Getting orthodontic treatment when young can help a person grow into adulthood with fewer issues relating to their teeth and jaw and is usually much less expensive than trying to correct any of these concerns later. The trend in orthodontics used to be to wait until the teenage years when the adult teeth had already grown in. However, there is considerable evidence that shows the earlier treatment begins, the fewer problems will arise later in life. This approach can also give a good foundation for any treatment courses that will be undertaken as teenagers or adults.
By the age of 6 or 7, overcrowded teeth, overbites, underbites, or cross bites can already be seriously affecting the long-term shape of a person’s face particularly in their jaw and chin. Protruding teeth can be easily chipped, knocking out milk teeth too early or if the adult tooth has already come in requiring a long term solution.
Many of these concerns can also affect their speech patterns and ability to shape certain letters. Jaw and palate development are extremely important to a child’s ability to learn speech and if an impediment develops it may lead to unwanted attention that could take a significant amount of time to correct later.
The bones in a child’s face are still malleable and corrective procedures can be less painful and require less time to complete as well. As teenagers or adults, the facial bone structure has already strengthened and correction can take more invasive or longer procedures. Beginning young can also set a good foundation if there are future treatments to be done by correcting the basic problem areas first. For example, overcrowded teeth can be corrected quite easily in a 6 or 7-year-old with interceptive orthodontics (aka Phase I) that will expand the jaw to allow the teeth space to come through the gum.
Interceptive (Phase I) orthodontics are meant to intercede in the growth of a child’s jaw and bite structure at an early enough age to more gently and effectively realign them. This approach can create better conditions for Phase II treatments as teenagers.
The recommended age for a child to see an orthodontist is by the age of seven as at that age, an orthodontist will be able to determine many of the issues that may not be visibly noticeable until later. Caught early, bite and other oral problems can be treated or monitored effectively without waiting until more complex issues arise. An under- or overbite, for example, can lead to various issues with the jaw, tooth decay, or speech impediments.
The end goal of treating a young child with orthodontics is to reduce the need for later treatment as much as possible. It may not completely remove the need for future braces as a teenager or adult, but it will create the best environment to help facilitate those more complex procedures. Another benefit to visiting an orthodontist when young is that it will help lead to a lifelong practice of regular dental checkups and proper care for their teeth.
Orthodontic Treatment Ages 11 and Up
There are a number of treatments that may occur as a child ages. If they have gone through the Phase I, interceptive orthodontics, then they will be well-positioned for the best results. If they have not, then treatment may simply take a little longer and be potentially more expensive and/or invasive.
Braces are perhaps the most common orthodontic treatment. There are a few types of braces which come in a variety of styles and materials. Generally, they are put on between the ages of 9 and 14 with many older teens and adults also using them later on if circumstances prohibited getting them when they were younger.
Most braces come in grey metal or metallic silver but newer options for clear aligners and clear ceramic braces are becoming very popular as well. Clear ceramic braces are less noticeable, for example, than metal and can be clear, tooth-colored, or several other color options.
The most commonly used types of braces are:
Traditional – These are the metal braces that attach to each tooth with cement and adjust the teeth through the use of wires and o-rings. These braces require regular checkups by the orthodontist who will tighten them periodically. They typically work the fastest of the different kinds but are also the most noticeable.
Ceramic – These replace the noticeable grey metal with clear or tooth-colored ceramic making them easier to blend in. They can take longer than metal to make the necessary adjustments but many feel the less obtrusive style of them is worth the trade-off.
Damon – These are also attached to the individual teeth but use sliders instead of o-rings to make adjustments and are overall a more gentle approach. These also do not require as many visits to the orthodontist as they do not need to be tightened in the same way as the regular metal braces are.
Clear Aligners – These are clear molds made specifically to fit over the teeth and gradually adjust their alignment. They are replaced every two weeks and are simply taken in and out whenever someone wants to eat or drink. They are not able to correct all types of teeth alignment issues but overall do a very good job while being great unnoticeable.
For children, teenagers, and adults a great smile matters to their overall sense of self. An extreme or pronounced bite issue can affect the shape of someone’s face and are often used as a descriptive term, and whether meant kindly or not, can leave a lasting impression.
Everyone’s teeth has an impact on the health of their mouth and gums, and it is important to have them regularly checked. Starring around 6 or 7 years of age, many issues can be quickly and gently corrected without long expensive procedures and creating a healthy beautiful smile for everyone. The lifelong habits and care that can develop from early visits and the importance placed on overall dental care can have a long lasting impact on children as well resulting in multiple benefits for them.