When Is the Right Age for Braces?
When we were young it seemed easy, you waited for your baby teeth to be gone and then saw the orthodontist.  Today we see kids of all ages in braces, so we are left wondering when is the right time for my child? The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children have a check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7.
Why so young?
Your child’s teeth may appear straight, but there can be problems with the eruption of the adult teeth.   When the first molars erupt at age 6, the bite on the back teeth is established. At this time the orthodontist can see if the bite is fine or identify a developing problem.   When the incisors are erupting problems can be detected such as crowding, deep bites and open bite.
Habits are another important reason to see the orthodontist by age 7.  If a child is sucking their thumb, has a tongue thrust or is using a binkie the eruption of the teeth and the development of the jaws can be altered.  The orthodontist can help to set up a plan with you and your child to end their habit and prevent further damage to the teeth.
Many times the orthodontist will recommend waiting for additional growth or eruptions to begin treatment, but in more severe cases early intervention can make treatment later shorter and less complicated.  Early treatment allows the orthodontist to help guide the eruptions of grown up teeth, create space, correct narrow palates and improve jaw differences. A phased approach to treatment usually focuses on skeletal changes when there is growth present  and the palatal suture is still open.
When considering if there is enough room for teeth early treatment can help prevent extractions in the future.  There is extra space in the back where the last baby molar is larger than the adult premolar. If this space is maintained it can be used to help resolve crowding.
The AAO recommendation to have an orthodontic screening by age 7 allows you to identify problems early.  Many times care can wait until more teeth have erupted, but by supervising the eruptions under the care of an orthodontist you can make sure that your child has the right treatment at the right time to give your child the best opportunity for a lifelong healthy smile.