It can be hard to convince a child or teen that getting braces is in their best interest — while they like the idea of having straight teeth and a flawless smile, they are often anxious about the process and concerned about potential pain and discomfort. The good news is that braces are easier to place and more comfortable to wear than ever before, and their results last a lifetime. Iris Erdell, DDS, MS Orthodontist in Walnut Creek, California specializes in braces for children and adolescents. To learn more, call or book your appointment online today.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children should first visit an orthodontist around the age of seven years old. At age 7 the first molars have erupted and the bite is set and ready to be evaluated for problems.
Treatment with braces tends to work much more quickly on children and adolescents because they are still growing, and active jaw growth makes their teeth much more responsive to repositioning. Also, some jaw growth problems can only correct up to a certain age.
There is no set “best” age for braces, but kids who need them benefit most when treatment starts sometime between the ages of seven and 14. During this time, a child’s permanent teeth are still erupting, and their mouth and head are still growing. The exact time that works best for your child depends on their individual growth rate and how quickly their permanent teeth come in. The ideal age for orthodontic treatment depends on the patient’s bite issues, the severity of these issues and dental development.
There are three main phases of orthodontic treatment for children. Phase I, also known as early orthodontic intervention, covers any treatment that occurs before your child has all of their permanent teeth. Problems that may be corrected in phase one treatment include underbites, crossbites, large overbites, crowding, severely protruded front teeth, and narrow jaws.
The primary purpose of phase one treatment, which usually takes place between the ages of seven and 10, is to address severe problems that are easier to correct while the bone is softer and the jaws are growing. Simply put, early intervention helps correct any underlying structural issues so that braces can straighten teeth and fix alignment more quickly and extractions of permanent teeth can be avoided in many patients.
The second phase of orthodontic treatment usually consists of full braces. The goal of Phase II is to finish straightening your child’s teeth and fine-tuning their bite after all of their permanent teeth have arrived.
The third and final phase of orthodontic treatment is called the retention phase. During this step, your child wears a retainer to help ensure that their teeth maintain their proper alignment as their jawbone stabilizes.
Although clear aligners (Invisalign® and 3M™ Clarity™ Aligners) are not available to younger children and adolescents, they might be an excellent option for compliant older teens with mild to moderate orthodontic problems.
Dr. Erdell first began offering clear aligners in 2003 and has successfully treated positioning, spacing, bite, and alignment issues for many patients ranging from their teenage years all the way into their eighties.
Clear aligners use a series of custom aligner trays to straighten teeth over time. Made from clear, BPA-free plastic, clear aligners are removable and virtually invisible. They need to be taken out for eating or brushing, which makes keeping your teeth clean much easier. However, the patient takes on more responsibility with this kind of orthodontic appliance since compliance plays a big role in the final treatment result.