When someone needs braces the first place they’re usually told they are in the market for them at their regular dentist’s office. This usually happens at a fairly young age, when a child is in for their regular dental visit and the dentist notices the problem. The dentist would likely recommend that the child schedule an appointment with an orthodontist, who is a dentist with an extra couple of years of orthodontics schooling, and specializes in correcting teeth alignment or jaw problems. The orthodontist can then determine if the child needs braces, and can also recommend which types of devices would work best for the child.
The recommended age that your child begin receiving professional dental services is anywhere from age two to age four for the first dental checkup. For their first orthodontist visit, it is recommended once permanent teeth start coming in, around age seven, as issues such as overcrowding of teeth and uneven bite have become apparent.
Beginning any sort of active treatment that includes braces may be futile before all the adult teeth have come in, including 12-year-old molars, however some orthodontists feel that beginning treatment while baby teeth are still in may speed up treatment in the long run.
Although it is generally recommended to wait until at least age nine (or as old as 14) for braces to be most effective, there are definite conditions that would require addressing at an earlier age. Severe conditions such as protruding teeth to the point where they may be damaged, problems preventing normal development such as crossbites or severe under- or over-bites, or issues where kids are making fun of the child causing social anxiety.
This first orthodontist visit my include x-rays of the teeth and mouth to see if any permanent teeth have yet to come in and an overall visual of how the teeth are positioned. There also may be a mold of the child’s mouth taken. This is when the doctor will press a tray of gooey, clay-like material into the top and bottom sets of teeth, waiting for the material to harden, then removing the mold and having an exact impression of the child’s mouth so the orthodontist can then determine the best course of treatment.
Although orthodontists recommend correcting dental problems while a child is still growing because once they stop growing treatment may take longer and could require more extensive work to be done, getting braces will work at any age.
Adults may be more self-conscious about crooked teeth than children, therefore may have life-long teeth issues they wish to correct. Other issues that arise from crooked or overlapping teeth include tooth decay, gum disease, chewing problems and facial pain. All of these reasons could drive an adult to seek dental treatment such as braces. Numbers show that one in five orthodontic patients is over age 18.
If you are an adult seeking orthodontic treatment, keep in mind that the bones of an adult have stopped growing, unlike a child’s bones, and some structural changes cannot be made without surgery. The entire process of having braces may take longer than for a child because your bones are stronger and less malleable; the average treatment lasts around two years. As an adult, orthodontic treatment may also require the aid of a periodontist to ensure the treatment is not compromised by bone loss resulting from gum disease.
No matter what age you are, do not be afraid of braces. A little pain or discomfort will correct crooked teeth and perhaps save you from a life of dental issues.