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You might think it’s easy to tell when a kid needs braces. You figure you’ll see an obvious sign, like crooked teeth. But that’s not always the case – it can take a professional to identify specific, less-obvious dental issues that need to be addressed with braces or other orthodontic appliances.
So how do you know when it’s time for your child to visit the orthodontist? The Q&A below will help you decide.
Why Do Kids Need Braces?
In addition to crooked teeth, there are a number of reasons that your child may require braces:
- Crowded teeth
- Overlapping teeth
- Malocclusion (a “bad bite”), such as an overbite or underbite
- Too much space between teeth
- Extra or missing teeth
- Jaw growth problems
These dental issues can either be inherited or caused by different factors, such as losing baby teeth early, late or in an irregular fashion; thumb sucking; accidents; teeth grinding or clenching; or pacifier use.
When Should My Child See an Orthodontist?
It’s recommended that children have a checkup with an orthodontist by age 7. You should ask your dentist to help you determine when your child would benefit from an orthodontic consultation. Orthodontic treatment – including braces – can begin as early as 5 or 6, as children lose baby teeth and their permanent teeth begin to come in.
Early intervention is key. Children have more malleable bones and their jaws are more easily encouraged to grow in a more ideal way, so they will respond faster to treatment than someone at a later age. For example, if a child loses a second baby molar early, it could cause the erupting adult molar to drift forward – crowding the other adult teeth that have yet to emerge. However, if orthodontic treatment is started early, it is possible to fix the problem and avoid either having to pull the adult tooth later on or enduring more elaborate procedures.
Two-stage Versus One-stage Braces
If you are seeing problems or suspect your child may need braces, it is best to visit an orthodontist sooner rather than later. Keep in mind that just because you get an evaluation it does not mean your child will need braces right away. It does mean that you have the benefit of an orthodontist’s supervision as your child’s mouth grows and changes.
Two-stage (phase) orthodontic treatment typically begins with an initial 1 year of expanders, appliances and sometimes braces at age 7 or 8 to prepare the jaws for incoming adult teeth or correct severe problems. After the first phase is complete, a retainer is worn until phase II begins around age 11 or 12. The goal of the second phase of treatment is to perfect your child’s smile.
Single-stage orthodontia follows a traditional path, with children getting braces in their tween years and typically wearing them for an average of 2 years.
Both plans are followed by years of wearing a retainer, removable or permanent, to ensure teeth don’t shift throughout your life.
Your Partner for Braces
If you think your child might need braces, make an appointment for a consultation. At NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we will walk you through our initial consultation process and help you create a plan tailored to your child’s needs. Please remember, adults can get orthodontic treatment too! We are here to assist everyone with their smile journey.