The majority of growing children would benefit from orthodontic treatment but what's the best age for braces?

The answer is: it depends! There are several factors that should be taken intro consideration before making a decision to start orthodontic treatment for your child. But before we get into that, there are three important things to know:

1. Permanent teeth start growing around age 6

The first permanent teeth to grow are the first molars which grow behind the very last baby molars. Central incisors (front teeth) are the first teeth to replace baby teeth.

2. It takes around 5-6 years to complete the transition from baby to permanent teeth

Most children get their full set of permanent teeth around age 12-13 but this can vary depending on a lot of factors.

3. A child's age is not always an accurate indicator of dental development

This means that some children develop and grow their teeth quickly while others do not. It is not uncommon to see a 9 year-old child with a full set of permanent teeth and a 15 year-old with several baby teeth in his/her mouth. There are a variety of causes for delayed dental development and in most cases they should not be concerning as long as their permanent teeth eventually grow.

Every child should be seen by an orthodontist at age 7

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends orthodontic screening and evaluation for all children 7 years or older. This does not necessarily mean that your 7-year old child will be getting braces, in fact, orthodontic treatment is most likely not needed at this age. Nonetheless, a thorough evaluation is necessary to rule out certain tooth growth and bite problems which may require an early intervention.

Can your family dentist do this instead?

Orthodontists are specialized dentists who went through 2-3 years of training focused on diagnosing and treatment of orthodontic problems. Many of these problems can be easily missed by your family dentist simply because he/she are not trained to perform a thorough orthodontic examination. Our orthodontic evaluations are complimentary and our findings and recommendations are always shared with your dentist to make sure the right decision is made to your child’s benefit.

Orthodontic treatment for younger children is not always recommended

There are specific indications for early orthodontic treatment (often referred to as phase one), but most children would not benefit from braces (or any other appliances) at this young age not only because the benefits are limited but also because a second round of braces (phase two) is almost always necessary which increases the overall duration and cost of treatment. More on that here.
However, even if treatment is not recommended at this age, an orthodontist can observe and monitor your child’s dental growth until he/she is ready for orthodontic treatment. This is often referred to as growth guidance. We offer complimentary growth guidance at our office on a regular basis until your child is ready for braces.

Were braces recommended for your 7 year old child? Ask a lot of questions and get a second opinion! Always!

Some orthodontists are strong advocates of early orthodontic treatment and some are not. Early orthodontic treatment is one of the controversial subjects in orthodontics which is why it is important to understand why treatment is being recommended and whether additional orthodontic treatment is needed in the future or not. Getting a second opinion is always a good idea!

The best age for most children to get braces is right before losing their last set of baby teeth

The majority of children would benefit from one round of comprehensive orthodontic treatment rather the two-phase approach. The best age for braces (orthodontic treatment) is right before your child loses his/her last set of baby molars. This varies but is usually between 12-14 years old for most children. Starting treatment too early (too many baby teeth present) may result in longer treatment duration and potentially more negative consequences. On the other hand, starting treatment too late can make certain treatment options that rely on jaw growth more difficult and sometimes impossible without jaw surgery. The only way to avoid these issues is to see the orthodontist on a regular basis for growth guidance and start treatment as soon as recommended.

Starting orthodontic treatment at the right time minimizes treatment duration and improves treatment results

With proper diagnosis and planning, orthodontic treatment can be easier, more comfortable and shorter in duration. The majority of cases can be treated in 18 months or less. On the other hand, poor timing may result in a lengthy treatment (more than 2 years) with a negative experience and less than satisfactory results.

For adults, the best age for braces is "as soon as possible"!

Teeth continue shifting throughout life and in addition to the cosmetic impact, crooked teeth can be very destructive to your teeth and oral health. Adult orthodontics is gaining popularity especially because of the increased awareness and more discreet treatment options such as Invisalign. As an adult, you should start your orthodontic treatment as soon as it becomes feasible to you. The reasons are simple; first, if you’re unsatisfied about the appearance of your teeth, you will never be! Second, orthodontic problems never get better on their own and almost always get worse with time. Third, orthodontic treatment becomes more complex as new issues arise with age including other dental problems and health problems. We also provide complimentary orthodontic consultations for adults and we specialize in braces and Invisalign for adults.

Dr. Ramzi Daibis is a board-certified orthodontist and the owner of Band & Wire Orthodontics in Clarendon Hills, IL. He specializes exclusively in Invisalign and braces for children and adults. Band & Wire Orthodontics serves Clarendon Hills, Hinsdale, Westmont, Downers Grove, Oak Brook, Willowbrook, Burr Ridge, Western Springs, La Grange, La Grange Park and Chicago.