The Right Age for Braces
Thursday February 5, 2004
Dear Dr. Mady: My child is now eight years old and her teeth are already crowded. We asked our dentist when she should see an orthodontist for braces and he said twelve is a good age for most kids. Is this usually the age for braces and can they be put on earlier if we want and will braces work for an adult like myself? – Jill in Lasalle, On
Dear Jill: This question about your daughter is one that I entertain on a regular basis in my own practice. There really is no simple answer to that question because it is situation specific. If you notice a problem with your child’s teeth at any age, it is acceptable to have an orthodontic evaluation.
Common obvious problems may include but are not limited to crowded teeth and a distinctive overbite. Sometimes even if minor abnormalities exist, treatment won’t be needed or begin until adolescence. In general it is a good idea to have an orthodontist see your child around the age of seven. At this point in development, the first permanent molars are usually erupted and several other permanent teeth may have come in. The orthodontist can tell clinically and radiographically whether problems may be developing or not.
Even if braces aren’t placed, the orthodontist often can make current treatment recommendations that will help the future situation. These immediate options could possibly decrease the amount of time that orthodontic appliances are going to be required for later and may also decrease the cost of treatment. The exact recommendations will vary from child to child, but a consultation around the age of seven or even eight is an excellent option and will also educate parents to a certain degree.
Problems that are very easy to correct at an earlier age, may require much more extensive treatment later if ignored and may be financially devastating also. I have even seen a child as young as four years old that required orthodontic intervention. Early detection may even help achieve a better end result especially due to the fact that corrections are easier while the jaws are still growing. After growth is completed, although not impossible, orthodontics is a more difficult task.
The thing to remember is that orthodontic problems are very difficult for a parent to recognize because they mostly do not cause pain. Basically you are not alerted if something is wrong. Orthodontists are experts in straightening teeth but in addition to that they are highly trained in understanding the concept of growth and development of the jaws, mouth and face. They know and understand how things should be.
I find that most young children do not end up needing treatment until approximately the age of twelve, but like previously stated, this age will vary. Problems to look for early on may include thumb sucking, front teeth that don’t meet when biting, protruded teeth, overlapping or crowded front teeth, or permanent teeth that aren’t coming in after the primary teeth have fallen out.
If you have any concerns, ask your dentist for a referral now just to get the facts. In answer to your question about yourself, you are never too old to get braces. Even though it is easier to do at young age, healthy teeth can be moved at any age!
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5