Years ago, we wouldn’t see kids’ with braces until they were teenagers, but now we see them on younger and younger children. So, when should children get braces? And how young is too young? Since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, we thought this would be a good time to tell you what you need to know about if and when your child should get braces.
Baby teeth gone, permanent teeth in
The general rule of thumb is that children should have lost most of their baby teeth and gotten all their adult teeth before getting braces. We are talking sometime between the ages of eight and 14. Many common orthodontic issues are better to treat once all the permanent teeth have come in. Overjets, also known protruding teeth, or teeth that just need straightening can wait for the permanent teeth. The push to treat those problems in “two phases” (one treatment on baby teeth and the other on permanent teeth) can result in braces just being on twice as long. A number of studies have shown, there is no real benefit.
Problems with jaw alignment, bite issues or severe overcrowding can benefit from earlier treatment in some cases. For example, braces can actually be used, not to straighten teeth , but to guide baby teeth out and make way for permanent teeth. Sometimes orthodontists will use braces this way when severe overcrowding of baby teeth will make it hard for permanent teeth to come in correctly. Jaw problems are also more easily fixed when a child is younger and some bite issues require early treatment to prevent damage to gums and teeth.
Wait on braces, not seeing the orthodontist
What is right for your child should be decided between you and your orthodontist after a thorough evaluation. Which brings us to our next point. Even though 7 years old is a little young for braces, it is a good age to schedule a consultation appointment with an orthodontist. The American Dental Association recommends children be evaluated by an orthodontist for the first time, no later than age 7. After the initial evaluation Dr. Dougherty and Dr. Adhikari, who are both trained in orthodontics and dentistry, will recommend re-checking your child’s teeth every six months to a year, depending on the results of the evaluation.
Get the facts before braces
If orthodontic treatment is being prescribed for your child and you are not comfortable with the plan or clear on what is being done or why—don’t automatically agree. Ask questions and don’t sign off on anything you don’t understand. If you are still not comfortable, get a couple of more opinions. Your child’s teeth are not going anywhere so don’t feel rushed into making a decision.
When your child might need braces
In the meantime, watch for these signs, as they may indicate your child will need braces:
- Teeth Grinding
- Mouth Breathing
- Difficulty Biting/Chewing
- Excess Gaps Between Teeth
- Shifting Jaw
- Speech Issues (including a lisp)
- Crooked/Misaligned Teeth
Smile, your orthodontists love you
Dr. Doughterty and Adhikari love creating beautiful smiles and offer several affordable treatment options. Healthy smiles don’t just look good, they feel good. Schedule your child’s first consultation appointment today and find out what, if any orthodontic care is needed—and if so, when!