You’ve noticed that your 10-year old’s teeth have been getting noticeably crooked. You take them to the orthodontist and get the news you expected; your child needs braces. You discuss it with your spouse, who has a reasonable question, “Isn’t that too young?”
Parents are asking this question more and more. For the past few decades, conventional wisdom has been that children should wait until age 12 to get braces.
That way, all the baby teeth have fallen out, the adult teeth have come in, and any orthodontic problems have become apparent. Still, it’s not uncommon to see elementary school kids with braces these days.
Who’s right? What age is best for your children to get braces? The answer: it depends.
Childhood Braces are Best for Treating Certain Problems
There is one milestone that almost all orthodontists agree on. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get an evaluation from an orthodontist no later than age 7. At this age, the baby teeth are starting to come out, and it’s easy to see if your child has an overbite, underbite, or other issues.
For some problems, it is best to wait. There’s little point in treating an overjet (a tooth that sticks out from the mouth) or crooked teeth that will shortly fall out anyway.
But other problems are apparent and treatable at age 7, including crossbites and severe crowding. Your child’s skull and jaw are growing every day, and by guiding that growth with orthodontic appliances, you may eliminate the need for treatment in the future.
What About a 10-Year Old?
A ten-year-old is at an interesting stage of development: still a child, but shortly an adolescent. At this age, the front four top and bottom baby teeth have probably been lost; this tends to happen between ages 6 to 8.
The baby canines and molars, however, take longer to fall out, and may not do so until ages 10 to 12. So a ten-year-old will probably have a mix of adult and baby teeth. Every child grows at their own unique pace.
So yes, a ten-year-old could need braces if they’re ahead of schedule in losing their baby teeth. When considering how to proceed, look at the condition of your child’s teeth.
Does he or she still have some baby molars back there? If the problem is bad enough to affect your child’s breathing, chewing, or speaking, it is best corrected right away.
But if the issue comes down to simple aesthetics, it is best to err on the side of caution and wait until age 12. The last thing you want is for your child to need braces twice. If you try to correct a problem too early, it may flare up again.
Take your expert orthodontist’s recommendation into account, but also consider the severity of your child’s orthodontic issues.
And if your spouse puts their foot down and says, “We’re waiting,” know that it probably won’t matter too much, as long as your child gets braces eventually.
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