How to Tell if Your Child Needs Braces
Q: So many children have braces. How can I tell if my child is heading toward needing braces?
A: Children should have a checkup with an orthodontist no later than age 7, says Donald R. Joondeph, D.D.S., M.S., spokesperson for the American Association of Orthodontists. 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 in chewing or biting
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 face
If you notice any of these problems, your child does not have to wait until age 7 to see an orthodontist. You can find general information on the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) website, http://www.braces.org.
Ideal age for braces
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 9 and 14 because kids in this age range have at least some permanent teeth and are still growing.
The majority of orthodontic problems, such as crowding, too much space between teeth, protruding upper teeth, extra or missing teeth, and jaw growth problems are inherited, Dr. Joondeph says. Some other problems develop over time when children suck their thumbs or fingers, breathe through their mouths, or have poor dental hygiene, poor nutrition, or other problems.
When treatment is neglected, dental problems may worsen over time and children, especially in their teen years, may suffer emotional problems associated with feeling far less confident.
Q: I know some adults who have braces, but does orthodontic treatment really work well for adults, too?
A: Today, one in five orthodontic patients is an adult. In fact, the AAO estimates that more than 1 million adults in the United States and Canada are being treated by its members. If your teeth are healthy, an orthodontist can move them at any age.
It is important, however, that any existing problems, such as periodontal disease or worn, damaged, or missing teeth, be addressed first. It is important that your orthodontist work with your regular dentist to assure that you are a good candidate for braces and to increase the likelihood of an excellent outcome.
Once you are fitted with braces, you will be able to continue to live a completely normal life: You will be able to sing, play a musical instrument, dine out, kiss, and have your picture taken. Some modern braces are nearly invisible.