Health Encyclopedia

How to Tell if Your Child Needs Braces

Q: So many children have braces. How can I tell if my child is heading toward needing braces?

A: Children should have a checkup with an orthodontist no later than age 7. Your regular dentist is an excellent resource who can tell you whether your child, regardless of age, would benefit from seeing an orthodontist.

Here are some things to look for, indicating that a child is likely to benefit from seeing an orthodontist:

  • Early, late, or irregular loss of baby teeth

  • Difficulty in chewing or biting

  • Mouth breathing

  • Thumb or finger sucking

  • Crowded, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth

  • Jaws that shift, make sounds, protrude, or are recessed

  • Biting the cheek or roof of the mouth

  • Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all

  • Jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face

If you notice any of these problems, your child does not have to wait until age 7 to see an orthodontist. You can find general information on the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) website.

Ideal age for braces

Q: What is the best age to be fitted with braces?

A: The best age varies from patient to patient. Orthodontic treatment most commonly begins between ages 9 and 14 because kids in this age range have at least some permanent teeth and are still growing.

The majority of orthodontic problems, such as crowding, too much space between teeth, protruding upper teeth, extra or missing teeth, and jaw growth problems may be inherited. Some other problems develop over time when children suck their thumbs or fingers, breathe through their mouths, or have poor dental hygiene, poor nutrition, or other problems.

Adult treatment

Q: I know some adults who have braces, but does orthodontic treatment really work well for adults, too?

A: Today, one in five orthodontic patients is an adult. In fact, the AAO estimates that more than 1 million adults in the U.S. and Canada are being treated by its members. If your teeth are healthy, an orthodontist can move them at any age.

It is important, however, that any existing problems, such as periodontal disease or worn, damaged, decayed, or missing teeth, be addressed first. It is important that your orthodontist work with your regular dentist to assure that you are a good candidate for braces and to increase the likelihood of an excellent outcome.

Once you are fitted with braces, you will be able to continue to live a completely normal life. You will be able to sing, play a musical instrument, dine out, kiss, and have your picture taken. Some modern braces are nearly invisible.