How Young is Too Young for Braces?

Many parents begin to notice in the grade school years that their kids’ crooked smiles are cute but may affect their child’s confidence–or even their health. During the grade school ages, permanent teeth come in and bite problems are often detected during these years. Having crooked teeth or a crossbite, an overbite, an underbite, or other type of bite issue could impact your child’s speech development, ability to chew different types of food, and social confidence. At this point many parents begin to ask, when should I consult an orthodontist for my child’s teeth? Should we wait and see what happens in the teen years, or should we seek treatment now? Here are some simple guidelines to help you make the decision on whether to take your pre-teen into an orthodontist.

Does your child have bite or palette problems?

These types of issues will not go away over time and can often be treated more easily in the early years well the mouth is still developing. Often, orthodontic work done during the pre-teen years will be more rapid than the same work done on an older teen or particularly on an adult. However, there is always the risk of wisdom teeth coming in and messing up the orthodontic work. It is also important to make sure your child is mature enough to keep her teeth clean and healthy throughout orthodontic treatment.

Do you have dental insurance now?

Many parents do not realize that orthodontic insurance coverage is usually available with regular dental insurance plans. That means that even if you had orthodontic work done recently on your child and he later needed a bit of a touch-up, it could still be covered. There is usually a yearly or lifetime maximum on orthodontic plans per person. Check into your dental and orthodontic coverage now because you may be surprised how much your dental insurance will cover. Most dental insurance plans will cover 50% of the cost of orthodontic treatment.

Are your child’s teeth so crooked or unsightly that they cause him or her to not want to smile?

If your child’s teeth are extremely crooked or doubled up in places (with one tooth growing in directly behind another tooth), this can be a cosmetic issue, but it can also affect your child’s confidence. If you feel that this is the case, you may want to check into orthodontic treatment early on for your child or pre-teen. However,  you will want to make sure that your child has a permanent retainer placed after treatment is completed, since wisdom teeth can come in during the later teen years and mess up even the most careful orthodontic work.

Are dental problems causing speech irregularities?

Certain dental issues (including pallet problems, irregular spacing, or other issues) can make it difficult to articulate certain sounds in speech. Remember the song “All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”? It often sounded more like “awl I want to fo Kwismas” because it was sung by a kid who was missing his front teeth. That classic song shows what irregular spacing or gaps in the mouth can do to speech. Speech pathologists have long noted the connection between oral health and lisping, articulation issues, speech problems, stuttering, and other speech issues. If your child has any of these issues along with other orthodontic needs, you may want to look into orthodontic treatment at an earlier age.

The bottom line is that orthodontic treatment can be performed on patients of any age. Many parents wait until the teen year to begin orthodontic treatment, but this is not always the best option for all patients. You can set up a free consultation with Dr. Dunn at  Dunn Orthodontics and find out if orthodontic treatment is a good option at this point in your child’s development. Click here to schedule an appointment or to learn more about Dunn Orthodontics.

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