If your 7-year-old child’s dentist mentioned getting an orthodontic consultation, it probably threw you for a loop.
We typically think braces are more a rite of passage for our middle school and maybe high school years. In actuality though, the recommended age for an initial orthodontic evaluation is around 7 years old.
Why Is Early Evaluation Important?
At around 7 years of age, your child’s first adult teeth will start to come in so it is a good time to have that initial checkup. This will allow the orthodontist to catch any serious issues like malocclusions, crossbites, narrow jaws, or protruding teeth that could prevent normal development from progressing. Sometimes protrusion can be so severe that the teeth are at high-risk for being damaged.
If these issues are identified, then your orthodontist may recommend Phase 1 treatment to address any underlying skeletal issues. For example, sometimes the upper or lower jaw is either growing too much or not enough causing alignment and crowding issues.
Phase 1 treatment may include expansion, active retainers or partial braces that typically last from 9-18 months. After completing Phase 1, the child will wear a retainer and have regular checkups every six to 12 months until all the permanent teeth are in. Then if needed, your orthodontist may recommend Phase II care.
Not Every Child Needs Early Treatment
There are some factors to consider if you are considering early treatment for your child. Number one, your child’s treatment may take a little longer if there are still baby teeth in the mouth. If there are adult teeth that haven’t fully erupted, you may have to wait until the permanent teeth are at least visible in the gums before placing the bracket. Rarely, a child’s growth pattern is longer than average, and it’s possible to outgrow their corrections and re-treatment later in life may be necessary.
If you are nervous about taking your child in for an early evaluation, remember that most children won’t need treatment until 10-14 years of age. If your child does need early treatment, remember that you are making the right choice for your child and giving them the best chance at a happy, healthy smile for the rest of their life!
Phase 2 is what you would consider typical orthodontic treatment. The most common orthodontic treatments included in phase 2 are metal braces, Invisalign aligners, and clear ceramic braces. Here is what you need to know:
A combination of metal and wires that slowly move your teeth into better alignment is the most traditional approach. The metal brackets are adhered to your teeth and can only be removed by the orthodontist at the end of the treatment. At each visit, the orthodontist will slowly tighten the wires to shift your teeth into a better position. There are certain food and drink restrictions with this type of treatment, and typically you will have to wear them for up to three years. However, most bite and alignment issues can be successfully treated with metal braces.
Treatment will Invisalign consists of wearing removable clear plastic aligners. You will receive a new set of aligners every two weeks or so as your teeth gradually shift into a better position. Besides being practically invisible, these aligners can be removed while you eat and drink and brush your teeth.
This means there are not as many restrictions as there are with metal braces. However, you must make sure you keep the aligners in for at least twenty to twenty-two hours a day in order for them to be effective. There might be some bite or alignment issues that can’t be fixed with this type of treatment.
If having braces that are pretty much invisible to other people is important to you, ceramic braces is another option you can choose. Brackets made of tooth-colored ceramic blends in more easily than the metal brackets.