When Are Braces Necessary?
Q: So many children have braces. How can I tell if my child may need them?
A: Children should have a checkup with an orthodontist no later than age 7.1 Your regular dentist is an excellent resource who can tell you whether your child, regardless of age, would benefit from seeing an orthodontist. Here are some things to look for, indicating that a child is likely to benefit from seeing an orthodontist:
Early, late, or irregular loss of baby teeth
Difficulty chewing or biting
Breathing through the mouth
Thumb or finger sucking
Crowding, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth
Jaws that shift or make sounds
Biting the cheek or roof of the mouth
Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
Jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face2
If you notice any of these problems, your child does not have to wait until age 7 to see an orthodontist.2 You can find general information on the American Association of Orthodontists Web site, www.braces.org.
Q: What is the best age to be fitted with braces?
A: The best age varies from patient to patient. Orthodontic treatment most commonly begins between ages 8 and 14 because kids in this age range have at least some permanent teeth and are still growing.1
Many orthodontic problems, such as crowding, too much space between teeth, protruding upper teeth, extra or missing teeth, and jaw growth problems, are inherited. Some other problems develop over time when children suck their thumbs or fingers; breathe only through their mouth; or have poor dental hygiene, poor nutrition, or other problems.2
Talk with your child’s orthodontist about the best time to begin treatment. Some dental problems will benefit from early treatment, while a wait-and-see approach may be better for other situations.2
Q: I know some adults who have braces, but does orthodontic treatment really work well for adults, too?
A: One in five orthodontic patients is an adult. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists estimates that more than 1 million adults in the U.S. and Canada are being treated by its members.3 If your teeth are healthy, it’s never too late to begin orthodontic treatment.1
It is important, however, that any existing problems—such as periodontal (gum) disease or worn, damaged, or missing teeth—be addressed first. It is important that your orthodontist work with your regular dentist to ensure that you are a good candidate for braces.3
Once you are fitted with braces, you will be able to continue to live a completely normal life: You will be able to play a musical instrument, dine out, kiss, participate in sports, and have your picture taken.1,2 Some modern braces are nearly invisible.4
1 “Braces and Orthodontics.” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/2598.aspx?currentTab=2 Accessed 2010.
2 “Learn When To Call Your Dentist.” American Association of Orthodontists. www.braces.org/learn/When-Should-I-Start.cfm Accessed 2010.
3 “Oral Health: Braces and Orthodontics Frequently Asked Questions” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/2598.aspx?currentTab=2#adultbraces Accessed 2010.
4 “Myths and Facts” American Association of Orthodontists. www.braces.org/mythsandfacts/myths2.cfm Accessed 2010.