Want to know one of the most common questions I get as an orthodontist?
What’s the right age for my kid to get braces?
You’re trying to make the best choice possible for your children, and I totally get that. But for many kids, there’s no perfect age to get braces. I wish I could tell you “OK, on your kid’s 9th birthday, it’s time to bring them in to see an orthodontist.”
Short answer? Bring your kids in whenever you’re worried about their teeth. Most problems aren’t serious until the child is 6 years old.
But what factors actually influence the optimal age for your child to get braces? And what are we trying to accomplish with braces, anyway?
When Is It Time for an Orthodontic Evaluation?
First of all, we don’t want to use braces until your child has lost most of their baby teeth, and after most of their permanent teeth have finished coming in. For most kids, that happens between their 8th and 14th birthdays.
Sometimes there can be problems that get worse with time. In order to prevent those problems from becoming serious, we do a little orthodontic work when your child is younger. That makes results from Invisalign or braces much better later on.
It’s for this reason that the American Association of Orthodontics and pediatricians recommend that kids see an orthodontist for an evaluation when they’re 7 years old or older—again, it helps preempt major changes and decide the correct course of action for giving your kids the best smile possible.
After that, deciding when to begin treatment with braces depends on the severity of your child’s misalignment, plus the time it takes for their permanent teeth to grow in.
Single-Phase Vs. Two-Phase Orthodontic Treatment
20 years ago, we realized that by starting treatment early—even when the child still has baby teeth—that we could reduce the severity of problems in the mouth. We could extract less and prevent injury to the teeth, and we could reduce bullying many children experience from having large spaces or misaligned teeth.
The problem is that orthodontists started to treat everyone in two separate phases. Academic institutions across the country conducted studies to find out if two-phase treatment was really superior or appropriate for most kids. The University of North Carolina discovered that two-phase orthodontic treatment is only warranted in about 33% of kids.
We don’t like the idea of two-phase treatment. Think about it—do you really want your child to have braces twice? Instead, we conduct interceptive treatment meant to intercept and prevent issues before they become more problematic.
In addition, we only do so in cases where your child will greatly benefit from interceptive treatment. The fact is, orthodontic practices have financial incentive to recommend two-phase treatment. As a startup practice, we never sacrificed our commitment to patient happiness to grow our practice.
The vast majority of the children we saw during our first few years did not need early treatment, despite what you may read on other websites.
When two-step treatment is actually needed, we typically begin the finishing step after the adult teeth have come in, ideally before your child enters high school.
Here’s the truth about two-phase and single-phase treatment…
Each and every child should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis!
While some kids may benefit from the preemptive treatment of the two-phase approach, others will see better results from the single-phase treatment. And the good news is that some kids don’t need braces at all!
The Right Choice
There’s no date set in stone to begin your child’s orthodontic treatment. The best way to see amazing results for your kids is to meet with the right orthodontist to discuss the severity of your child’s misalignment and figure out the best treatment plan possible.
Remember, your child’s smile is unique.
Your orthodontist will help you weigh the pros and cons of each treatment method and get you and your child started on the path to a better, happier smile.