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How to Tell If Your Child Needs Braces

Q: So many children have braces. How can I tell if my child may need them and how soon?

A: There are many reasons why a child might benefit from braces. You should have your child start seeing a dentist within six months of the first tooth erupting or by age one. There is no set time to get started. Some problems are best treated as early as possible even when it is still mostly baby teeth in place (ages 6-9). Sometimes it is best to wait until most of the baby teeth have fallen out (ages 10-13). If your child is getting regular dental visits, your dentist will be able to determine when it’s time for minor intervention or a full evaluation for braces.

Here are some signs that a child is likely to benefit from braces:

  • Early, late, or irregular loss of baby teeth

  • Difficulty in chewing or biting

  • 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 face

Q: What causes the need for braces?

A: Most orthodontic problems are genetic, meaning you inherited your space or bite problems. Others develop over time due to thumb- or finger-sucking, mouth breathing, dental decay, accidents, or poor nutrition. Or there is not enough room in the jaws for the teeth so they become crowed or crooked, or the jaws don’t line up properly.

Q: What are the possible benefits of braces for my child?

A: Early diagnosis and successful treatment of certain bite problems can have both short-term and long-term benefits. Other developmental problems aren’t as critical. Indeed, even adults successfully get orthodontic care, although success is usually more predictable in a growing jaw. Any problem classified as a “bad bite” may be minimized with the proper orthodontic treatment, including:

  • Crooked or crowded teeth

  • Missing or extra teeth

  • An overbite or underbite

  • Incorrect jaw position

  • A disorder of the jaw joint

Q: At what age should my child be evaluated for orthodontic care?

A: Evaluation of growth and development and treatment of “bite” problems may begin at various stages of dental development, depending on the problems, growth of the child, risks and benefits of treatment or not treating, and interest and or ability of the practitioner.

Some children may benefit from an orthodontic evaluation as young as age 5 or 6 and others can wait until the baby teeth have fallen out and the permanent teeth are coming into place (ages 10-13). Your general or pediatric dentist will help you determine the best time for evaluation and treatment. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends a first evaluation visit to the orthodontist no later than age 7.

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. Kids in this age range have at least some permanent teeth and are still growing. Some problems, however, are best addressed early, even while mostly baby teeth are present.

“AAO - A Beautiful Smile For Everyone” American Association of Orthodontists. www.youtube.com/watch?v=D41oX_PnAvA Accessed 2013.

“Braces.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/braces Accessed 2013.

Author: Bramnick, Jeffrey

- See more at: oralhealth.deltadental.com/Search/22,21455#sthash.yrjlPc9p.dpuf

Guideline on Management of the Developing Dentition and Occlusion in Pediatric Dentistry www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/G_DevelopDentition.pdf AAPD 2009 Accessed February 13, 2014

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