If you’re like most parents, some days you feel woefully lacking in knowledge of what’s best for your child. It’s not like they come with instructions; even if they did, no two children are alike.
It was a no-brainer to take your child to their first dentist appointment by their first birthday or after they got their first tooth. But what do you do when you notice a tooth coming in crooked or an obvious overbite issue?
Should you take your child to the orthodontist right away? How young is too young for braces anyway? These are all good questions, says Dr. Jean Seibold McGill at McGill Orthodontics in Easton and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, but the answer may not be as specific as you’d like.
When it comes to orthodontics and your child’s age, resist the temptation to think in terms of chronological age. Healthy teeth can be moved into optimal alignment at virtually any age. While there’s no magic ideal age for your child to get braces, there are some important rules of thumb and recommendations.
Let’s continue unpacking this topic by defining the difference between active treatment time and a preliminary orthodontic evaluation. Typically, when you think about your child getting braces, your mind immediately goes to how old they are when they begin the actual treatment process. This phase is called active treatment time — that period when they’re wearing their braces.
Before any of that happens is an important initial step called an orthodontic evaluation. This evaluation takes place years before active treatment begins. In fact, one of the possible outcomes actually determines whether your child needs braces in the first place.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, all children should see an orthodontist for an orthodontic evaluation no later than age seven or at the first sign of a problem like an overbite, underbite, or problems with things like chewing.
At this point, your child’s jaw and face are still growing. They have a good mix of permanent and baby teeth, which allows your orthodontist to gather enough data to determine whether an orthodontic issue exists or is developing.
If your orthodontist detects a potential future issue, the evaluation also includes a road map for future treatment, such as when it should begin, recommended treatment options, and an estimate of the active treatment time.
Here at McGill Orthodontics, we find that a vast majority of our patients whom we determine need future orthodontic work aren’t ready for active treatment at the time of their orthodontic evaluation. Instead, we typically enter a watch and wait phase.
During this time, your child may need to come in for periodic visits for us to check and monitor the development of their future orthodontic issue.
By carefully monitoring the situation, we’re better able to assess the right time to begin treatment. During this phase, we may choose to manage the eruption of permanent teeth by strategically extracting primary (baby) teeth. We may also use an interceptive appliance like an expander to make room for the eruption of their remaining teeth.
Although it varies, generally the sweet spot for children to enter the active treatment phase is between the ages of 9-14. During this age range, your child is still growing, but they have plenty of permanent teeth. Once your child gets braces or clear aligners, they’ll come in for regular checkups to monitor the progress of teeth movement and make adjustments to their treatment plan as needed.
Although today’s orthodontics plays out in much shorter treatment times than in the past, you should expect your child to be in active treatment for an average of 22 months. Your orthodontist determines the length of treatment by factoring in things like the severity of the issue being treated and the type of oral appliance being used to correct the issue.
Once treatment is complete, your orthodontist recommends a retainer to maintain your child’s new teeth positioning and prevent them from shifting back into poor alignment, undoing all your hard work.
If you’re concerned about how your child’s teeth are coming in and want to know if they need braces, contact McGill Orthodontics to schedule an orthodontic consultation. Call our office most convenient to you or request your appointment online today.