While there is no exact age for children to begin orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends visiting the orthodontist around age seven.
By this age, most children have a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth, making it easier for the orthodontist to diagnose and correct tooth and jaw problems sooner and without surgery.
Early treatment allows your orthodontist to:
- Correct and guide the growth of your child’s jaw to help the permanent teeth come in straight
- Regulate the width of the upper and lower arches
- Create more space for crowded teeth
- Avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions later in life
- Correct thumb sucking and help improve minor speech problems
For parents, it’s not always easy to know if your child may need orthodontic treatment.
Here are a few things to look for that may mean your child needs to see an orthodontist:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- A hard time chewing or biting food
- Mouth breathing
- Finger or thumb sucking
- Crowded, misplaced, or blocked teeth
- Jaws that pop or make sounds when opening and closing
- Teeth that come together abnormally, or do not come together at all
- Jaws and teeth that are not proportionate to the rest of the face
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
Does early treatment benefit all children?
Early treatment does not necessarily benefit all children. Certain types of orthodontic problems can be more easily and efficiently corrected in the teen years when all the permanent teeth have erupted. Some skeletal orthodontic problems should not be addressed until growth is more advanced or completed. The doctors develop a plan for treatment based on each individual child’s needs. If the doctor decides the patient is not ready for treatment, they are placed on our orthodontic supervisory program.
What is the Orthodontic Supervisory Program?
The orthodontic supervisory program is for patients who are not ready for treatment and have been placed on recall. This program enables us to monitor the eruptive pattern of the permanent teeth. Sometimes, poor erupted patterns of permanent teeth may be eliminated with early removal of baby teeth and reduce the treatment time required for braces. We will notify your general dentist of any recommendations made during your visit. We normally see the patients on recall every 6-8 months to observe their progress as they grow. There is no fee for this program and it helps the orthodontist determine the optimum time to begin treatment and achieve the best possible result for your child.
In addition to a beautiful new smile, what are some other benefits of orthodontic treatment?
Braces can improve the function of the bite and teeth, improve the ability to clean the teeth, prevent wear on the teeth, and increase the longevity of natural teeth over a lifetime.
If a child has treatment early, will this prevent the need for braces as an adolescent?
Early treatment can begin the correction of significant problems, prevent more severe problems from developing, and simplify future treatment. Because all of the permanent teeth have not yet erupted when early treatment is performed, their final alignment may not have been corrected. Typically, a shortened comprehensive phase of treatment (Phase II – full braces) in the teen years, after all the permanent teeth have erupted, completes the correction. However, in some circumstances, further orthodontic treatment may not be indicated.
Do we still need to see our family dentist during orthodontic treatment?
Patients with braces and other orthodontic appliances require more effort to keep their teeth and gums clean. Because we want to ensure the highest level of dental health, we recommend you see your family dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings every 6 months during treatment.