San Diego, CA – Braces are a rite of passage for adolescents, but we’re seeing braces on children at younger ages these days. That might seem strange to some, but to those in the orthodontic world, it’s refreshing to see.
“Children should visit an orthodontist for the first time around the age of seven,” says Dr. Santiago Surillo, a children’s dentist and orthodontist in San Diego. “This is important because it allows the orthodontist to begin monitoring your child’s smile and then start treatment at precisely the right time to have the most impact.”
In the early adolescent years, the jaw is still growing. But at some point in the teen years, the jaw will harden at lock into place. This typically happens around age 16 for girls and age 18 for boys. If you wait to get orthodontic treatment later in the teen years once the jaw has hardened, it can make the work more complicated.
“Many orthodontic issues are easier to correct while the jaw is still pliable,” says Dr. Surillo. “We can guide the growth of the jaw to allow for permanent teeth to erupt properly, thereby eliminating the need for more difficult orthodontic work in the future.”
If you want to ensure your child has the opportunity for the most effective treatment in the easiest manner possible, this treatment should begin by the age of 9. That’s why your child should see an orthodontist by the age of seven.
“The earlier we can begin treatment, the more effective it can be, and the less likely it will be that your child will require extensive treatment in the teen years,” says Dr. Surillo. “Often, kids love hearing that if we begin treatment sooner, it may mean no braces during the crucial teen years of high school.”
If your child is around the age of seven, you should schedule a consultation with an orthodontist so that you can begin monitoring your child’s smile. Initial consultations are usually free and give the orthodontist the opportunity to examine your child, as well as view x-rays and impressions, to determine if your child may benefit from early treatment.
In some cases, the orthodontist may believe that your child is a candidate for early treatment, but isn’t quite ready yet. In that case, the orthodontist will monitor your child’s jaw and the growth of the mouth to determine when the best time to begin treatment will be. This will allow us to correct any orthodontic issues at precisely the correct time to have the most impact.
“Early treatment will often be done in two phases – the first will correct bite, palate, and jaw issues, including overbites, crossbites, and crowding,” says Dr. Surillo. “Then, we’ll generally wait for the permanent teeth to erupt. The second phase will ensure a straight, beautiful smile once the permanent teeth have all come in.”
Your orthodontist should be committed to ensuring your child has a healthy and properly functioning smile. And to do this, we want to work together with you and your child to begin treatment at the time it will have the most impact. And if we can accomplish all of that before your child enters the sometimes stressful high school years, that is just icing on the cake.