Most of the orthodontic procedures completed at Davis Dental & Orthodontics in North Richland Hills, TX fall into two main categories: Phase 1 and Phase 2.
Phase 1 Orthodontics
Phase 1 orthodontics is the treatment of children aged 5 -12. Phase 1 is early intervention to reduce both the treatment time and cost of orthodontics. 80% of phase 1 treatment is completed before adult teeth are present, using natural growth to prevent crowding. The success of Phase 1 treatment depends upon the cooperation of your child, with younger children often being more willing to wear appliances. Early orthodontic treatment creates beautiful smiles and healthy jaws, prevents snoring and speech problems, and removes the need for future extractions of permanent teeth.
Interceptive Orthodontics Heads Off Problems Early
Conventional wisdom argues that orthodontic treatment shouldn’t start until all the adult teeth have grown in, but some issues with bite, alignment, and facial development can show up long before those teeth do. That’s where interceptive or Phase 1 orthodontics comes in. An orthodontist can help your child’s jaw bones grow properly to have more room for the adult teeth and provide the structure for a healthier bite. Correcting problems like malocclusions (bad bites) as they appear makes future orthodontic treatment much faster and easier — and, in some cases, unnecessary!
Causes of Malocclusions in Children
Interceptive orthodontics seeks to correct problems with jaw growth and damage from harmful habits such as thumb sucking, nail-biting, tongue thrusting, and mouth breathing. Each of these habits contributes to bite problems such as a narrow upper arch, an underdeveloped lower jaw, a deep bite, and an open bite, as well as dental crowding, which in turn can make it difficult to chew and swallow effectively and speak clearly. The purpose of Phase 1 treatment is to stop those habits if they persist or repair the damage so that the adult teeth can grow in where they should.
Common Phase 1 Treatments
One of the most noticeable differences between Phase 1 and Phase 2 orthodontics is that Phase 1 is less focused on actual braces. Those typically come later, if they are still needed. Some of the treatments commonly used in Phase 1 include:
- Upper jaw expansion to eliminate a crossbite
- Expansion of one or both jaws to create more room for adult teeth
- Early extraction of specific baby teeth to help adult teeth come in properly
- Keeping space open for permanent teeth after premature loss of a baby tooth
- Reduction of upper front teeth protrusion to protect from trauma
Phase 2 Orthodontics
Phase 2 Orthodontics is the treatment of adults and children 12 and older. Phase 2 straightens teeth using orthodontic braces or clear aligners. This process is most successful when it immediately follows phase 1 and generally takes 1 to 2 years.
The Pieces of the Braces Puzzle
The different parts of your braces all contribute to the orthodontic treatment process in specific ways. If your treatment involves clear aligners, you will advance through a series of custom-made aligner trays that each bring your teeth closer to the final position. Clear aligners are a great option for keeping your treatment under the radar, but they aren’t the best solution for all orthodontic problems.
If we recommend traditional braces for your treatment, you might also have additional appliances tailored to your specific treatment plan, but everyone with traditional braces has brackets and archwires, tied together with o-rings (also called bands or ligatures).
When you look carefully at braces brackets, you may notice that they aren’t all placed in a straight line. At first, the braces may even seem to emphasize the crookedness of the teeth. The way the orthodontist positions the brackets is what allows braces to shift teeth into their proper place. By the end of the treatment, the brackets — and, more importantly, the teeth — will be straight!
The archwires run through the brackets on each row of teeth. The orthodontist chooses the thickness and material of the archwire carefully based on your treatment plan. As they try to straighten back into their original shape, archwires provide steady, gradual pressure in the right direction so that your teeth will shift towards their proper position. The colorful o-rings are what keep the archwires in place in the brackets.
The most common addition to braces beyond the basics of brackets, archwires, and o-rings is elastics. If you have a malocclusion (bad bite) or misaligned jaw, elastics apply pressure to bring your jaws into proper alignment. In order for them to do their job, however, it is essential to exactly follow the orthodontist’s instructions. Wearing too many or too few rubber bands will interfere with your treatment and make it take longer.
The Biology Of Shifting Dental Alignment
So what’s actually happening on the cellular level during orthodontic treatment? Specialized cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts respond to the pressure around the periodontal membrane (the pocket of gum tissue connecting the tooth’s root to the jaw bone). Osteoclasts break down the bone tissue so that the tooth can move, while osteoblasts gradually form new bone tissue behind it. So it’s not just your teeth moving into position; your jaw bones are reshaping themselves too!
Beyond Phase 2 Orthodontic Treatment
Your teeth still remember where they used to be for a while after the braces come off, which is why it’s so important for you to remember to wear your retainers as directed. Retainers will help your teeth get used to their new position, and they’ll prevent unrelated shifting that happens to most people naturally over the course of time.
Want To Learn More About Your Orthodontic Treatment?
If you have any questions about how your braces are working to give you that properly aligned, more functional smile you’ve always wanted, just give us a call or ask us about it at your next appointment. We want all of our patients to have the information they need to feel confident in their treatment!