Getting braces is the type of thing seemingly reserved for adolescence, right between “too early” and “too late.” But while we did establish that nobody is too old for braces, getting braces at an early age might rub other people the wrong way. For one, concerned parents might be worried about any injuries their child might get wearing them. For another, it might seem too pre-emptive to give your kid braces while their teeth are still developing. When should your child see an orthodontist, then?
Of course, you might want to take some factors into consideration more than others. Whether their permanent teeth have emerged is one primary consideration. Another is the severity of your child’s condition. Regardless of what factors make you choose, there’s no shame in bringing your child to the orthodontist early. After all, prevention is the best cure. The earlier you resolve your child’s budding oral problems, the easier it is to handle them as they grow older.
That said, when should your child see an orthodontist?
The earlier the evaluation, the better
It might seem counterintuitive to take your child to the orthodontist. Especially if they still have most of their baby teeth. And it is—you don’t typically put braces on teeth that should fall off anyway. Once their permanent teeth come in, however, it’s a whole different story. Here, an orthodontist can determine whether the teeth are growing in the right alignment, or if intervention is needed.
Nowadays, orthodontists recommend children have their first orthodontic evaluation as early as seven or nine. At this point, children begin to lose their baby teeth and start developing a good portion of their adult set. Once most of their permanent teeth have emerged, the orthodontist has enough material to assess their teeth’s growth patterns.
If 7-9 years still feels a little too early (or too late) for you, there’s another way to tell whether your child is ready for a trip to the orthodontist. During your kid’s regular dental visit, you can ask their pediatric dentist if they can check your child’s dental age. This age refers to the level of maturity their permanent teeth are at, which may differ from their actual age. Once their permanent teeth are well set, it might be time to take them to the orthodontist.
Take your kids to the orthodontist at any sign of alignment trouble
Sometimes trouble starts before your child reaches seven years of age, or before they reach the right dental maturity. You can attribute this to several factors. Maybe their baby teeth came off too early. Perhaps your kids inherited a trait that causes their teeth to grow crooked.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait to get these problems treated. If your kids begin to show any sign of crooked teeth or crowding, you can bring them straight to the orthodontist to have them checked.
According to Mayo Clinic, some orthodontists may prescribe a “two-phase approach.” Here, the child uses oral appliances to correct the misalignment early on. They then graduate to braces when they’re older. Using this approach apparently cuts down the length of time your child needs to have braces on and the risks associated with it. Others caution against this, saying that the results don’t differ from going straight-to-braces. Regardless, you, your child, and their dentist can consult together on what the best course of action is.