What Age should my child need braces?
Taking your children to see a dentist can start as soon as they are born. Just getting used to the clinical environment is helpful. When teeth start coming through, your dentist can look to check everything is ok. But when should they see an orthodontist?
Most children are ready for braces by the age of 12 but some need to be seen earlier than that. Your dentist will keep an eye on your childrens’ developing teeth. There are some things that need checking earlier than 12 years of age, because some teeth can go off course. There are some treatments that need starting earlier than that.
In young children the upper jaw grows until around the age of 10. The lower jaw continues to grow for a long time after that. So there is an element of the lower jaw catching up. Sometimes the upper front teeth are so prominent that they are statistically more likely to be damaged in a child around the age of 10. For this reason, early treatment is required. This needs to be balanced with the need to start treatment with a fixed brace later on. It works best if the early treatment for prominent teeth moves seamlessly into fixed brace treatment. This can’t happen unless the last of the baby teeth have gone or are near to coming out.
What type problems should I think about?
If teeth are late coming through ask your dentist if the teeth are coming through at the right time. We are particularly concerned that the upper canine teeth are coming down and like to be able to see these in the gum by the age of 8-10 years of age. Often this can be a reason for early referral to see an orthodontist. Other teeth can go off course too.
Prominent upper front teeth (increased overjet) can be treated early in some cases and this reduces the risk of damage to the front teeth. If early treatment is not possible then wearing a mouth guard during any activity that risks trauma is advisable. If the vertical overlap between the teeth is increased, this is called increase overbite and can be related to gum trauma. An increased overbite with no trauma, may not need treatment but your orthodontist can advise you on this.
Crossbites: Sometimes the upper front teeth develop behind the lower teeth. This can cause uneven wear on the teeth and can prevent the jaw biting properly. This can lead to jaw joint problems, in some cases, if untreated.
Occasionally widening of the teeth is required but more if there is a bite problem associated with the teeth, rather than just to create space. Sometimes space can be made to allow teeth to come down. This is more often the case where baby teeth had to be removed early due to holes developing. If the baby second molars are removed for this reason, the adult first molars develop too far forward. This then leaves very little space for the second premolars to come through. If this occurs removal of the second premolars can be considered but sometimes space can be opened up for these teeth.
Habits such as thumb or finger sucking are a common problem and there are things which can be done to help. When sucking fingers or thumbs, the upper teeth tend to develop forwards of their ideal position and also tend to be spaced. The lower teeth tend to lean back and are more often crowded. The teeth in the upper jaw tend to be narrower because of the tongue being lower down in the mouth. This leads to the upper teeth biting on the inside of the lower teeth. The whole issue can make your child feel more self conscious and more likely to continue thumb or finger sucking as a comforting aid.
For many people the habit reduces down to just need for getting to sleep. For others treatment is needed, either because of the way the bite is developing or as a way of helping to reduce the habit.
There are some problems that your dentist may not be so happy monitoring for you and this is where orthodontists are very useful. Good monitoring of the bite can lead to a reduced need for treatment later on. Also it can give you peace of mind that someone is checking that your child’s teeth are developing in the right way.
An orthodontist can tell you whether the spacing between your child’s teeth is a good thing. Upper spacing is common in the 8-10 year age range. The lower jaw may still be catching up in growth. The lower face, in general, still has lots of potential growth. An orthodontist can tell you whether these factors are ok, or whether they are part of a problem that needs intervention or just monitoring.
What age is the right age?
The earliest treatments are started at around the age of 8 and tend to be for the correction of crossbites. Sometimes space creation can be carried out, or just space maintenance. Functional braces to reduce upper front tooth prominence. They are best used between the ages of 8-12 and work best during rapid phases of growth. Fixed braces are used to treat the majority of bite problems. These are best started when most, if not all, teeth are through.
The earliest age your child might be referred for orthodontic assessment is the age of 7. The majority of patients tend to be referred at around the age of 10-12.
NHS waiting lists are a problem in terms of timely treatment starts. Generally, it is not possible to be placed onto a treatment list until ready to start that treatment. Otherwise, referrals would be just made earlier and earlier. If the waiting list is 2-4 years, then this increases the risk that timely treatment will not be possible because rapid growth will have passed. This can reduce the effectiveness of treatment. Functional appliances, for example, are less well tolerated in the 15-16 age group and the failure rate is much higher.
If you want your child to be seen for an assessment, just contact the practice on 0121 471 4004, email on firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out a contact form on our website.