Braces for Kids: What Is the Best Age to Start Treatment?
If your child has developed crooked teeth, they're already a candidate for orthodontic treatment. They're likely to require braces at some point, if they've already got crooked, misaligned, or overcrowded teeth. Braces, retainers, or other orthodontic appliances will help them have that beautiful, confident smile they want.
The reality is, though, that there is no set-in-stone age for when it's best to get orthodontic treatment. Many factors play into this part of oral healthcare. If you do believe your child needs orthodontic care, go ahead and schedule an appointment. It may well save some difficulty or pain later on.
When Should I Have My Child See an Orthodontist?
If you're not sure if your kids need orthodontic care, it's natural to ask the question of when it should happen. Traditionally speaking, with braces begins once a child has lost most all of his or her baby teeth and most of their permanent teeth have erupted and grown in. This typically happens between the ages of eight and fourteen.
If your child does need orthodontic care, beginning it at this age can significantly reduce the discomfort, pain, or other oral healthcare difficulties in the years ahead.
Sometimes, orthodontists will recommend something called an interception approach, which is using dental appliances early on, even while the child mostly still has baby teeth. Then, when the adult teeth grow in, the second phase of this treatment is begun. This second phase usually involves braces and often takes less time than traditional braces later on because of beginning the process so early.
Orthodontists who favor the traditional approach - of waiting until your child's baby teeth have mostly been replaced - believe the length of time needed for treatment increases with the interceptive approach. Many do still, however, believe that the guidance provided by early appliances can help make correction easier.
Ultimately, the best course of action will depend on the severity of your child's needs. This should be discussed with your Orthodontics of West Covina before making any decisions.
What Are the Early Warning Signs My Child Needs Braces?
There are a number of signs you may witness in your child's development that indicate he or she will need braces or other orthodontic care.
- The early loss of baby teeth
- The late loss of baby teeth
- Cheek biting or biting into the roof of the mouth
- Protruding teeth
- Jaws that make sounds
- Jaws that shift or protrude or recess
- Finger sucking and other poor oral habits
- Mouth breathing
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Crowding of teeth
- Blocked out teeth
- Misplaced teeth
- Difficulty speaking
- Teeth that don't meet normally
- Large gaps between teeth
- Asymmetry of the face
- Facial imbalance
- Teeth clenching or grinding
If you notice any of these issues before your child reaches the age of seven, you may wish to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist near you to discover if your child needs orthodontic treatment.
What Is Early Orthodontic Treatment?
Early orthodontic treatment is just as it sounds: Orthodontic treatment at an early age. This treatment can help prevent minor bite, airway, or oral problems from becoming major or long-term issues. Early treatment also enables us at Orthodontics of West Covina to correct issues that cannot be addressed once a child's face and jaw stop growing.
There are several reasons an orthodontist may recommend early treatment.
- To create room in your child's mouth and to limit risk of overcrowding
- Improve facial symmetry
- Preserve space for teeth that will erupt later
- Reduce the need for jaw surgery or tooth extraction
- Accelerate braces treatment
- Limit trauma to protruding front teeth
- Correct a bad bite early on, helping to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, or accidental chipping or tooth breakage
What's the Average Age for Braces?
There is no exact age by which a child should begin braces treatment. The American Academy of Orthodontics does, however, recommend that children begin visiting an orthodontist at the age of seven.
This early age allows your child's orthodontist to examine your child's overall jaw, teeth, and bite health and alignment to assess if treatment will be needed.
What Can We Expect During Orthodontic Treatment?
When you visit an orthodontist for the first time, you, your child, and your orthodontist have the opportunity to learn together about your child's oral health. This examination will allow the orthodontist to identify subtle problems in your child's mouth, check on jaw growth, and other elements of oral care that may help your child in the long-term.
Often, an orthodontist will discover that the child's teeth are straight and his or her bite is fine. Other times, an orthodontist will determine that observation is needed to make sure teeth, jaw, and mouth changes are healthy and in alignment. In some cases, an orthodontist will recommend early treatment.
In any case, your child's orthodontist will help you craft a treatment plan and schedule that will help ensure your child's oral development continues on the right path.
What Types of Braces Work Best for Kids?
There are a few factors that will help determine what type of braces you should have placed on your child's teeth. With the many options, you have some obvious choices and some not so obvious options worth exploring.
Most children benefit from traditional braces. These are the metal braces most of us are familiar with, that use metal brackets, wires, and rubber bands to straighten and realign teeth. The brackets are attached to the teeth themselves with a nontoxic adhesive, then the wires are tightened, bit by bit, to ensure the teeth align properly over time.
Your child may feel self conscious about metal braces, however, so there may be other more attractive options to work with, such as ceramic braces. These are much less noticeable, as the braces themselves are made of clear ceramic that blends into the natural tooth color.
Depending on the type of correction needed, lingual braces - which go behind the teeth - may be an appropriate choice. Clear removable braces, like Invisalign® trays, may also be an appropriate choice, depending on your child's needs and responsibility level.
If you think your child may need braces, call Orthodontics of West Covina at (626) 507-6895 to schedule an early orthodontic examination!