Q: When is the right time to bring my child to the orthodontist?
A: Typically, once the child’s 6-year molars have completely erupted (usually age 7 or 8), it is a good idea to see an orthodontist for a consultation. The majority of children will not require treatment at this age, but it is important to screen early, as for approximately 10% of the population, early treatment is very beneficial.
Q: What is Phase I Treatment?
A: Approximately 10% of patients will require early treatment, also known as Phase I treatment. Phase I treatment can include palate expanders, retainers, bite plates, partial braces, and more. Typically, Phase I treatment is primarily to correct growth problems of the jaws, not to straighten the teeth. In most cases, these patients will also require a second phase, or Phase II treatment, consisting of full mouth braces, to straighten the teeth. Your orthodontist is the only person who can determine if your child will require such treatment, however here are a few indicators that your child may need early treatment: underbite, severe overbite, extremely crowded teeth, crossbite, open-bite, finger-sucking habits, and tongue thrusts. See below for more information on some of the more common problems.
Q: What is the right age to get braces?
A: The right time to start full braces is not based on age, but rather the dental stage a patient is in, and the treatment they require. For patients who do not require a Phase I treatment (also known as early intervention), braces are usually indicated once all of the permanent teeth have fully erupted. On occasion, it may be necessary to begin treatment while there are still only a few baby teeth remaining. It is usually beneficial to have braces while the child is still growing, as the orthodontist can help to guide the jaw growth with braces, optimizing the results. That being said, no one is ever “too old” for braces; as long as your teeth and gums are in good health, anyone is a candidate for braces.
Q: Is my child/teen a candidate for Invisalign or other clear aligners, instead of braces?
A: In most cases, the answer to this question is no. All clear aligner systems available, including invisalign, are constructed based on an initial set of molds or an initial 3D scan. For an adult, this can work very well to straighten their teeth. For a child or teen that is still growing, however, this initial mold does not accommodate for the growth that the child will experience during their treatment, and the results will not be ideal. If the orthodontist is confident that your teen’s mouth will not continue growing, and that all of their permanent are fully erupted, it may be possible to use clear aligners including invisalign.