While it’s never too late to begin orthodontic treatment, for teens, it is a great idea to begin earlier than later. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, children should have an initial orthodontic screening at age 7. This evaluation will provide insight as to how your child’s teeth and mouth are growing, and give your doctor the opportunity to provide early orthodontic interceptive treatment for any of the following conditions:
- Open bite
- Excessive spacing
- Overbite (deep bite)
- Cross bite (front teeth or back teeth)
- Overjet (protrusion)
- Abnormal eruption
- Missing teeth
- Teeth don’t emerge in the right sequence
If your doctor believes that orthodontic work is needed, he/she will monitor your child’s growth patterns until it’s time for treatment to begin. This creates an opportunity for the doctor to achieve the best results and minimize any future problems. In most kids, the first adult molars typically begin to emerge around age 6, and at this point, it’s possible to evaluate the basic alignment of the teeth from front to back and side to side.
Treatment for common orthodontic problems usually begins between ages 9 and 14, which is when all of the baby teeth should be gone and many of the permanent teeth are in place. Many conditions benefit greatly from early diagnosis, including severe cross bite and severe crowding.
Cross bite is a condition where the upper teeth close inside the lower teeth. The doctor might recommend a palatal expander, which gradually and painlessly widens the upper jaw. This is a much better option than waiting too long and having a more complicated treatment, or even oral surgery, as the only option. Additionally, severe crowding occurs when the jaws are too small to accommodate all of the permanent teeth. Either the palatal expansion or tooth extraction might be recommended, both of which will help the adult teeth to erupt properly.
Once, and if, your dentist deems orthodontic treatment is necessary, your child will have the options of traditional braces or Invisalign. Braces are made from metal brackets that are attached to each tooth and connected by a thin arch wire and brackets, which move the teeth slowly into their desired position. Treatment time varies on a case-by-case basis, but teens can expect to wear braces for one to two years.
Invisalign treatment uses a series of customized, clear aligners to straighten teeth. The aligners are removable and nearly invisible, which means that you can straighten your teeth with minimal interruption in your daily life. Each aligner is custom calibrated and manufactured to fit your mouth, and you are able to eat your favorite foods, and brush and floss with ease. Teenagers no longer have to worry about unsightly wires for their important school functions like prom, sporting events or graduation.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is also an important factor in any orthodontic treatment because clean teeth are easier to move, thus keeping the treatment time on schedule. Your dental team will monitor your progress and will be able to ensure a happy, healthy smile at the end of your treatment!