This is a great question and one we hear from parents all the time. There are varying opinions on the correct answer, and our official position at Prosper Family Dentistry is that there is no exact age that is right for every child. So a better question to ask is “What is the Right Age for Braces for This Child?”
Why Isn’t there One Specific Age?
We have two reasons for our position that there is not one right age for braces. The first is based on the wide range of developmental age at a single chronological age. For instance, if someone said, “Your child needs braces because she is 12 years old”, it does not take into account the fact that your twelve-year-old daughter may still have multiple baby teeth. The dental development of growing children varies widely at any age.
Another reason is the great diversity of orthodontic problems and the way to intervene with treatment. Some patients have teeth alignment that can be fully corrected at any age, while others may have orthodontic issues needing early intervention while they are still growing.
The time to start orthodontic treatment is based on children’s stage of dental development and their specific orthodontic problems. That’s why we can’t give you a specific age.
What Determines the Need for Early Braces vs. Late Braces?
You have probably seen kids as young as seven years old sporting brackets on their front teeth. You also know teens who are just beginning orthodontic treatment. What makes the difference?
Typically, the need for early orthodontic treatment stems from an alignment problem that can be better corrected by harnessing the child’s growth potential during treatment.
Here’s an easier way to think about it: Imagine your child has a broken bone that is out of line from its correct position. If you do not treat it early, while it is still movable, you can still correct it later after it is healed and set in the wrong position. It will just take a lot more aggressive treatment. It is much better to treat it early and prevent the need for more aggressive treatment. Because we always prefer the most conservative treatment option, we like early intervention when it is possible to treat problems as the child grows.
There are plenty of orthodontic problems that do not require growth-harnessing for proper treatment. In these cases, your orthodontist may not even need to see you for an evaluation until after the child loses all his or her baby teeth.
Why Do Some Kids Get Braces Twice?
Within the last few decades, orthodontists have begun using a combination of early and late treatment to get the best of both worlds without having your kid in braces for seven years.
Phase One of treatment usually involves creating space for the future placement of permanent teeth and ensures the correct alignment of the upper and lower jaws (which harnesses the growth potential of these younger patients). Once the child reaches a stable position, the orthodontist removes the braces and puts the patient in a holding pattern until all of the permanent teeth are in.
A re-evaluation determines whether or not a second phase is necessary. If so, Phase Two produces perfect alignment for the best function and the prettiest smile.
As Parents, What do We Need to Know?
If you take your child to the dentist regularly, you don’t need to know much at all. Your dentist will assess the child’s orthodontic situation and send you for an evaluation by a specialist when necessary. In general, we like most children to have full assessments by an orthodontist around ages 7-8 years. This is the age where we can begin to see the relationship between the upper and lower jaws. If this relationship is incorrect, we will recommend an early orthodontic consultation.
More Questions about Braces for Kids?
Call 972-347-1145 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara. They can perform an orthodontic assessment of your child’s current state and give you an idea of what is ahead.