Braces in Elementary School? A Parent’s Guide to Early Orthodontic Treatment

Early orthodontic treatment

If you’re a parent today, you probably remember braces as being something relegated to the teen years when you were growing up. However, a lot has changed about orthodontic treatment since then. Braces are now being used at younger ages, and there are some clear reasons why.

Early intervention can help address many issues before they can progress. Many orthodontic issues can be identified as soon as the permanent teeth start to come in. In many cases, treatment at this stage can prevent a wide range of issues from developing.

By targeting the youngest age to get braces instead of waiting until your child is a teenager, you can improve their oral health outcomes and leave them with a better treatment experience as well.

Every Child Should Have an Early Orthodontic Evaluation

If you have had orthodontic treatment in the past, you likely have memories of an orthodontic evaluation to determine whether you may need braces. This might have happened around the age of 13 or so, but today it’s recommended to have children undergo an evaluation by the age of 7.

Scheduling such an evaluation doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will need braces. The evaluation is necessary to identify any potential issues with their development. This could lead to early orthodontic treatment or could simply highlight issues that will need to be treated later.

Identifying issues early can often mean that your child will need to spend less time in braces overall. Braces for kids can also be more effective for certain issues when the mouth is still developing, particularly jaw issues.

What’s the Youngest Age a Child Can Get Braces?

In most cases, braces aren’t used before the age of 11, when more permanent teeth have erupted. However, they are sometimes used for younger children around 8 or 9 years of age. Every situation is highly unique, so you’ll have to see what your dentist has to say about your child’s case.

Treatment at this stage of development is called Phase 1 treatment. Phase 1 treatment occurs when both baby and permanent teeth are present. It can help prevent complications in later orthodontic treatment, widen the palate to prevent crowding, and guide jaw development to ensure a healthy bite.

Once your child has most of their permanent teeth, they can undergo Phase 2 treatment. This is the type of treatment most people think of when discussing braces. It can generally begin between the ages of 11 and 12.

Orthodontic Treatment for Young Children

Your child’s orthodontic treatment will start with a thorough early orthodontic evaluation to identify issues related to crowding, malocclusion, and bite. From that evaluation, your dentist can recommend a variety of potential treatments.

Palate expanders are some of the most common appliances used in Phase 1 treatment. If your child has too narrow of an upper jaw, a palate expander will slowly expand the roof of the mouth to correct the issue. This helps prevent crowded or overlapping teeth and the oral health issues that come with them.

Space maintainers are another potential early orthodontic intervention. They’re most often used when a child loses a baby tooth prematurely. The space maintainer prevents other teeth from shifting into the gap until the permanent tooth naturally erupts.

Braces are sometimes used for Phase 1 treatment, but in a different way from how they’re implemented during Phase 2. They are generally limited braces that are attached only to some specific teeth to guide their development.

Could Your Child Need Braces?

If your child is under the age of 11, it’s unlikely that they need braces yet. That’s generally the youngest age to get braces, except for very select cases which your dentist will be able to identify during an orthodontic evaluation.

While your child of 8 or 9 years of age might not need braces yet, they could still benefit from other early orthodontic interventions, such as palate expanders. Your dentist will conduct an orthodontic evaluation to determine the treatment appropriate for your child’s age.

There are a few signs to watch out for that you should mention to your dentist if you notice them. For example, if your child has difficulty chewing or biting, has a speech impediment, or engages in mouth breathing, they may need orthodontic intervention. 

Crossbite, the shifting of the jaw when opening and closing, is also another easily identifiable sign.

Put Your Child on the Right Track with Early Orthodontic Intervention.

Early orthodontic intervention can deliver better results and requires less extensive treatment than when issues are only addressed later on. Your child’s dentist in Vancouver, WA, can evaluate your child’s mouth to determine whether they could benefit from treatment. Contact our office at Must Love Kids for an appointment with Dr. Mo today.