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When Should a Child Get Braces?

Child with Braces

Deciding when to get dental braces for your child is a big deal, no question about it, so before you decide one way or the other, make sure you’re fully informed. We’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know about braces for kids.

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Spotting the symptoms

Rather than diagnosing your child’s orthodontic needs by yourself, it’s much better to let a professional do it for you. According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), you should make sure that your child receives their first orthodontic evaluation by the time that they are 7 years old. By this point, there should be enough permanent teeth for the orthodontist to evaluate potential problems. There are, however, a couple of symptoms which might indicate that your little chomper may benefit from braces, including:

  • Difficulty chewing

  • Thumb or finger sucking

  • Crowded teeth

  • Irregular, late, or early loss of baby teeth

  • Teeth which don’t meet or meet abnormally

  • Mouth breathing

Reasons for orthodontic care

There are many different reasons why your child might need braces. Some, such as crowding, extra teeth, missing teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding upper teeth, or excessive space between teeth may have been inherited. Others can develop over time because of poor nutrition, poor dental hygiene, thumb or finger sucking, or other types of dental issues.

When should you get braces?

Ultimately, the best time to get braces varies from patient to patient. If your child’s orthodontist identifies problems which could become more serious if left untreated, early treatment may be the right move. Also known as interceptive treatment, early treatment refers to orthodontic treatment which is performed when your child still has baby teeth. Early treatment usually begins with dental appliances, and then after the majority of your child’s permanent teeth comes through, dental braces are introduced. However, in most traditional cases treatment will begin a little later, somewhere between the ages of 8 and 14.

Your child’s first orthodontist visit

It might seem like a scary occasion, but there’s really nothing to worry about when it comes to your child's first visit. After they’re introduced to the orthodontist, your child’s mouth will be examined using a small, hand-held mirror. Then, the orthodontist will evaluate your child’s bite, as well as the positions of their upper and lower jaw. If they find any problems in your first visit, they’ll discuss potential treatment options with you, although depending on your child’s dental growth and development, they may adopt a “wait and see” approach to treatment.

Next steps

The length of your child’s treatment is dependent on their individual orthodontic problems, but your orthodontist will be able to give you a realistic estimate. For most people, treatment lasts between 18 and 36 months, however, that’s dependent on how well your child cares for their braces. Keeping up with orthodontic appointments, following a brace-friendly diet, and brushing/flossing correctly can all influence how long the braces need to stay on. That’s why it’s so important to work with your kids to ensure that they take care of their braces properly!

How much do braces cost for kids?

The cost of kids braces depends on several different factors, including the length of treatment and the severity of their orthodontic problems. If you have a family dental insurance plan, part of the cost may be covered, while flexible spending account or health savings account funds can also be used to pay for braces for kids. To find an orthodontist who accepts your insurance, you can contact your insurance company and request a list of approved providers.

Want to find out more about braces for kids? Talk to an orthodontist!

Medically reviewed by Dr. Natalie Pennington, DDS, March 2019

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