment. This phase focuses more on the comprehensive alignment, function and aesthetics, using braces or aligners as necessary for a period averaging 12–20 months.

Once this treatment phase is complete, the patient is fitted for retainers to maintain the progress of both treatment phases, and the teeth will have reached ideal alignment and function.

Adolescent Treatment

When treatment is determined to be necessary around age 12 and Phase 1 has been skipped or deemed not necessary, the orthodontic treatment is known as “Comprehensive Treatment.” The approach and goals are identical to Phase 2.

These patients simply did not require Phase 1 when assessed at an earlier age. Approximately 80% of our patients fit into this category, as most do not end up needing Phase 1 treatment, allowing us to wait and monitor until Comprehensive Treatment is appropriate.

Benefits of Early Treatment

Although many patients will not require early Phase 1 treatment, it is extremely beneficial and important that those who need this treatment get it as early as possible. Early treatment helps patients avoid later orthodontic problems, reduces the number of orthodontic interventions required later on, and reduces the overall cost of Phase 2 treatment.

Problems like overcrowding can be addressed with early treatment. However, if this opportunity is missed, adult teeth may need to be extracted during later treatment, adding additional pain and cost. Early intervention allows us to guide teeth in a way that maximizes benefit and minimizes complications into and following Phase 2.

Contact us today to book an appointment for your child.

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