A question many parents ask when they bring their child to the dentist is, "When should I have my child evaluated for braces?" Many parents notice as their child’s baby teeth fall out and their permanent teeth begin growing in that those permanent teeth aren’t growing in as straight and evenly spaced as the baby teeth. This naturally causes some crowding, and even some alarm. Thankfully, there’s no reason to panic. Orthodontics doesn’t have to be scary or complicated. Here’s what you should know about planning an orthodontic treatment for your child.
How young is too young?
This is a common question we get from parents when it comes to orthodontics. The best age to start a child’s orthodontic treatment is around 6 or 7. Around this age, your child is just beginning to get his or her permanent teeth, and the spacing of the jaw is still easily correctable. Often, parents wait until age 12 or so to begin treatment, which may be later than recommended. That’s because by the age of 12, most children’s jaws have completed about 90 percent of their growth, which means if there’s crowding, more intervention will be needed to create space.
Many years ago dentists or orthodontists "corrected" the problem of jaw spacing by removing perfectly healthy adult teeth (and some practices still do this). Though effective, today many adults who had this procedure find themselves suffering from problems such as sleep apnea due to the excision of those healthy teeth.
The benefit of starting much younger is that needed space can be created, whether via an expander or by putting brackets and wires on just a few teeth. This is what is referred to as phase one braces.
Aren’t phase one braces just going to cost me more money in the long run?
A common misconception many parents have is that when braces are applied in phases, it costs more money; many parents worry that more braces will be needed later, such as at age 12 or into the teen or adult years. The good news is that this isn’t usually true. In fact, if orthodontic intervention occurs early enough, usually later phases cost a lot less because of the initial intervention, so the total cost of the orthodontic treatment is less than it would have been had it been done all at once. Furthermore, applying braces in phases means less treatment will be required later, so your child will be much more comfortable, and will most likely have a much shorter treatment.
Does my child even need braces? His teeth aren’t even that crooked!
Often parents are hesitant to treat their children with orthodontics because they don’t see a problem with their child’s teeth. Unfortunately, that’s simply not always enough of a reason to skip out on braces. Even teeth with minor crowding or misalignment can usually benefit from some orthodontic treatment. That’s because crowded or misaligned teeth can throw off everything from your bite to your ability to clean your teeth. That means your teeth are more likely to get cavities and plaque buildup, and they’re more likely to cause jaw pain and get uneven wear while chewing.
Even if you think your child’s smile is perfect, Dr. Abelar recommends an orthodontic evaluation for every child aged 6 or 7 years old to rule out the need for orthodontics, to begin treatment for orthodontics, or to come up with a future treatment plan somewhere down the road.
To speak to Dr. Abelar about evaluating your child for orthodontics, please call his office at 858-866-9692.