How young? The surprising truth behind early orthodontics

Orthodontic treatments for preteens are common. In fact, some consider it a “coming of age” event. However, many parents are surprised that children as young as seven can benefit from orthodontic treatment.

What is orthodontic treatment

For most people the first thing that comes to mind when they hear orthodontics is braces. While braces are a major component of orthodontics, there are other treatments available, like clear aligners, elastics, and retainers.

The main purpose behind any orthodontic treatment is to correct any bite or jaw problems that someone has. Problems such as a crossbite, an underbite, crowding of teeth, protrusion, or other forms of teeth misalignment can be corrected with orthodontic treatment.

Why orthodontic treatment is important

Orthodontic treatment is important to oral and overall health. Two of the biggest reasons for orthodontic treatment are to properly chew and speak. Other reasons to correct misaligned teeth include the inability to clean teeth correctly and the wearing down of enamel (both increasing risk for cavities), and creating a more attractive smile for better self-esteem. 

Young children and orthodontic treatments

The most common age to get braces is usually around 11 or 12 years old. However, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids see an orthodontist for a checkup by the age of seven. That doesn’t mean your child will receive any treatment at that time, but the orthodontist can evaluate how the bite and jaw are developing and advise parents on whether treatment will be needed in the future.

It’s normal to be hesitant about early orthodontic treatments. Knowing answers to common questions can help you and your child be more comfortable with possible treatment.

My child still has baby teeth. Should we wait for treatment?

Waiting for permanent teeth to come in can make correcting orthodontic problems more difficult. It’s easier to correct problems when the bones in the face and jaw are still developing rather than waiting until they are done growing.

Will my child’s teeth correct themselves as they grow?

Once a misalignment in the teeth or jaw develops it will not self-correct with time. In some cases, the problem will get worse and be harder to correct as the facial and jaw bones harden.

Are braces the only option for my child?

Braces are often thought of as the only treatment option, but there are others that may be a better fit for your child’s needs. Removable “appliances” are sometimes used to move teeth, change the position or the jaw, or help teeth stay in place. Other times removing a baby tooth can help adult teeth come in better.

Early orthodontic treatment makes correcting problems easier

Catching and treating orthodontic problems early will make it easier to correct them. Delaying or skipping orthodontic treatment can make it harder to correct problems in the future, and may even mean it’s not possible at a later time.

If you’re concerned about early orthodontic treatment, visit with your child’s orthodontist to address any questions you have. No matter what age your child begins orthodontic treatment, whether they are seven or 17, a healthy and functional smile is the goal.