These days, orthodontic care is commonly being given to patients of all ages, from childhood through adulthood! Although orthodontic treatment can start at different stages of development, there is no “best time” for every person to have treatment. Some benefit from starting earlier, when some baby teeth are still present, to intercept jaw growth discrepancies or to make adequate space for erupting overcrowded permanent teeth. Others benefit most from starting treatment when adolescent growth is at its peak, or even when growth is close to completion. We recognize that every person (and their teeth!) is unique and individualize their treatment plan to provide the most effective, gentle and shortest care possible.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that most children should have an orthodontic screening by age 7. This allows the orthodontist to determine if orthodontic treatment is indicated and the best time for the patient to be treated.
Orthodontic treatment used to be postponed 100% of the time until the adolescent years, when all the permanent teeth were already present in the mouth. Through the years, research has revealed that many orthodontic problems are best treated earlier to take full advantage of the critical growth and development period that take place in younger children.
Most often, nothing is needed at this young age, but an early examination allows us to to monitor the development of the teeth and jaws which leads to better treatment planning. Early intervention, if indicated, can significantly reduce the need for future complicated treatments such as the extraction of permanent teeth and jaw problems that can not be addressed in the same way in the pre-teen and teen years.
The ages 11-15 are the most common for orthodontic treatment, and for good reason. By 12, most if not all of the permanent teeth have usually erupted and are in place, and crooked teeth, gaps and bad bites can easily be detected. These problems will hardly ever correct themselves, so this is when most parents decide to seek orthodontic treatment. Because this is the most common age, most patients have peers and friends wearing braces at the same time, so there is less of a social issue to be considered. Besides the benefit of fitting in with friends, kids at this age tend to have higher metabolisms, which can help shorten treatment times.
Orthodontic treatment is not just for children and teens! In fact, 1 of 5 orthodontic patients today are adults. With state of the art treatment modalities such as clear braces and Invisalign, more and more adults are seeking orthodontic treatment. Invisalign involves using clear, removable aligners to align the teeth so there is no esthetic barrier to undergoing orthodontic treatment. Clear braces work the same way as silver braces without being as noticeable. The most common reasons for adults to seek orthodontic treatment are to align crooked teeth, correct relapse after previous orthodontic treatment due to lack of long-term retainer wear, address missing teeth or spaces between teeth, and to reduce excessive wear of the teeth due to grinding or a poor bite.