One of the most important questions parents ask is, “What is the best age for braces?” The short answer is simple. Once all of your child’s permanent teeth have come in, they can begin orthodontia. That usually means between the ages of ten and fifteen is a good time to start. But there are circumstances that call for earlier orthodontic treatment, and more and more adults are taking advantage of the opportunity to straighten their teeth all the time.
There are some conditions like severe crowding and bite problems that can benefit from the services of an orthodontist for children as young as age six. And because more and more dentists are performing orthodontia as well as general dentistry, your regular dentist should be able to let you know if your child needs early intervention. If your dentist can’t provide those services in-office, he or she will more than likely be able to provide you with a referral to a qualified orthodontist.
Let’s begin by taking a look at why people need braces in the first place. In our culture, crooked teeth are considered less and less socially acceptable. And sometimes teenagers really want to get braces because they feel the braces mean they are more mature. But braces and invisible aligners are really needed for a couple of basic reasons.
When teeth are crooked, crowded, or out of alignment, it can cause problems with chewing. This may not sound very serious, but faulty alignment or crowding can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. This is the joint that joins our facial bones with the mandible or jawbone, and when there is dysfunction here, the result can be severe headaches and other symptoms that make it hard to even get through a day. So, the first reason to align the teeth is to prevent problems like TMJ dysfunction.
The second reason is that when our teeth are crooked and misaligned, they are actually harder to clean. This means that we will be more susceptible to gum disease as we grow older. When we straighten our teeth, it is much easier to brush and floss effectively, and it makes professional cleanings and routine dental care much easier as well.
Early Orthodontia Interventions
Sometimes there are more severe bite issues that can be detected as early as age six. These can include the following:
- Too much space between the teeth in front or in back or both
- Too little space or teeth crowding
- Open bites in which all of the teeth do not meet correctly
- Overbites where the top teeth come down too low
- Underbites where the bottom teeth are in front of the top teeth
- Crossbites which are some combination of over and underbites
- Protruding teeth
- Teeth that come in somewhere besides the correct place
While your dentist or orthodontist will not recommend braces at this age, he or she may recommend other early interventions like expanders or partial braces. The benefits of this type of early treatment that starts before all the permanent teeth have come in can help in a number of ways. It can make more space for teeth as they come in, it can correct overbites and crossbites before they develop further, and it can guide the teeth into better alignment, shortening the length of time braces have to be worn. And in general, early interventions make it easier to identify problems earlier and make long-range plans for better outcomes.
Full Orthodontia Treatment, Ages 10-15 or Adults
Although early interventions are sometimes called for, it is much more likely that your child will receive any orthodontia treatment between the ages of 10 and 15, when all of the permanent teeth have come in. At this stage, the teeth, mouth, bones, and head are all still developing, so it can be a more conducive time for all the adjustments. Your dentist or orthodontist will help you decide exactly what age to begin with, and also recommend a plan of treatment.
In general, the more crooked your teeth, the more complicated your situation, and the older you are, the longer your treatment will probably take with traditional braces. Many patients end up wearing full braces for about eighteen months to three years. And most patients will need to wear a retainer for a couple months to a couple years to make sure that the correction has time to become permanent. Keep in mind, though, that Invisalign, though generally more expensive, can shorten the length of treatment significantly while enabling you to straighten your teeth without anyone knowing.
Although earlier and later treatments are available, most people who are lucky enough are able to have their teeth straightened when they are still teens. Let your dentist be your guide for the best outcome.