One of the first things people notice about us is our teeth–and we parents know that setting up our kids for a healthy, attractive smile will continue to benefit them for the rest of their lives. For many parents and kids, that means considering braces.
The American Orthodontic Association recommends that children have their first consultation with an orthodontist no later than seven years old–before most kids have even lost all their baby teeth. Is this early intervention really necessary? Here are a few pros and cons.
The Pros of Early Braces
Kids’ Jawbones are Pliable
Early on in life, little ones have very pliable gums and jawbones. This makes it easy for orthodontists to correct issues like crossbite, protruding teeth, and even facial asymmetry. But as your child ages, their jawbone hardens–making braces less comfortable and adjustments much more difficult.
A Shorter Time in Braces
The average teen or adult wears braces for 16-18 months (though sometimes treatment goes up to two years). But for children? The average treatment is only 10-15 months. By starting your child on braces early when their gums and jaws are still pliable, you may be able to reduce the amount of time they’re flashing a metal grin.
Early Braces are The Social Norm
Think back to when you were in school: how many students were sporting braces? These days, early intervention is fairly common, with many children starting braces in elementary or middle school, and getting them off by the time they enter high school.
The Cons of Early Braces
Compliance Gets Complicated
If your child is active in team sports, he or she will have to take precautions to protect their braces. Not to mention there are endless rules to follow. While your teen may be able to avoid popcorn and clean between the brackets, young kids with braces may struggle to comply with the rules of proper care and cleaning. This can lead to a host of problems that will lead to wearing braces much longer.
They Might Not Be Necessary
A child’s crooked smile doesn’t always mean braces are on the horizon. These days, there are many other options that can help deal with misalignment, with alternative treatments such as Invisalign. Instead of rushing to braces, it’s worth taking all of your options into account.
Whether your child needs braces at age seven or opts for orthodonture later in life, the first step should be a consultation with their orthodontist–preferably a pediatric orthodontist, who specializes in the treatment of children. They can help your child get a smile they will be proud of for their whole life, regardless of when they get their braces.