It’s very common to begin to wonder about orthodontic treatment and braces for your children. After all, many of us had braces as adolescents, and it’s natural to have questions about whether the guidelines for starting orthodontic care are the same —or if there have been changes.
If you are looking to make sure your child has a beautiful and happy smile as they grow up, this can be a very important concern to have.
While everyone is different, learning about the general ages where orthodontic treatment can start, as well as some of the issues that an orthodontist treats in younger children can be highly beneficial. That’s why we’re happy to share the following guide. We hope the following information can help you and your child as you make plans for future dental and orthodontic health.
Best Ages for Scheduling Your Child’s First Orthodontic Appointment
The right age to start orthodontic treatment depends on the child. The American Association of Orthodontists actually recommends children see a specialist for a checkup no later than age seven.
In some situations, parents can wait until all of the adult teeth are in before seeking more advanced care. While this also depends on the child, in most cases this will be around the ages of 12 to 13.
With an early orthodontic evaluation, the orthodontist can examine the jaws and teeth for proper alignment and growth rates. Orthodontists will recommend treatments such as braces for adult teeth, but there are some interventions that can help with children who still have baby teeth.
What problems can orthodontists treat when children still have baby teeth?
Signs that your child may have an issue that requires early orthodontic care include early or late loss of baby teeth, inability to breathe easily through the nose, and difficulty eating. Specific problems that may require intervention include:
- Crossbite, which is when the jaw shifts to the left and/or right when opening and closing
- Inability of the teeth to fully come together when opening and closing the mouth
- Crowded front teeth at an early age
- Protruding teeth from either the top or bottom jaw
- Craniofacial differences, such as a cleft lip or palate
These can be caused by a range of underlying factors, including genetics, injury, thumb-sucking habits, and delayed or early baby tooth loss.
In any of these cases, an orthodontist can perform a thorough evaluation to diagnose the problem and help you create an effective treatment plan for early intervention.
Early Orthodontic Treatment Options
A very common question about early orthodontic treatment is that since baby teeth are made to be lost, why not wait until the adult teeth come in? This is because in certain cases, early intervention can prevent the need for more extensive treatment later on.
While the jaw is still growing, it is more malleable in younger patients. This means it can be possible to correct certain issues through orthodontic action. In contrast, once our jaws reach full adult size they harden, and it can be harder to fix issues such as a crossbite or overbite. By taking early action, there can be a better chance of avoiding tooth extraction or other forms of oral surgery later.
Early orthodontic care can help encourage proper jaw growth, help permanent teeth grow in correctly, correct harmful habits such as thumb sucking, lower the risk of tooth damage, and improve the overall appearance. The right treatment will vary depending on your child and the identified issue, but taking early action can help ensure optimal development.
This early treatment stage, also called phase one orthodontics, or interceptive orthodontics, can typically begin anywhere between age six and nine. Some interventions in phase one orthodontics may include:
- Space maintainers
- Specialized pediatric retainers
- Functional or expansion appliances
- Limited phase braces, or brace alternatives include clear aligners such as Invisalign
Phase one treatments can last up to a year, and in some cases may bridge directly to the next phase, which begins later in adolescence when the adult teeth have all come in.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
Going to the dentist or orthodontist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!