Roughly 45% of children need braces. Bluntly, our jaws have gotten smaller and our teeth haven’t. Fixing a bite problem can help your child’s self-esteem, reduce further dental problems, and eliminate snoring and lisps. As many as 75% could benefit from braces for cosmetic reasons.
The question in a lot of parents’ minds, thus, is not so much whether their child needs braces, but when.
So, at what age should your child see an orthodontist?
First Orthodontists’ Visit
Your child should see an orthodontist by the age of 7. At this point, enough permanent teeth have come in that an orthodontist can determine the future shape of your child’s teeth and jaw and identify whether they are developing an overbite or underbite. This is the case even if your child’s teeth look fine to you.
The first visit is likely to come up with one of three results:
- The orthodontist decides that your child is fine and will not need orthodontic treatment.
- The orthodontist plans a follow up. Some children have problems which may or may not resolve as they grow, or which are better treated later.
- The orthodontist decides your child would benefit from early treatment. Early treatment is generally aimed at guiding jaw growth and moving permanent teeth into a favorable position as they erupt. This means that some children may need braces as young as 6 years old.
For minor issues, it’s up to you whether your child needs braces, and you should discuss the matter with an orthodontist.
What Are the Signs Your Child May Need Braces?
While many issues corrected by braces are cosmetic, you should consider having your child seen by an orthodontist, even before age 7, if they:
- Are losing their baby teeth sooner than normal.
- Have difficulty chewing, biting, or swallowing.
- Suck their thumb, as this can cause jaw misalignment.
- Speech development is delayed and/or the child lisps.
- Teeth visibly don’t meet.
- The child routinely bites their cheek or the roof of their mouth.
- Their jaw makes odd noises.
- Their lower jaw appears to be either too far forward or too far back.
- They grind their teeth.
All of these are signs of a significant bite problem that can be more easily treated before your child’s jaw and face stop growing. Not treating a bite problem can cause issues later in life. For example, an overbite can cause breathing issues, damage to gums, and speech issues that can be lifelong. They can also cause self-esteem problems from the appearance of the teeth, jaw, and face.
Learn More About When a Child Should Get Braces
Healthy children should have their first visit to an orthodontist at the age of 6 or 7 to ensure they are not developing a bite problem which needs to be treated. Some children, who have the symptoms above, may need to see an orthodontist or pediatric dentist even sooner. You should talk to your dentist about the right timeline for your child.
When, and whether, your child needs braces depends on what the orthodontist finds in these early visits. Braces have come a long way from the ugly ones in use thirty years ago. For less severe problems your child may be fine with Invisalign (clear braces that are essentially invisible). Regardless, it is always a good idea to get your child checked so you can make an educated decision about how to make sure they have a straight and functional smile they will be proud to show off.
If your child needs a consultation with an orthodontist, our pediatric dentists can help. Contact Henry Orthodontics today to make an appointment for your child and help find out the best course of action for them and their mouth.