We hear this question all the time from our orthodontic patients at St. George Family Dental in Fulton MO. If you’re like most people, you think of orthodontic treatment as something that’s for older children and younger teens. And to some degree, you’d be right — adolescence is an ideal time for many patients to wear braces.
But while there may be an “ideal time” for braces, there isn’t necessarily a “right time,” as a variety of factors can play into a person’s decision on when to receive orthodontic care.
Today, more adults than ever before are choosing to wear braces, and with stellar results. Likewise, there are plenty of children who haven’t lost all their baby teeth yet, but who would still benefit from phase-one early orthodontic intervention.
To learn more about the best age to get braces — and to find out how orthodontic treatment can benefit people of all ages — read on.
Adolescence — an ideal time for braces
Adolescents are ideally positioned to receive orthodontic treatment that will give them a beautiful smile for life. That’s because, unlike younger children, nearly all of their permanent teeth are already in place. And, unlike adult patients, a growing teen’s teeth are more responsive to repositioning.
The exact age at which your adolescent should begin wearing braces depends on the extent of their treatment needs and whether or not they have most or all of their permanent teeth. In general, orthodontic treatment during the teen years is most efficient and effective when it’s begun once all a child’s primary teeth have been lost, and after their 12-year molars are at least partially erupted.
While a significant number of kids begin orthodontic treatment sometime between the ages of 12-14, plenty of kids don’t get braces until they’re in their early or mid-teens.
Early orthodontic intervention
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children see an orthodontic specialist for the first time at about the age of seven, well before the ideal age for braces. That’s because it’s possible to spot fundamental bite or jaw problems in younger children that may be best addressed through phase-one early intervention orthodontic treatment.
Phase-one early orthodontic intervention covers any treatment that occurs before a child has all of their permanent teeth. The primary purpose of early orthodontic treatment, which usually occurs between the ages of 7-10, is to tackle problems that can be fixed early on so that phase-two orthodontic treatment — the full braces phase — is faster and easier.
Simply put, early intervention orthodontic care helps correct any underlying structural issues so that braces can straighten teeth and fix alignment more quickly. Phase-one treatment can be used to correct underbites, crossbites, overbites, crowded teeth, protruding front teeth, and narrow jaws.
Phase-one orthodontic treatment may mean wearing a retainer, or it may mean wearing partial braces for a short period of time.
Adults can benefit from braces, too
While many adults decide to wear braces in pursuit of a beautiful smile, there are many other important benefits to having straight teeth and a properly aligned jaw.
Because crooked or crowded teeth are much harder to clean and maintain, wearing braces to straighten teeth and improve spacing can substantially reduce an adult’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and ultimately, tooth loss. Orthodontic problems can also cause abnormal wear and tear on the surface of the teeth, gum tissue stress, and misaligned jaw joints.
About one in five orthodontic patients is past the age of 21. Getting braces can be a more involved process for adults than it is for younger patients, largely because adult bones are less malleable and are done growing. Older oral tissues also tend to take longer to adjust to newly positioned teeth.
Even so, the right orthodontic treatment plan can create a beautiful smile, improve bite alignment, and make oral hygiene easier at any age.
Whether you’re contemplating braces for your child or yourself, we can help. Call our Fulton, MO office today for a comprehensive orthodontic consultation, or schedule an appointment online using our convenient online booking feature. Getting a beautiful smile is easier than you think.