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How Old Do You Have to Be to Get Braces?

Written by Dr. Chaw Su Kyi on September 26, 2023

Braces and other orthodontic treatments are used to correct the position of teeth. Orthodontic issues can harm the appearance of your child’s smile; however, in addition to how they affect their confidence, misaligned teeth also cause other dental health problems.

Braces and aligners apply gentle, constant pressure on your child’s teeth. This force slowly moves their teeth a fraction of a millimetre at a time. During treatment, your child’s smile will become straighter, setting them up for a lifetime of improved oral health.

Receiving treatment early on reduces the potential risks associated with alignment issues. However, as a parent, you may wonder, “How old do you have to be to get braces?”

This guide discusses the optimal age for receiving orthodontic treatment, the benefits of braces, and the signs your child needs them.

Early Orthodontic Treatment

Many of the orthodontic problems we experience as adults stem from the development of the teeth and jaws during childhood.

Genetics, illness, injury, and certain medications can affect tooth position. Factors like the size of teeth in proportion to the jaws influence their spacing. Excessive thumb sucking after teeth have emerged will also cause orthodontic issues.

Early orthodontic treatment addresses these issues at the earliest opportunity. Without intervention, your child may develop severe health issues affecting them for life.

While it is common for teenagers to wear braces, receiving orthodontic treatments earlier will make it easier to prevent future dental problems.

Although there is no age limit on treatment, certain orthodontic issues are best addressed at specific points. We can speed up the process by starting the treatment around the emergence of adult teeth and jaw growth while improving clinical outcomes.

In many cases, we can provide orthodontic treatments to children from around seven or eight years of age, coinciding with the emergence of their permanent teeth.

A treatment for overbite with a fixed brace to correct jaw position will work best at 11-13 for girls or 12-14 for boys. And, when a child reaches 16 years of age, growth potential is reduced.

Age in Relation to Braces

Braces and aligners can treat orthodontic issues in both children and adults.

A child’s mouth is continuously changing. Your child will begin losing their baby teeth from around the age of six. The upper and lower front teeth are often the first to go. Soon after, the permanent molars at the back of the mouth will erupt. Baby teeth will continue to fall out until around the age of 12.

Orthodontic treatment can begin as young as seven or eight years of age. We recommend that all children receive their first orthodontic checkup at this age.

While your child’s orthodontic assessment may not lead to immediate treatment, we may recommend they wear braces or aligners in the future as we continue to monitor dental development. We take an individualised approach to determine the appropriate age for braces based on your child’s dentition.

If the position of your child’s teeth causes difficulties eating, breathing, or speaking, we would advise early treatment. We may also recommend braces or aligners for children with bite irregularities caused by habits like thumb sucking.

Why Do Children Need Braces?

The development of your child’s teeth dictates their dental health as an adult. Your child’s smile may be crowded or gappy. In both cases, teeth can become misaligned.

Occlusion (bite) issues may cause teeth to protrude. The upper or lower arches may sit in front of each other, making it difficult for your child to close their jaw comfortably.

When teeth are straight, removing the bacterial plaque that causes tooth decay is straightforward. However, overcrowded, crooked, spread-out teeth are the perfect places for bacteria to multiply. These orthodontic issues can lead to a lifetime of decay and infection.

The position of your child’s teeth can also impact their ability to eat and speak. When teeth and jaws do not align while your child’s mouth is closed, seemingly mild orthodontic issues can cause severe problems like temporomandibular disorder (TMD). This painful condition makes opening and closing the jaw difficult while causing discomfort in the head, neck, shoulders, and face.

Braces bring teeth into their correct position to make brushing easier. With a proper hygiene and care routine, your child will have a decreased risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

When teeth align correctly, it reduces pressure on the jaw. TMD symptoms will subside, speech will improve, and your child can enjoy eating.

Even if your child’s jaws are still growing, these changes will provide a lifetime of benefits.

