If you have children, you might be wondering if/when they should get braces. The answer is, it depends. All children have different orthodontic needs, and treatment that would be most effective for one child may not be the most suitable option for another. Some children may not require orthodontic treatment at all. Contacting an experienced orthodontist in your area is the first step to starting your family’s orthodontic care.
The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends that all children receive an orthodontic screening no later than age 7. By this age, permanent teeth are beginning to show, and many common issues, such as an uneven bite and overcrowding, become apparent. Because the teeth and jaw are still growing and developing at this age, these conditions are easier to correct with early intervention. Here are a few telltale signs that it’s time to schedule your child’s first visit with an orthodontist.
Signs your child needs braces
Orthodontic treatment can treat a variety of problems, including crooked or crowded teeth, overbites, under-bites, poor jaw alignment and disorders of the jaw joints. Here are some signs your child may need to visit an orthodontist:
- Baby teeth are lost too early or too late
- Noticeable mouth breathing
- Prolonged thumb- or finger-sucking habits
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Crowded, misplaced or blocked permanent teeth
- Teeth that meet abnormally, or teeth that don’t meet at all
- Jaw position appears abnormal, protruding too far forward or too far back
- Grinding or clenching of teeth
For children, early orthodontic care is key to preventing and treating problems that could turn into more serious issues down the road. Waiting to correct tooth and jaw irregularities when a child is older may take longer to complete and require more extensive treatment. Benefits of early orthodontic care include:
- Straighten crooked teeth
- Guide permanent teeth into their ideal positions
- Correct bite issues
- Prevent the need for tooth removal
- Create space for crowded, erupting teeth
Types of orthodontic treatment for kids
There are many types of braces that help correct malocclusion and alignment problems by putting steady pressure on the teeth. The teeth are gently moved into their ideal positions over the course of treatment. Many kids have great success with traditional metal braces that consist of brackets, wires and bands. Clear removable braces, such as Invisalign, are also available, but typically work best for teens and patients with minor orthodontic issues.
In some cases, a child may need teeth removed to create extra space in the mouth prior to treatment. Others may need to wear headgear at night, in addition to braces, in order to correct severe bite issues. The length of treatment will vary for each child’s unique case, but the average time is approximately two years.
Following braces, it is common for children to have to wear a custom-fitted retainer over the teeth for a period of time to prevent the newly straightened teeth from shifting back to their original positions.
Start with a visit to your orthodontist
Ultimately, the best way to determine whether or not your child is ready for braces is to schedule a visit with an orthodontist. During the first visit, parents and kids will get to know the team and office, learn more about orthodontics and receive a comprehensive exam.
The purpose of the initial examination is to evaluate growth and development of the teeth and jaw, as well as your specific concerns and desired outcome. If treatment is necessary, your child’s orthodontist will discuss the existing orthodontic issues, available treatment options and a preliminary timeline of the recommended treatment.
Dr. Sam Burrow helps run Burrow Orthodontics, an orthodontic office in Charlotte, North Carolina. He and his team focus on providing the highest quality of individual care to patients through various dental solutions.
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