You’ve noticed your child’s teeth aren’t coming in straight, so you know that braces are probably in their future. However, you may wonder what’s the best age for kids’ braces, or whether kids can even have braces. At Bowman DMD Orthodontics in Fort Walton, FL, we’ll examine your child’s teeth and create a treatment plan to determine when they should get their braces.
What Age Is Best To Get Braces for Kids?
Tweens or Teens
Overall, kids usually get their braces when they are tweens (age 10 to 12) or teens (age 13 to 19), but there’s no hard rule about when kids should have braces put on their teeth. This is because each child’s mouth is different and they require different treatments to get the smile they deserve. In general, braces are appropriate for kids who have lost most of their baby teeth and have a majority of their adult teeth grown in.
First Orthodontic Evaluation
Even though a child may not get braces until they’re older, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that an initial orthodontic evaluation should occur by the time a child is seven years old. This allows us to examine your child’s mouth and teeth to get an idea of possible orthodontic treatment requirements in the future. We will monitor your child’s development from that point on to be sure we administer the appropriate treatments at the appropriate ages.
The reason why age seven is considered the best time to get an initial orthodontic evaluation is because the first adult molars will have erupted and we are able to assess various tooth relationships to determine possible orthodontic problems like overbite, underbite, crossbite, dental crowding, and more. Early intervention will allow us to use various treatments as your child ages to make their smile as gorgeous as possible once orthodontic treatment has been completed by the end of their teens.
Some children require what’s known as interceptive orthodontic treatment, which is when a child is fitted with orthodontic appliances to prepare their mouth for braces later. For instance, it’s common for young children to be fitted with an orthodontic spacer to maintain space between lost teeth so that when adult teeth come in, they do so in the right spots rather than moving into spaces where other teeth should go. This creates a crowding situation that’s harder to correct later.
Some of the benefits that come with interceptive treatment include creating room for unerupted teeth, influencing jaw growth to create facial symmetry, reducing the trauma risk of protruding front teeth, reducing the need for tooth extractions, and reducing the time spent in braces. Once a child’s adult teeth have mostly erupted, the chance for interceptive treatment has passed and more extensive orthodontic treatments may be required, including tooth extractions to create room for your child’s remaining teeth.
Early Warning Signs of Orthodontic Issues
You should also get your child evaluated for orthodontic intervention earlier than age seven if you notice various warning signs that could lead to orthodontic issues. If you notice any of the following signs, give us a call and we’ll let you know if your child needs to be evaluated.
- Early loss of baby teeth
- Late loss of baby teeth
- Difficulty with chewing or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Finger or thumb sucking
- Crowding or misplaced teeth
- Protruded jaw
- Retracted jaw
- Popping or cracking sounds with their jaw moves
- Speech difficulties
- Cheek biting or trauma to the roof of their mouth from biting
- Teeth that don’t meet properly or at all
- Facial asymmetry
- Teeth grinding
- Teeth clenching
- Gaps between teeth
These are all dental issues that can be addressed with interceptive treatments, but the earlier we can evaluate your child’s condition, the better the outcome will be. Your regular dentist may recommend your child be evaluated if they notice any type of abnormality with your child’s tooth or jaw growth. Dentists are not usually able to treat orthodontic problems, so a separate orthodontic evaluation is typically required to get the treatment your child needs both now and in the future.
The initial orthodontic evaluation is an opportunity for us to examine your child’s teeth, jaw, and mouth to determine if there is a need for interceptive treatment. It’s also an opportunity for you and your child to learn about the various treatments available to correct potential orthodontic problems. We will examine your child’s baby teeth and any erupted adult teeth to identify even minor issues that could become larger problems down the road, if left untreated.
Your child may exhibit no signs of orthodontic issues and we’ll let you know they probably won’t need braces. Or, they may benefit from braces at some point, but they won’t be absolutely necessary. We also may recommend that we continue to monitor your child’s growth and tooth development over the next couple years to see whether or not interceptive treatment becomes necessary. We’ll work with you to develop a treatment plan that is appropriate for your child’s needs.
Length of Braces Treatment
The length of treatment for your child depends on a variety of factors, including how much interceptive treatment we’re able to provide, the severity of your child’s orthodontic issues, the type of braces you choose, and how quickly your child’s body responds to treatment. Most children wear their braces for between 18 months and 36 months, but there may be cases when they have them on even longer or need additional appliances to fully correct their condition.
Patients who choose Invisalign clear plastic aligners instead of traditional metal braces can often get straight teeth in 12 months or slightly longer. This is because this form of treatment isn’t capable of correcting severe orthodontic issues such as significant gaps and overly rotated teeth. These conditions will require the use of traditional braces to treat, but you may be able to switch to Invisalign to complete your orthodontic treatment once the major issues have been corrected.
Conditions That Require Braces
You probably already know that if your child has visibly crowded teeth that they’re probably going to need braces when they get older. The same is true if your child has a gap between their teeth or they have teeth that are growing in places they shouldn’t. However, there are other indications that your child may need braces, including the following signs:
- Difficulty flossing around teeth due to crowding
- Frequent tongue or cheek biting
- Teeth that don’t close over each other
- Speech difficulties due to the tongue’s position against the teeth
- Jaw clicking or popping
- Jaw fatigue after chewing
If your child has crowded baby teeth it doesn’t necessarily mean their adult teeth are also going to be crowded, but it’s a possibility. Having that first evaluation by age seven can help determine if your child’s teeth will be crooked when all their adult teeth come in. We won’t fully know the extent of the treatments needed until your child’s adult teeth have completely erupted, but, the earlier we see them, the better adjustments we can make.
Alternatives To Braces
Some parents want to avoid having their child get braces, even if it’s apparent they need them. They want to know if there are alternatives to braces for their child. While there are different types of braces available, the only true alternative to braces is teeth straightening surgery. This surgery is extensive and requires a significant recovery time, and even if your child undergoes this surgery, there’s no guarantee that they won’t still need braces anyway.
Addressing Your Concerns
If your concern is that you don’t want your child to go through the teasing that can come with wearing braces or you’re worried they’ll feel self-conscious about having a mouth full of metal, there are types of braces that can minimize both these concerns. For example, clear braces work the same way as metal braces do, but are much less noticeable. Invisalign is almost completely unnoticeable and provides other benefits like fewer food restrictions as well.
We take your concerns about braces seriously, and we want to find a solution that works for your child. There are so many technologies and products available today that weren’t available even 20 years ago that most concerns about orthodontics can be addressed without the need for surgery. In some cases, we will recommend teeth straightening surgery for jaw alignment or severe bite problems, but usually, this trauma can be entirely avoided, especially if your child is evaluated early.
Benefits of Braces
Besides your child getting the beautiful smile they deserve, there are other benefits to getting braces, including the following:
- Improved oral health (the ability to easily floss and brush between teeth)
- Reduced risk of injury to teeth that stick out
- Improved ability to chew
- Improved speech
- Reduced risk of chipped teeth due to bite issues
- Alleviation of jaw pain, popping, or cracking
- Reduced jaw fatigue
- Fewer gum and cheek irritations
As such, wearing braces for a couple of years isn’t purely a cosmetic treatment. Yes, your child’s smile will be amazing, but they’ll also have improved oral health, which can lead to improved overall health. While they can always get braces when they’re adults, getting treatment as a child is often less traumatic and more effective because the teeth are more willing to move.
What Happens Next?
If your child is about seven years old or is exhibiting some warning signs related to orthodontic conditions, it’s time to schedule an initial evaluation. Contact Bowman DMD Orthodontics in Fort Walton, FL today to schedule your appointment and start them on the path to the perfect smile.