Phase One [Early] treatment is generally defined as the application of fixed orthodontic therapy [braces] to an adolescent in the mixed dentition stage [baby and permanent teeth] with the purpose of correcting limited and specific problems for the patient. Phase One treatment is almost always followed by a second, final and definitive phase of full braces.
Early [Phase One] treatment is a matter of much discussion and controversy in orthodontic circles, and surely should be a concern to every parent with young children in need of orthodontic or dental care. The range of attitude extends from those practitioners who think that “everyone needs early treatment and they need it today” all the way through to extreme conservatives like myself who rarely suggest early treatment.
In my opinion, early [Phase One] treatment should be applied only when the intended results [or treatment] cannot be delayed without clear risk to teeth, the bite, the joints or other facial structures. I believe that it is morally risky to engage in early treatment when the same result can be achieved later through a well planned and well executed full treatment. From that point of view, the most likely cases that might “cry out” for early treatment would be excessive growth [or lack of it] of either the upper or lower arch, blocked paths of eruption for permanent teeth, and quite extreme narrowing of the upper and/or lower arches.
An excellent safeguard in this regard is to ask questions about necessity of the treatment, expected results, need for later treatment and consequences of not treating. An excellent central question for this discussion is: “Doctor, what can we accomplish in this phase of treatment that we cannot accomplish in a later phase?” A final measure that can protect you against excessive treatment is to get a second opinion from a practitioner who clears “stakes out” a conservative position.