What Is The Right Age For Braces?
When most of us were teenagers, it seemed like it was us and our friends that were donning braces. High school, if not already difficult enough, with its cliques and bullies, was made more difficult—or perhaps, in some instances, more communal—because of braces.
Having a mouth full of metal, for a lot of us, was a rite of passage. These days, it seems that elementary school is becoming the place for braces, with the American Association of Orthodontists recommending evaluation of children before age seven. This has led to a younger and younger class of children getting braces. But what is the right time for braces?
Factors that Affect Braces
The most important factor of braces is whether or not a child has all (or at the very least most) of his adult teeth. Baby teeth are called baby not just because they sprout when the child is a baby, but also because they are they are smaller than adult teeth. Adult teeth, especially in a small mouth, can crowd and twist and turn in ways that baby teeth never would.
Straightening a mouth full of baby teeth does not make much sense if adult teeth are going to come along and basically undo all of that expensive work done by the first set of braces. This is why mostly adult teeth is vitally necessary, otherwise additional treatments may be necessary down the road—and neither you, nor your kid wants that.
One of the reasons that braces are being put on younger and younger is because teeth are more difficult to move, the older a person becomes. The entire reason that braces are generally relegated to young adults, teenagers, and children is because the teeth and jaw are not fully set and can still be moved by braces. Children, especially, have malleable teeth, which make it easy for them to move, before they are fully impacted in the jaw.
So, pinpointing the “right” age for braces can be difficult. Because each child’s mouth develops differently, it really is specific to the child. Some children may have all of their adult teeth by age ten and can be evaluated. Especially bad cases can and should be evaluated by an orthodontist even before all of the adult teeth have grown into the mouth. Early adolescence is the best bet, but earlier in cases where your dentist recommends it or you feel like it is necessary, just by looking at the mouth.
Are Braces Actually Necessary?
For many parents that never had braces themselves, braces may seem like an expensive cosmetic procedure that is not vitally necessary to a child’s development. This is just not true. There are many problems caused my misaligned or out of joint teeth that should be taken very seriously, before they have the chance to blossom into more severe issues.
Under-bites and over-bites, for example, can cause problems in the immediate future and in the long run. Not only can they affect the development of speech patterns, they can also affect how effective your child is at chewing food and how easy the teeth are to clean.
Even just a few out of place teeth can take a serious toll on dental health. Teeth that are not in the right alignment, are too close or too far apart from other teeth, are all serious problems that cannot be solved just by brushing and flossing thoroughly. While those two things are important, it’s also important to mention that teeth that are properly aligned are much easier to clean and therefore less likely to develop serious problems in the short or long terms.
While some children do get braces just for cosmetic reasons, this can boost a child’s self-esteem and prevent some of the bullying that almost all children are now experiencing. This is massively important. If your child is very self-conscious of his smile, he might not be as willing to smile, affecting how he thinks about himself and how his peers think about him. Braces or Invisalign can help to prevent some of the most serious social problems.
While many people think that braces can actually cause many of these problems, opening the child up to ridicule, most children have to have some kind of orthodontic treatment and most have their braces on at the same time. If you wore braces, you probably remember at least three or four of your close friends who had braces at the same time.
When Should I Talk to an Orthodontist?
Deciding when to take your child to an orthodontist can be difficult. Luckily, lots of offices offer consultations, without an obligation for treatment. This means that you can get your child evaluated by a professional and determine whether or not now is the right time for braces. In some instances, seven-year-olds might be ready for braces. Other times, we might wait and recommend that patients wait a few months or years before we put the braces on, such as Invisalign Teen.
There are some issues that can and should be addressed immediately. This might be, for example, teeth that are crowding out other teeth and not allowing them to grow in properly. Other problems, like twisted or turned teeth, or teeth that stick out and just need a little straightening in order to look great and be easy to clean, can be deferred until all of the adult teeth are in place.
While it might seem like the best idea to get a jumpstart on your child’s orthodontic treatment, an orthodontist will give you the best idea of whether or not right now is the right time for treatment.