One of the big questions parents have is when their kid is ready for orthodontic treatment. You are probably seeing a pediatric dentist for your kid. The pediatric dentists do a really good job screening your kid’s teeth and determining when they need to see an orthodontist. If your pediatric dentist notices something out of the ordinary, they will refer you to an orthodontist. American Association of Orthodontics recommends every kid be seen at an orthodontist as early as age 7. This does not necessarily mean your kid will need braces at age 7, but it means that your orthodontist has checked everything to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. Your orthodontist will take some x-rays to check how permanent teeth are coming in and sometimes there is a problem that cannot be seen with naked eyes. There could be a problem with the pattern of eruption of permanent teeth and an x-ray will reveal that. In general, there is no certain age for kids to get braces, but it ranges from 7 to 14 years old. Usually all the permanent teeth come in around age 12 and that is ideally when your kid would be ready for braces. But sometimes, kids need to go through what is called “phase I orthodontic treatment”. Phase I is only recommended in the following cases:
- There is a problem in the growth of the jaw and it needs to be addressed early, especially if your kid has underbite or if there is an underbite history in your family
- If there is a crossbite. Crossbites usually need to be treated immediately as they can affect the growth of the jaws.
- If one or all of the top teeth are growing inside of the bottom teeth. That is also called a crossbite or an underbite. That could cause recession on the teeth and needs immediate attention.
- If there is a problem in the pattern of eruption of permanent teeth. Your child might not necessarily need braces in this case. Sometimes, some baby teeth need to be removed to facilitate the proper eruption of permanent teeth
- If crooked teeth is affecting the psychological well-being of your child, then earlier intervention is recommended.
- If top front teeth are sticking out. People usually refer to it as having an “overbite”. The correct term for it is “excess overjet”.
As you can see, not all kids need Phase I or “early intervention”. But in some cases, early intervention is mandatory. See your orthodontist to find out if your child needs to have braces at an earlier age.
If early intervention is not recommended, then you can wait until around age 12. At age 12, all the permanent teeth are usually in and orthodontic treatment can start. Some kids will not have all their permanent teeth in until age 14. If your kid is older than 14 and all the permanent teeth have not erupted yet, make sure to see an orthodontist as well.