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What’s the Best Age for My Child’s Orthodontic Treatment?

Nov 30, 2022
When you were growing up, your dentist probably made you wait until you were 12 or 13 before addressing your overbite, underbite, or other orthodontic issues. Today, some kids start earlier to keep treatment time and dysfunction to a minimum.

You may be surprised that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends children receive their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7

Thinking back to your own childhood, you might not have consulted an orthodontist until you were 12 or 13, long after your baby teeth had fallen out and your permanent teeth erupted.

Even though your child might still be negotiating with the Tooth Fairy, they probably have enough permanent teeth for a dental professional to evaluate their teeth and jaw. Early evaluation helps you understand what may lie ahead regarding your child’s bite and identifies potential issues.

Also, early orthodontic treatment can be beneficial if there’s a problem. Crooked baby teeth may affect your child’s bite and even how well they digest food and speak. Starting orthodontics early can also make the ultimate treatment time shorter.

Dean Salo, DDS, and our team at Select Dental and Orthodontics in Torrance, California, work together to ensure your child’s teeth are healthy, strong, and straight. Read on to learn more about when to start orthodontics and why we recommend an early evaluation.

What’s the usual start time for orthodontics?

The usual start time for orthodontics is still ages 8-14, once a child’s permanent teeth are firmly in place. 

However, if an early evaluation identifies a problem, your dentist or orthodontist may choose to start corrective or preventive care. This can help your child avoid braces or wear them for a shorter time.

Why would a 7-year-old need braces?

When your child’s bite is misaligned, it causes problems with chewing, digestion, and speaking. And the misalignment only gets worse as the permanent teeth erupt. 

Baby teeth act as placeholders in your child’s jaw. The permanent teeth follow the path that baby teeth have already set, including misalignment.

We may recommend that your child wear braces or clear aligners to correct orthodontic problems before the permanent teeth have taken root in abnormal positions. We may recommend treatment if your child’s baby teeth are:

  • Crooked
  • Twisted
  • Crowded
  • Gapped

An advantage to early treatment is your child’s smile is improved too. Aesthetics aren’t the goal of treatment, but your child benefits from having an attractive smile. Correcting their teeth early can save them the pain of being teased about their appearance and increase their confidence. 

What’s the advantage of orthodontics at a later age? 

In most cases, ages 8-14 are ideal because your child has most or all of their permanent teeth, yet their jaws and faces are still growing. Reasons for orthodontics include:

  • An underbite
  • A crossbite
  • Too much space between teeth
  • Teeth crowding
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Open bite

Most of these dental issues are inherited, but sometimes they result from thumb sucking, an accident, dental disease, or swallowing problems.

Types of orthodontic treatments

You and your child can choose from many treatment options. Your dentist helps you decide which is best for your child. Options include:

  • Metal braces
  • Ceramic braces
  • Clear aligners

Depending on your child’s issues and the recommended orthodontics, your child can expect to wear braces for about two years and then a retainer at night. 

However, not all dental issues can be addressed by orthodontic treatment options. It’s also important to bring your child in for regular cleanings and exams to spot other potential problems.

Also, if you’re interested in fixing your own smile or alignment, it’s not too late! Many adults get braces or aligners to improve their smiles.

If you’re ready to schedule an orthodontic evaluation for yourself or your child, contact our team by phone or online form today.