Is My Child Old Enough for Braces?

When should your child get braces

Learning the Basics About Braces

As your kids get older and their adult teeth begin coming in, you may start wondering whether or not they’ll need braces and when you should take them to the kids’ orthodontist. You may be able to tell that they’ll need orthodontic treatment on your own, but it’s not immediately obvious for every kid who needs treatment. Whether or not you already know that your child will need braces, it’s natural to have a lot of questions about the process and when you should get the ball rolling. To help you determine when you should begin your search for an orthodontist and how braces can benefit your child—whether there’s a clear aesthetic issue or not—we’ve put together the answers to several common questions about braces.

At what age should my child have an orthodontic evaluation?

Children should receive their first orthodontic evaluation when they’re around 7 years old. Although they won’t have all of their adult teeth yet, they’ll have enough—including a pair of back molars—for orthodontists to predict the way their teeth will erupt in their mouth. This means that they’ll be able to tell if your child will likely suffer from dental problems like overcrowding or a misaligned bite. In many cases, you’ll get a heads up that your child will need braces when all of their adult teeth come in, but in some cases, early orthodontic treatment can help reduce or prevent issues like overcrowding. Early orthodontic treatment doesn’t always completely prevent the issue, however, and can’t prevent every issue your child’s teeth may have. Your child may still need braces down the line once all of their adult teeth come in.

Is early intervention that important?

Absolutely—when it’s necessary. For many children, early intervention simply isn’t necessary. But when it is, early intervention can make a lasting positive impact on your child’s oral health by helping to prevent severe dental issues before they become a problem. Since your child’s face is still growing, including their palate, early intervention can reduce or prevent overcrowding by using palate expanders. These devices work sort of like braces, exerting gentle pressure on your child’s palate to encourage it to grow and create more room for their developing teeth. This treatment can reduce or eliminate the need for more invasive treatments such as tooth extractions when your child gets older, but they may still need braces when they’re old enough for them.

Will braces impact my child’s ability to play sports or instruments?

No, your child will be able to continue playing the sports and instruments they enjoy throughout their orthodontic treatment. The metal wires and brackets of braces can cut or scrape their mouth during a contact sport, especially if your child gets hit in the face, so make sure they wear a mouth guard while they play. Playing an instrument will also take a little adjustment, as they’ll have to get used to the way the braces on their teeth feel as they play, but they should adjust quickly.

Will braces be painful for my child?

It’s normal for your child to experience some soreness or discomfort for a day or two after their braces have been tightened at the orthodontist’s office. This discomfort should be mild and is easy to manage with over-the-counter pain medication if necessary. Medication often isn’t even necessary, though, and aside from this minor discomfort, braces shouldn’t be painful for your child at all.

They’re just teeth. Does my child really have to go through this?

While braces are famous for their aesthetic results, they have very real oral health benefits. Misaligned bites can cause a number of problems, including making it more difficult to eat, causing teeth to wear unevenly over time, and causing your child to bite the inside of their cheeks more often. They can also cause frequent headaches. Straightening out this misalignment resolves these problems, making it easier to eat effectively and potentially saving your child from expensive dental treatments that issues like worn teeth can make necessary in the future. Early orthodontic treatment can even impact your child’s palate and jaw development by encouraging the palate to grow to create more room for their teeth.

Additionally, crooked, uneven teeth are harder to clean thoroughly because they create a lot of nooks and crannies that are difficult to brush or floss effectively. Straightening your child’s teeth eliminates a lot of these areas, making it easier for them to clean their teeth. This helps your child do a better job of preventing cavities and gum disease for the rest of their life. They’ll still need to put in the work to maintain good oral hygiene, but fewer oral health issues will save them the pain, anxiety, and expense of major dental treatments well into adulthood.

What are the main differences between traditional braces and clear aligner treatment?

Traditional braces are made of metal wires and brackets and are fixed to your child’s teeth, while clear aligner treatments, such as Invisalign consist of removable aligners that function much like clear braces. Braces and clear aligner treatments can treat many of the same issues, though braces are better for complex or severe dental issues, and each has its own pros and cons. Clear aligner treatment is almost unnoticeable on your child’s teeth, helping them stay confident throughout treatment, and there are many benefits to their removability. There are also a few downsides, however, because it’s possible for your child to lose the aligners or simply not wear them enough during the day. As a result, clear aligner treatment requires a certain level of maturity and responsibility from your child. Braces and clear aligners cost about the same and achieve the same results, however, so you can choose whichever method fits your child’s needs best.

Braces will have a lasting impact on your child’s health and confidence, so it’s important to visit an orthodontist to determine if your child needs them. Whether you’re just starting to think about scheduling your child’s first orthodontic appointment or you’re ready to find a kids’ orthodontist to give your teen or preteen braces, it’s a good idea to know the basics on what to expect before the appointment. If you have any additional questions or would like to set up a consultation, feel free to call our office at any time.