As soon as your little one gets teeth, you may start wondering: what age can kids get braces? As a Chicago orthodontist, I hear this question all the time. But there’s a different answer for every child.
Some kids will never need braces. Others may need treatment in elementary school. While still others can delay braces until their teen years, or even wait until they’re adults.
You see, so many factors affect what age kids can get braces. Part of it is genetics (like the size of your jaw. Or the direction in which your teeth grow.) Proper oral health will also be a factor, as kids need to be great brushers and flossers once those braces come on.
Having said all that, there are some clear answers on what age kids need braces. So today, I’ll cover both the black and white answers, as well as the grey areas. That way, you can make the best decision about when to see the orthodontist with your child.
When Should My Child See the Orthodontist?
As I mentioned, there’s no set age when your child “should” get braces. But the American Academy of Orthodontists (AAO) does recommend having kids get their first orthodontist visit by the time they turn 7. And no later than that.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your 7-year-old will need braces. It just gives me, your Chicago orthodontist, the chance to evaluate your child’s airway, bite and oral health. That way, we can begin to craft an orthodontic health plan. We’ll know which conditions we’ll have to watch and follow. And where early interventions could help or shorten the amount of time your child will spend in braces once treatment begins. And, while there’s no set age when we start putting braces on kids, most will get their braces on between the ages of 9 and 14.
Signs Your Child Needs Braces
Now, what are some of the braces warning signs I look for at that early orthodontist visit? These are some of the ways I decide that kids will need braces, and at what age kids should get braces:
Baby teeth that fall out early or late
Bite and chewing problems
Teeth that are crowded or in the wrong place
Jaw problems, including shifting or clicking
Biting in the roof of the mouth or on the cheeks
Clenching or grinding teeth
If you notice any of these warning signs before your child turns 7, I’m happy to see her or him right away. The sooner we identify issues, the sooner we can start correcting them. Even if we don’t put your child in braces right away.
Benefits of Early Braces Treatment
So, at what age can kids get braces? It seems like orthodontic treatment is starting earlier these days. But studies suggest that some common orthodontic treatments actually work better if you wait until your child’s permanent teeth have all come in. That includes crooked teeth that need teeth straightening. Or “over-jetting” teeth that stick out or protrude from your child’s bite line.
Of course, many parents opt for early braces. Because they want their kids to have a beautiful smile as soon as possible. And not lose self-esteem because of crooked or protruding teeth. I completely understand that desire. I just want you to know that, if you put braces on too early, your child may need braces a second time, after their grown-up teeth come in.
On the other hand, some conditions should be treated as soon as possible. If you ignore a crossbite—when your child’s upper teeth bite down inside their lower teeth—big problems can develop. Some, including damage to their gums, may not be easily reversible. In this case, we may begin braces even before your child turns 9. But we can only make these important decisions if your child sees an orthodontist before he or she turns 7. That way, we have the time and flexibility we need to treat each orthodontic problem at the best possible age.
Orthodontic Treatment for Tweens and Teens
Most kids get their braces at this stage. Sometime between their 11th and 14th birthdays. When kids get their braces in this window, they should have all their adult teeth. That means that we won’t have to worry about shifting results when new teeth come in. So the corrections we make will position your child’s permanent teeth in their optimal position. This should help your child achieve the most function from their smile. Not to mention lasting self-esteem from the permanent smile benefits.
Of course, I understand that teens are sensitive. And, at this age, metal braces may not be your child’s best option. But that doesn’t mean you have to delay or rush braces for your teen. Instead, you may want to explore invisible braces options like Invisalign, which help straighten your teen’s teeth with clear, removable aligners. I’ve treated many patients with this method. And while it’s not right for everyone, Invisalign can be a great option if your child is worried about how he or she will look with braces.
While lots of parents wonder what age kids can get braces, orthodontic treatment isn’t just for children. In fact, one in five of today’s orthodontic patients are adults—meaning over 1 million grown-ups are getting braces, retainers or other forms of orthodontics every year.
Braces for adults are very effective. And many adults choose invisible braces to minimize disruptions to your work or home life. Treatment may take a little longer, but you can still get that beautiful smile you’ve always dreamed of. First, though, we do have to address your oral health. If you have damaged teeth or gums, we’ll have to treat existing problems before beginning your orthodontic treatment. That way we can deliver the best possible outcomes. And leave you with a healthy, lasting smile.
So, one more time: at what age can kids get braces? Any age that suits their orthodontic needs. Child or adult, I’m your Chicago orthodontist. Schedule a consultation, and we’ll work together to give your child (or yourself) that healthy, aligned, optimal smile!