PacificWest Dental

Braces and Orthodontic Treatment for Your Child

(Updated September 9, 2020)

  • Best age to see an orthodontist for a check up is 7 years old
  • Actual treatment with braces is most likely at least 9 years old or after
  • Some special or complex cases definitely would benefit from timely intervention before jaw misalignment or overcrowding turns into a permanent issue
  • A skilled orthodontist can foresee issues down the road and what work needs to be done on your child’s teeth
  • PacificWest’s Dr. Wang’s specialty is in pediatric orthodontist
  • First consultation at PacificWest for your child is free

Table of Contents

There are many firsts in a child’s life. Though most of these events occur naturally as a child grows, others are a matter of specific timing. Staying on top of a child’s oral care is every parent’s top priority. Many parents wonder what the right age is to consider braces or orthodontic treatment for their children. Experts, including the highly respected American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), agree that age 7 is the perfect time for a child to make their very first visit to an orthodontist. If your child has issues with misaligned teeth or a bite that’s not quite right, these matters can successfully be addressed as early as your child’s seventh birthday. 

But what marks age 7 as the correct time to consider braces? When a child reaches the age of 7, their adult molars are beginning to show through the gumline, indicating what their final placement in the mouth will be. In addition to this, a child’s incisors also begin to peek through, giving a glimpse of their future positioning. It is at this point that an orthodontist is best able to determine what a child’s bite will look like when fully developed. Through a visual examination and dental impressions, an orthodontist can help parents to understand any issues that may be problematic in the future including such problems as teeth overcrowding, jaw misalignments, and open bites. 

Why Should I Get My Child to See an Orthodontist?

There are many reasons to consider braces when children are still young. Since children are in the midst of forming habits which can affect the final outcome of their teeth and bite, the right orthodontia can help guide children through this transition period while correcting any dental imperfections. 

In most cases, it is not necessary for braces to be applied when the child is 7 years of age. However, this initial visit helps to thwart any pre-existing habit-based problems and to lay out a plan of treatment for the future. This helps parents to save both time and money by responding proactively to potential problems instead of being forced into a reaction that impacts deeply on their pocketbook. 

Some parents realize their child may require some dental work but aren’t quite sure what the extent of it should be. Among the things that indicate braces may be necessary include:

  • Irregular loss of baby teeth, including too early or too late
  • Struggles to chew or bite food
  • Primarily breathing through the mouth
  • Persistent thumb sucking
  • Overcrowding in the mouth
  • Jaw noises 
  • Jaw protrusion
  • Teeth that do not meet or meet in an irregular pattern
  • Jaws and teeth that are not proportional to the face

It is important to note that though experts agree that age 7 is the correct time for a first visit to an orthodontist, most dental professionals prefer to delay getting braces until age 9 at a minimum. 

A lot of changes occur during the transition from baby teeth to a full adult bite. These transitions typically begin at age 6 and are firmly established by the time the child is 13. Early orthodontic treatment aims to correct any existing dental issues before they have the opportunity to worsen. 

When is the Best Time for a Child to See an Orthodontist?

When it comes to scheduling a first visit to an orthodontist, 7 years of age is the recommended norm. To make an appointment earlier than this offers no benefit as the adult teeth have not had the opportunity to erupt, leaving the orthodontist without an accurate picture of what the fully developed bite may look like. 

It is important for parents to realize that at age 7 their child will have a blending of baby teeth and adult teeth in place in their mouth. From the adult teeth that have erupted through the gumline at this stage, the orthodontist is able to determine what the child’s final bite may look like. In addition to this, the teeth that are breaking through into their position can indicate other issues that will require dental correction including misaligned jaws, overcrowding, and more. 

Orthodontic issues affect far more than simply a child’s appearance. Though a malformed bite or crooked teeth can impact a child’s self-esteem dramatically, a more serious problem is the health issues a bad bite carries with it. 

Some of the health issues that can be experienced as a result of bite or teeth problems include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth loss
  • Early wear on teeth from grinding or clenching
  • Persistent headaches
  • Difficulty eating, sleeping, and speaking 
  • Recurring pain

Treating orthodontic issues between the ages of 9 and 13 allows for correction of the problem while the mouth is still malleable, making the process take far less time than it would in an older teenager or an adult. 

During a child’s first orthodontist appointment, the doctor will examine the mouth looking for several different potential problems. These include:

  • Overcrowding of teeth
  • Overbites or underbites
  • Uneven jaw growth
  • Impacted teeth
  • Upper and lower jaw positioning problems
  • Overall tooth placement
  • Oral habits which may contribute to the current state of the teeth
  • Benefits of orthodontia to improve the appearance of the bite

An orthodontist is trained specifically in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of crooked teeth and jaws, as well as problems of the jaw joints; they will definitely be able to tell you when is the best time to have any of these problems fixed.  The key to successful treatment in young patients is delivering the right treatment at the right time.

