Getting childhood braces can feel like a rite of passage. Lots of kids have them or are getting them. But does your child need them? Whether you’re considering braces for your child so their teeth are easier to clean or for cosmetic reasons, there is much to consider when determining if your child is ready for braces.
When Should Your Child See an Orthodontist?
Though children may not require braces for some time, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. Evaluation can also begin later, with the help and guidance of a pediatric dentist.
Does Your Child Need Braces?
Your child could need braces because of a learned habit such as thumb sucking. However, difficulty eating or genetic issues such as unusually timed loss of baby teeth, disproportionate jaws and teeth, or audible jaw movement may require braces. Other common reasons include:
One common reason children get braces is to address overcrowding. When teeth grow close together, particularly bottom teeth, they can be difficult to clean. Atypical bite patterns may also result. Though, overcrowding by itself is not necessarily an indication that braces are needed, it is worth an evaluation.
When the top and bottom teeth cannot touch each other, an open bite is present. In some cases, it is possible for the space to close as children lose their baby teeth and their mouths grow. In other instances, braces may be required.
Most people have some degree of overbite. It is common for top teeth to overlap the bottom. However, in some cases, realignment of the jaw may be required with a medical device. Braces do not fix an overbite.
Crossbites and Underbites
A crossbite is present if a tooth is closer to the teeth or cheek than its corresponding upper or lower tooth. Opposite of an overbite, an underbite is present when the top teeth are inset and the bottom teeth protrude. Both crossbites and underbites are rare conditions and should be evaluated by an orthodontist.
Is Your Child Ready for Braces?
In addition to whether or not your child feels ready or wants braces, the condition he or she has may determine the best timing. Crossbites and underbites, for example, are both rare conditions that are best treated before a child’s mouth has finished developing. Overcrowding, on the other hand, may improve naturally over time, as a child’s mouth and jaw grows. So, it may benefit to correct overcrowding later.
Should Your Child Wait?
Sometimes a wait and see approach is best. Because children’s mouths are still growing, some conditions can improve or resolve themselves as teeth shift. However, if you’re still unsure whether or not it’s the right time for braces for your child, scheduling a consultation with an orthodontist is a great place to start.