Early Braces: How Young Should Children Get Braces?

July 23, 2013 by Frost Orthodontics

An earlier blog, “Does your child need braces twice?” briefly addressed the trend of correcting smiles in two phases, once when a child is between the ages of 6 and 9, and again in the child’s early teens.

Orthodontists know from many studies and from experience that two treatments will not produce a significantly different result, so why is this recommendation still made by dentists and orthodontists?

This is a tough question to answer. First, not all dentists and orthodontists may be aware of the research regarding two phase treatment. Secondly, you are always going to encounter unethical practitioners in any business, and orthodontics is no different. There are some orthodontists that will recommend two stages of treatment for children knowing that while it will not necessarily help anything, it will not hurt anything either (besides the parent’s wallet).

Second, children often want to have straight teeth, and many parents are not averse to treatment before all permanent teeth have come in if it may mean a straighter smile now as well as down the road. Some orthodontists believe there is cultural pressure on kids to have straight teeth–as well as other aspects of their appearance–at younger and younger ages. If well-meaning parents see other young kids with braces and an orthodontist approves, many of them will go along with it, even if it means a higher overall cost.

Even though a first treatment at a young age does not make a difference in most cases, that is not to say that no child could benefit. In exceptional cases such as those which inhibit the normal function of the mouth, early braces would certainly be beneficial. And of course, if a patient wants to improve the look of his or her young smile, that can be done. Problems arise, however, when a young patient or parent is led to believe that early braces are absolutely necessary when that is often not the case.

The fact is that teeth and jaws tend to move back to their original position after correction, especially in growing children. Therefore, it’s crucial that you do your homework, get second opinions, and find a professional orthodontist in St. Louis that you can trust. A good orthodontist will want you to make an informed decision based on what is best for your individual smile. Period.

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