Orthodontics for Children
While there is no exact age for children to begin orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends visiting the orthodontist no later than age 7. By this age, most children have a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth, making it easier for the orthodontist to diagnose and identify any potential issues that might need to be addressed sooner rather than later depending on growth, development, and eruption of permanent teeth.
Early treatment allows your orthodontist to:
- Help the permanent teeth come in when and where they should
- Create more space for crowded teeth
- Manage crowding to try and avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions down the road
- Monitor, guide, or correct the growth of your child's jaw
- Regulate the width of the upper and lower arches
- Eliminate any crossbite in the front or the back that could contribute to bite issues, jaw issues, gum issues, or possible trauma
- Correct a thumb sucking habit
- Address any social or esthetic concerns your child might have
Here are a few things to look for that may mean your child needs to see an orthodontist:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Crowded front teeth around age 7 or 8
- Crowded, misplaced, or blocked out teeth
- Teeth that come together abnormally, or do not come together at all
- Finger or thumb sucking habit
Does every child need early treatment?
Nope! While some children need early treatment for the issues described above, more often than not, we just need to monitor growth and eruption with orthodontic “check-ups”, called growth observation appointments, every 6-12 months starting at age 7. These growth observation visits are all completely free, but they are extremely important. We update your child’s photos, take a look at his/her teeth, and take one or two x-rays (if needed) to evaluate your child’s teeth and growth. These visits help us get to know your child’s teeth and how he/she is growing, so we can start treatment at the ideal time, which usually ends up being around age 11 or 12.
What does early treatment for children look like?
If needed, most early treatment for children, known as Phase I, consists of a braces on the top front 4 teeth, bands or braces on the top 6-year molars, and sometimes braces on a few bottom teeth. If your child has a crossbite in the back, an expander is usually needed to widen the upper jaw and eliminate the crossbite. Treatment of crossbite correction, is most beneficial and effective starting at age 8 because of growth patterns (how and when your upper and lower jaws grow) and tooth eruption patterns. If we see your child at age 7 for an initial consultation, we can catch any of these problems early to address them and make future treatment easier and usually faster.
Orthodontics for Adolescents or Teens
Most adolescents no longer have any baby teeth around age 11 or 12, their 12-year molars are on their way in, and they are growing—all variables we evaluate to determine a patient's readiness for orthodontic treatment. Growth, development, and timing is different for each individual though. Some adolescents are ready for braces or Invisalign® sooner, and some might be slightly delayed from a growth or tooth eruption standpoint and might not be ready for orthodontic treatment until age 15. When you come in for your initial consultation, we will evaluate if your child/teenager is ready for treatment and if not, when he or she will be ready based on his/her growth, development, and tooth eruption.
What are the options for my teenager or soon-to-be teenager?
Both braces and Invisalign® are options for almost every patient. The only caveat is that Invisalign® only works if you wear it. Some patients (children, teens, and adults) admit that remembering to wear their aligners 20-22 hours per day and switch them out weekly can be challenging. We will give you tips on how to remember, but for some, braces might be a better option for your lifestyle and activities. We will talk to you about the pros and cons and what might be best for your teen.
How long does orthodontic treatment typically take?
The amount of time it takes to treat your smile with braces depends on several key factors:
- What needs correction — Treatment times vary depending on the complexity of your treatment. We will evaluate your teeth and bite and will determine your specific treatment plan and expected treatment time.
- Growth — Growth is a variable we unfortunately can't completely control (we as orthodontists really really wish we could), but we evaluate the direction and timing of your jaw growth and factor that growth into our treatment plan to determine the timing of getting started and if growth modification is needed.
- YOU! — Your willingness to wear your rubber bands (if needed) plays a major role in the length of time it takes to complete your treatment. Also taking care of your braces and avoiding the hard, sticky, and chewy foods that can sometimes cause breakage of appliances, will keep you on track with treatment. We will give you all of the specifics you need to know to get you in and out of braces or Invisalign® within the estimated treatment time.
Orthodontics for Adults
There has been a very noticeable trend towards more and more adults seeking out orthodontic treatment, and the number of adults seeking orthodontic treatment has increased significantly in more recent years with the onset of COVID and many individuals working remotely. Being close to the camera, whether it be on FaceTime or Zoom, people are noticing their teeth more and are investing in orthodontic treatment to correct shifting that has occurred since they had braces as a teen or for some, for the first time ever. Whatever the case may be, there are tons of adults in orthodontic treatment and there are options to fit every lifestyle. The American Association of Orthodontists states that one in five orthodontic patients is over the age of 21.
Treatment options for adults:
Is Invisalign® an option for me? Many adults come in asking about Invisalign or clear aligners and if they are a candidate. The answer is almost always yes.
The technology behind Invisalign® treatment has improved significantly over the years and its capabilities are wide-ranging. We are able to show you a simulation of what your teeth will look like at each stage of the process of aligning your teeth and correcting your bite, and we can do so even before you get started with treatment. Invisalign® is a great option for adults for many reasons, but some of the main reasons why adults prefer Invisalign® is because it is an esthetic option, it allows you to take treatment at your own pace (we will help figure out the best schedule for you), have fewer emergency visits, travel for long periods of time while still being monitored closely, or even live elsewhere for a portion of the year. Whatever your life looks like, we can almost always make Invisalign® treatment work for you and your treatment goals.
Braces are also a great option for adults. Some adult patients prefer not having to remember to change their Invisalign® trays on a weekly basis, and some want the fun colors that they may have missed out on as a teenager.
Why should you consider orthodontic treatment?
- Straight teeth are healthy teeth — Teeth that are properly aligned are easier to keep clean with flossing and brushing, and may help prevent other dental or health problems.
- Be confident in your smile – You should never be self-conscious about your teeth or smile. If straighter teeth and a more confident smile is something you want for yourself, we have treatment options available for you and flexible financing to make it possible to give you the confidence you want and need in your smile.
- Crowding usually gets worse as you get older — Unfortunately not many things get better as we get older, and crowding is one of those things, especially in the lower front area. If you have experienced this crowding or any shifting of your teeth and bite as an adult, we can help correct it and help you maintain your newly straightened teeth with retainers for the rest of your life.