Ideally, it should be between 10 and 14 years when the head and mouth are still growing (partial development) and that the teeth can be easily straightened out. Adults can also wear braces but at a younger age correction will be much easier and better planned.
When it comes to orthodontic check-up and treatment, it could be as early as age 6 or 7. At this age crowding of the teeth is easier to address. As the teeth develop and the jaw grows, it’s important to address certain conditions early on to better guide the teeth and take into account how it will change the child’s facial structure.
- Braces: 10 to 14 years of age
- Orthodontic screening and treatment: age 6 or 7
The right time for braces
Starting from 10 years of age it’s a good time for the placement of braces. Young patients will mostly benefit because they have a lot of years ahead where they can enjoy their perfect smile. The perfect alignment of teeth together with a beautiful smile can even help them boost their confidence at school, extracurricular and other activities.
Also note that at age 10 to 14 years old our sons and daughters are getting more conscious about their appearance. It’s now quick to take a photo (“selfie”) and zoom in to the image. The flaws and imperfections are easy and clear to see. In addition, having braces at that age range is actually common and those who don’t yet have them are odd ones out. In a sense and in some groups, having braces is one way to feel more comfortable with other people and belong in something.
More importantly, the braces won’t just guide the teeth but also a person’s life trajectory. It sounds like an overstatement but appearance actually has a huge impact on how a person thinks and acts. For example, kids who have braces at the right age might be able to better get along with others (i.e. birds of the same feather flock together). The confidence and sense of belonging are important in forging someone’s identity especially during those young sensitive and formative years.
We also have to consider the time required for dental corrections. Often braces require one to three years of wearing for significant results to come out. A delay of one year of not starting to wear braces may affect your child’s confidence because after all, people pay a lot of attention to our eyes and smiles. If there’s something wrong with your child’s smile (and he/she is strongly aware of it), that can affect his/her behaviour and attitude. It can make him/her avoid social gatherings even with his/her peers and classmates. It’s a time for social awkwardness when they’re just starting to establish their identities and personalities so it’s common for them to isolate themselves. However, that isolation can be taken into an extreme if they have low self-esteem.
More about braces
It’s best to give your child a general idea about the treatment and experience when it comes to the placement of braces. Most likely he/she has read about it online but it’s still recommended to know your child’s concerns and potential fears about the treatment.
For example, there’s that concern about discomfort. The slight pressure or pinching could be a new discomforting experience when initially placing the braces but the good news is it’s not that all painful. The procedure could last one or two hours and this period could be stressful and discomforting to your child. It’s a similar case in the succeeding visits wherein at each visit the interconnecting wires will be tightened. The mild pressure on the brackets and bands can cause a brief discomfort (which goes away after an hour or so).
Another concern is about other dental procedures that should be completed before placing the braces. There are cases when some of the teeth need to be extracted to make room for others as the shift in alignment on the teeth and jaw occurs. It could be a frightening experience and this will surely affect his/her studies and other activities. As a result, it’s important to also consider the school term, sporting event and important exam dates to minimise the disruption to your child’s activities and allow him/her to better focus on studies.
Once the braces are successfully placed, there will be succeeding visits as the interconnecting wires are tightened (briefly discussed earlier). After a year or so of wearing full braces, these will be removed and a retainer will be placed. Proper oral care (and caring for the braces, avoiding hard and chewy foods) is important to maintain oral health and prevent dental problems from surfacing.
It’s a long and gradual process that will take some time for getting used to. From the required prior procedures (e.g. extraction to give room for teeth) to wearing the retainer (to set and align the tissues surrounding teeth), it seems a huge inconvenience but the results are worth it and for the long term. Remember that this isn’t just about perfect teeth alignment but possibly an improvement to how the jaw and face develop through the years. Your child will get an early and long-term benefit from that and this will help them feel more confident at school and social settings.