Traditionally, braces were associated with one phase of life, the early teen years. It was believed that the optimal time to begin treatment was around age 12 or 13. However, the world of orthodontics has changed dramatically as our scientific understanding of tooth movement and jaw development has improved. One of the best-known developments was the introduction of cosmetic braces, which has led to a dramatic increase in adult orthodontic patients. Now we know that it’s never too late for straight teeth, but the question remains – when is it too early?
Over the past couple of decades, orthodontic research has changed the way we approach tooth alignment. In reality, the best treatment time for some children may come well before age 12. In fact, the AAO (American Association of Orthodontists) recommends an evaluation by the age of seven. Tooth or jaw development problems are usually evident by this age. Early detection allows your dentist to plan treatment at the best stage to maximize the benefits and minimize the period of time a child has to wear braces.
Early orthodontic treatment is still an evolving field, as research and clinical study continues. At this time, there is no general consensus about the precise “right” age to begin braces. Like most health issues, every person is different. For some children, wearing braces younger may mean wearing braces for a shorter length of time. In other cases, the traditional age range may be best.
Why is early evaluation and monitoring of potential problems so important? The development of bone, and even teeth, begins before birth – and it is nearly complete by age 12. Sometimes it can be simpler and more efficient to guide proper development in young children than it is to correct problems in older children.
In some cases, parents can take preventive steps to reduce orthodontic problems. Thumb sucking and pacifiers are often associated with improperly developed teeth and jaws. Orthodontic pacifiers are shaped to be mouth-friendly, making them a good choice. However, it is still important that these habits do not continue too long. After the first year, it’s time to start working on it and, if your child is still using a pacifier or thumb sucking by age three or four, problems are likely to develop.
If you have any question about your child’s dental health, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, call Big Smile Dental in Chicago at 773-772-8400.