Since the teeth and bite of children with baby teeth are dynamic and transitional, this means that there are changes going on all the time.  The first baby teeth to exfoliate should be the lower central incisors, or the ones in the center teeth. They should become loose and fall out between the ages of 5 ½ and 6 ½. The last baby teeth to fall out should be the upper cuspids or “canine teeth”, at around age 11 to 13.  Therefore, between the ages of 6 and 12, there will be a constant changing of baby teeth to permanent teeth.  The goal of early orthodontic intervention is to eliminate any interference to the normal eruption of teeth and the development of the jaw and face.

Orthodontists vs Dentists—Why See a Specialist?

Every family needs a dentist that they visit regularly for cleanings and to maintain good oral care. However, a dentist is primarily a general practitioner of dental hygiene. Dentists assist with maintaining excellent oral health; orthodontists receive additional training and specialized education necessary to treat more problems with bite, teeth alignment and overall structure. 

Orthodontia is considered to be a type of dental specialty and additional schooling is required to achieve this degree. Most orthodontists complete their dental degree then must spend an additional two years of advanced training in the specialized field of orthodontics from an accredited university. Finally, they must pass all provincial dental licensing exams in the field of orthodontics.  Only dentists with such advanced specialty education can present themselves as orthodontists. 

These additional years of specialized study provide them with greater knowledge and experience in successfully treating tooth and bite abnormalities. 

What are the Costs and Considerations in Braces and Orthodontic Treatments for Children?

Orthodontic treatments are a costly but necessary part of oral health for many children. However, the benefits far outweigh the expense. This is yet another reason why a visit to an orthodontist when a child is 7 is such a great idea: it provides parents with the opportunity to plan early for the cost of treatment. 

Among the things parents can consider to help make orthodontic treatments affordable are:

  • Focus on cost conscious options
    Thankfully, children are not as self-conscious as adults or older teenagers, making it possible for parents to save some money by choosing to go with traditional braces over the more expensive Invisalign or ceramic braces. This is one benefit of getting braces a bit earlier in life instead of holding off for too long. 
  • Consider health and dental plans

Many employers offer medical plans. Some of these policies include dental and orthodontic services. Though these types of insurances often don’t cover the totality of the costs, they can help offset some of the expenses. 

Some dental plans offer full coverage for required orthodontic treatment. 

  • Discuss all options with an orthodontist

Often, when it comes to orthodontic treatments, there is more than one way to achieve the same result. It is a great idea to discuss all of the different treatment options and their prices with an orthodontist to best understand the choices available. With a clear picture in mind of what you can expect to pay, it will be far easier to budget for future dental costs. 

  • Schedule your child’s first orthodontist appointment promptly after their 7th birthday

The earlier you can schedule your child’s first orthodontist appointment, the better. Since most children will not require any treatment until at least age 9, this will allow you additional time to prepare for the costs associated with whatever course of treatment your orthodontist recommends. Always anticipate price increases and save a little extra money in case the braces or orthodontic treatment ends up costing a little more than originally projected. 

The more time you have to prepare, the better prepared you can be. 

  • Consider payment plans

Some orthodontists offer financing to help parents to pay for expensive but need orthodontia. These can be an excellent option for families on a budget who can more easily afford monthly payments than an upfront lump sum cost. 

Deciding What’s Best For Your Child

There is no doubt that orthodontic treatment can cost a lot of money. However, this expenditure is an investment that will reap great rewards for your child both in their confidence and future dental health. 

End of the day, less dental problems down the road means more savings and less pain. We only get one set of adult teeth, so we really should take good care of it!

Why Choose PacificWest?

Dr. Wang, the Founder of PacificWest’s orthodontic practice, specializes in Pediatric Orthodontist. Many parents have entrusted their children’s teeth to him for almost three decades. His expertise and advice can help your child too.

To learn more about orthodontics for children or to schedule an appointment for your child’s first appointment, contact the professional team at PacificWest. The first consultation is free. 

Your best smile is just a phone call away with PacificWest!

Vancouver Office: 604-558-0993

Surrey Office: 604-501-0993

Email: info@pacificwestdental.com

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Dr. Wang, DDS, MSc, FRCD(C)
Orthodontist
Dr. Kevin Lee, DMD, MSc, FRCD(C)
Orthodontist