While most kids don’t need braces or full orthodontic treatment until all their adult teeth are in, it is a good idea to have an evaluation at a younger age. In fact, your orthodontist can assess your bite when the 6-year molars and permanent front teeth are in which is why the American Association of Orthodontics recommends the first check-up around age 7. This is when bite issues and other orthodontic problems can first be detected and may benefit from early treatment.
We estimate that ~10-15% of 7-11 year olds can benefit from early orthodontic treatment which is also known as phase I orthodontics. This is in contrast to phase II treatment which would be secondary treatment occurring at the time all adult teeth are in, usually ~12 years of age for girls and ~13 years of age for boys. Most patients who have phase I orthodontics still benefit from phase II treatment. Phase I orthodontics rarely treats bottom teeth, and there are many new teeth adult teeth that grow in after phase I treatment.
Examples of early treatment may include a palatal expander to address a crossbite or limited braces to address a scissors bite or an underbite. Early treatment is aimed at correcting a bite issue that takes advantage of growth and is meant to avoid longer, more invasive treatment later. Early treatment may also seek to improve the esthetic appearance of teeth during the formative pre-teen years. Patients with “buck-teeth” or protruding teeth may experience psychosocial challenges at school and parents and children may wish to address issues like this sooner. Orthodontics has many benefits for the health of the smile as well the confidence of the person wearing that smile.