If you find yourself asking this question, you are probably a parent who is anticipating braces for their child in the near future or an adult with a dental problem wondering if they are past the age of seeking help. The truth is, there isn’t a single straight answer. There is a likelihood that two equally qualified orthodontists will give you two different answers. They might also recommend different treatment approaches, as well. This does not mean that one is more right than the other. It simply means there really isn’t a ‘perfect age’ to get braces. However, different factors can help you determine the ideal time for you or your child to start treatment.
In case of a child
Most children will develop a myriad of oral problems as their teeth grow into their gums. The most common issues with children are;
- Excessive overcrowding of teeth. This occurs when there seemingly isn’t enough space for teeth in the mouth. It could be because teeth grew in too large, or a permanent tooth grew over a retained baby tooth.
- Open bites. Open bites are instances when the upper and lower front teeth fail to meet, leaving a gap.
- Overbites: Overbites occur when the upper front teeth protrude past the lower front teeth.
- Underbites: Underbites occur when the lower teeth protrude past the upper teeth.
- Crossbites: Crossbites occur when the upper jaw and lower jaw fail to line up.
In the event of any other above cases, your family dentist will likely recommend a visit to the orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dentist with advanced training, mostly specializing in the aesthetic aspect of dentistry. That includes whitening, straightening, and aligning teeth.
Orthodontists suggest that the ideal age for braces is when the child has shed most of their baby teeth and the permanent teeth start coming in. This is the age where the teeth structure is easily malleable, making treatment easier. For most kids, this age is around 7 years, although it could go up to 14 years depending on the child. After this age, treatment plans will depend on the cause and severity of misalignment of the child’s teeth.
Why Early Orthodontic Screening is Beneficial
However, you do not have to wait until your child is 7 to see an orthodontist. Early and regular screening can have numerous benefits, including;
- Oral problems can be identified earlier and save you money down the road.
- It will be easier to guide teeth for braces, which will reduce the time they have to be worn and produce the desired effect.
- Long-term treatment can be properly determined
Your orthodontist will help you come up with the best treatment plan for your child. Braces can help to;
- Prevent other teeth diseases that might arise from misalignment.
- Change facial structure in the case where teeth and jaws are severely out of place.
- Improve your child’s confidence. Teeth misalignment can change someone’s facial structure as well as reducing the quality of a smile.
- Reduce injury. Crooked teeth carry a higher potential to cause oral injuries than straight teeth.
- Improve speech. Crooked teeth can impact the tongue movement and hinder enunciation of words.
- Reduce tooth grind and wear by aligning the jaw.
Interceptive and Preventive Care
Depending in the age at which you take your child for screening, an orthodontist can recommend either of two treatment plans if necessary;
- Interceptive Care (Phase I Treatment)
- Preventive Care (Phase II Treatment)
An interceptive approach of treatment usually takes place before a child’s permanent teeth start to come in. This is usually the age of 6-10 years. It is meant to take advantage of your child’s growth to guide the intended result as development takes place. It becomes easier to work with the child’s dental and facial structure. It will help create more room for permanent teeth to minimise the chances of problems like overbites and crossbites from developing.
The preventive care plan is started when the child has mainly permanent teeth. This is the ages between 11-13 years for most children. Preventive care is usually done with dental braces. Some orthodontists think that if a parent started their children with interceptive care, preventive care would be much shorter.
As mentioned earlier, even two equally qualified orthodontists may differ in the treatment approaches. Not all experts agree that the two-step treatment plan is necessary. Some claim that it can actually take more time and sometimes, even more, expenses, for generally similar results. However, orthodontists who recommend the two-step treatment plan argue that earlier intervention using other dental hardware makes the correction using braces easier.
Whether your child will need interceptive and/or preventive care will depend on the severity of your child’s dental problems. As such, consult with your orthodontist about the best treatment plan for your child.
In Case of an Adult
There is really no age limit to getting braces. For adults, the best age for braces is ‘as soon as possible. This is because, teeth continue shifting as we age, and the longer you take before seeking treatment, the harder it might become to respond to treatment.
Crooked teeth not only affect your appearance and your confidence, but they can also cause you more dental problems. If at this point in adulthood, you are still not satisfied with your teeth, you probably never will. Also, orthodontic problems never get better on their own. These problems will likely get worse, and give rise to more complex dental or possibly health issues. As such, it is important to seek treatment as soon as it is feasible for you.
You do not have to worry about getting braces at your age. Adult orthodontics is becoming wildly popular because of increased awareness. Also, there are more discreet treatment plans apart from braces such as Invisalign.