Signs Your Child Needs Orthodontic Treatment

There are several signs which indicate your child needs orthodontic treatment. As your child’s permanent teeth emerge, the jaw may be too small to support them, leading to crowding. Although the jaw may develop further, the teeth may turn sideways, causing speech problems like lisps and discomfort when eating.

Conversely, your child may have noticeable gaps between their teeth. These gaps may close as more teeth emerge; however, it is advisable to have your child’s smile examined. As with crowding, spaces between the teeth can also lead to misalignments.

Children typically replace their baby teeth with permanent dentition between the ages of six and 12. Losing baby teeth too early or late may indicate orthodontic issues.

Sucking thumbs can affect the way your child’s teeth develop. The constant pressure against the roof of their mouth can cause the front teeth to protrude. If your child was or still is a thumb sucker, they may need braces.

The position of your child’s teeth can affect how they breathe. If your child always breathes through their mouth, it may be because of the position of their tongue. This may result in your child developing a narrow jaw with insufficient space to accommodate all their teeth.

Many of these issues can affect your child’s ability to eat and speak. In all instances, your child will find it difficult to remove plaque thoroughly, placing them at higher risk for cavities.

When Should Kids Get Braces?

The appropriate age for a child to get braces depends on their needs. Treatment for certain occlusions is quicker, easier, and more effective between the ages of eight and ten, while other issues may require treatment later.

In addition to the clinical assessment, it is essential to consider how wearing a brace may affect a child or teenager. A fixed appliance can make some people self-conscious, which is often more of a problem for self-aware teens as they become more concerned with appearance. Early treatment may reduce this issue.

Treatment length is also a factor to consider. Some teenagers may need to wear their brace for up to two years. During this time, they must attend orthodontic check-ups and have their appliance adjusted. This can mean missing school, which can become problematic during GCSEs and A-Levels.

Leaving treatment until later may mean wearing a brace while attending university or entering the workplace could make older teenagers self-conscious.

Every smile we treat is unique, and we always consider your child’s needs when making recommendations. Once we have identified the best age to fit braces, we will create a bespoke treatment plan.

What to Expect During Orthodontic Check-Up?

An orthodontic check-up assesses the development of your child’s teeth and jaws. We will examine the current position of your child’s teeth, considering future changes. The appointment also evaluates the impact crowded, gappy, or crooked teeth will have on your child’s health.

At your child’s initial consultation, we will take X-rays and thoroughly inspect their teeth before making treatment recommendations.

If your child has already started wearing braces, a check-up will evaluate the progress of their treatment. We will adjust the tension along the brace’s wire during the appointment to move the teeth closer to their desired position.

If your child has Invisalign aligners, we do not need to adjust the appliance. Instead, they will replace their aligner for the next treatment step throughout treatment. We will still need to perform a check-up to ensure their treatment is on track.

During the check-up, we will also provide any necessary care advice to improve your child’s experience, oral health, and clinical outcome.

Children’s Braces at West London Orthodontics

Orthodontic treatment is essential if your child has misaligned teeth. Irregularities in the position of their teeth could impact their ability to eat and speak, increasing the risk of tooth decay.

Several factors influence the optimal age for orthodontic treatment using braces. For the best results, we recommend early intervention.

For this reason, all children receive orthodontic assessments to examine the development of their teeth and jaws. We recommend making an appointment when your child is around eight years old.

Dr Chaw Su Kyi is a leading orthodontic specialist. She has a wealth of experience providing orthodontic treatment for children. Her insight and skills ensure your child will receive the highest standards of care.

West London Orthodontics provides advanced orthodontic care for children and adults. We serve patients in Chiswick, Hammersmith, and Shepherd’s Bush and offer a complete range of orthodontic treatments, including braces and Invisalign.

Get in touch today to arrange your child’s initial orthodontic assessment.

West London Orthodontics offers the most advanced orthodontic care for children and adults. Serving patients in Hammersmith, Shepherd's Bush, and Chiswick, Dr Kyi and her team specialise in various brace options, including Invisalign. Book a consultation today.

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