Orthodontics for children – at what years of age should you start?

Many people wonder at what the page you can start taking a child to an orthodontist, what treatments can be offered and what problems can be resolved?

This article is dedicated to answering those questions.

What is the best age to get braces

The thought of our braces is very often about straightening crooked teeth, however there is a whole treatment area around preventive orthodontics. This type of orthodontics is started on children that are very young and seeks to prevent teeth from becoming crooked in the 1st place by identifying child hood dental and your relationships which can lead to crooked teeth in adolescence and adulthood.

This type of early intervention orthodontics for children can begin at around age of 5 years old, this does not always mean a 5-year-old wearing braces but it does mean that the treatment plan is developed and possibly baby teeth are trimmed or moved to make way for adult teeth and to prevent them erupting in the wrong place.

There is therefore quite a significant difference between starting on orthodontic treatment and having braces, orthodontic treatment when looking at it from a preventive point of view may not necessarily mean wearing braces until later in life, however it does mean taking an active role in preventing crooked teeth in the first place.

In 2014 Dimberg et al wrote a paper in the Journal of orthodontics which said:

“The scientific evidence was considered strong since four studies with high level of quality reported that malocclusions have negative effects on oral health-related quality of life , predominantly in the dimensions of emotional and social wellbeing.”

The impact of malocclusion on the quality of life among children and adolescents: a systematic review of quantitative studies

This is why many dental practices recommend seeking early intervention orthodontics to ensure the child grows into a happy and healthy adult.

Tooth problems to look out for in children

crossbite and open bite

in this example you can see that the back teeth, particularly on the left of the photograph, sit on the inside of the bottom teeth. This is called a crossbite. There is also an open bite at the front where the top teeth are not lapping over the bottom teeth. This can often be caused by sucking either a dummy, fingers or a thumb.

deep bite in children
deep bite

In this example the top teeth bite far too deep over the top teeth covering them completely, this can either be caused by an overdeveloped top jaw or an underdeveloped lower jaw. Early intervention orthodontics can help the bones form in the correct way as the child develops into adolescence, this can then help to correct this problem in adulthood thereby meaning this child probably won’t need braces later on in life.

crowded teeth
crowded teeth

Crowding can also start at a very young age. Typically if there isn’t enough room for the baby teeth then there is likely that there won’t be enough room for the adults teeth. Early intervention orthodontics can help the jaws develop so that there is enough room by the time your child reaches maturity. Ideally this type of early intervention orthodontics should start at around 5 years of age, at least to get an idea of a treatment plan and decide when the actual orthodontics will begin… Typically around 8 years old.

What age is recommended for a child get braces? Is 10 too young?

this seems to be a very common question, perhaps people are thinking often about braces as a child moves into the age of double digits at 10?

However orthodontics can begin earlier than 10 years old and in many ways is far better. Orthodontics not only moves teeth but moves bone as well, this is far easier to do as your child is developing and growing and this process begins many years before the age of 10.

Some people don’t start orthodontics until 13 years old however at this point your child’s development is slowing down rapidly. If you start orthodontics at a younger age, anywhere between 5 and 8 years old then the orthodontic treatment can work in conjunction with your Charles bone development and growth.

This is particularly important if the orthodontic treatment is caused by skeletal underdevelopment.

Up to which age can I have orthodontic treatment? What is the braces age limit?

This goes to the other end of the spectrum from children, with modern orthodontic treatments such as Invisalign or Damon braces which can move teeth fairly discreetly and rapidly patients are having orthodontic treatment older and older, sometimes into their 60s!

It’s never too late.

Why do more children need braces nowadays?

Another great question!

Consensus of opinion and research seems to show that there is a mix of genetics and lifestyle which causes people to need braces.

In modern society the following aspects seem to have contributed to malocclusion:

  • Posture. Continuously looking down as we walk or perhaps looking down at mobile devices all of the time means that the muscles around our head, face and neck are not in their natural position. This can then put tension on the bone during developmental stages.
  • Not chewing food enough. When we chew we build the muscles of our tongue and muscles of mastication. These muscles work together keeping the teeth and jaws in a natural neutral position, if we don’t exercise these muscles enough then this can affect development and the position of our teeth.
  • Thumb sucking. When a child sucks it’s some it not only moves the teeth but moves the bone also, there is a considerable amount of pressure put on the roof of the mouth during this habit. If the bone is moved then adults teeth will come through in the wrong position also meaning this childhood habit has consequences right the way through adult life.

Professor John Mew says:

“The ideal development of the jaws and teeth is dependent on correct oral posture with the tongue resting on the palate, the lips sealed and the teeth in light contact for between four and eight hours a day.”

Will braces still work as well for an 18-year-old?

Braces will still work however by the age of 18 all of the primary bone growth has already occurred. This limits the scope of the orthodontist as they are unable to work with the bones as they grow, this is why starting orthodontics as early as possible has extreme benefits.

Orthodontics will still definitely work at 18 years old to straighten teeth however there may be additional requirements such as orthognathic surgery if the malocclusion is severe.

If the teeth are just crooked or need alignment then braces at the age of 18 will normally be absolutely fine.

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