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What Is the Proper Age for Orthodontic Treatment?

The process by which teeth move in the mouth happens at any age. This means there is no difference in seeking treatment as an adult or a child. However, every child should undergo an orthodontic evaluation by age seven. Treatments for adults may take longer due to the lack of growth in the facial bones. Because of this, certain corrections may require additional treatments.

What Causes Problems?

Orthodontic problems are also referred to as malocclusion, which means “bad bite.” Some of the causes of these issues include extra teeth, missing teeth, crowded teeth and misalignment of the jaw. Many of these problems are inherited, but some are the result of other conditions, including accidents, sucking a thumb or fingers for a long period of time and early or late loss of baby teeth.

What Corrections Are Available?

In the early stages, the dentist must evaluate the patients oral health records to diagnose the problem and create a treatment plan. This can include a clinical examination, thorough dental and medical history, photos of the face and teeth, plaster models of the teeth and x-rays of the mouth and head. The dentist uses this information to create a custom treatment plan. The dentist will then create the appropriate appliance to meet the patient’s needs. The period of time this appliance is in place is considered the active treatment stage. These appliances must be adjusted periodically to accommodate the necessary changes. The length of time treatment lasts varies. Some of the factors influencing length of treatment include ability to follow instructions and the cooperation of the patient. After the active phase is over, patients enter the retention phase. A retainer will help keep teeth in their new position. For severe problems, surgery may be recommended.

Are There Less Noticeable Options

There are more options today to provide orthodontic treatment that is less noticeable, including Invsalign. The brackets, which are the piece that hold the wires in place, are typically bonded to the front of the teeth. The brackets used today can be traditional metal or they may be clear or tooth colored. Wires are also less noticeable. They are typically made from space age materials that provide the same gentle pressure to move the teeth but with greater comfort.

How Long Will Treatment Take?

The average length of treatment is 24 months, but varies greatly. Adults often require longer treatment than children. Other factors include the severity of the issue, overall oral health and the ability of the patient to follow instructions. Most people realize the value of the investment, making the time commitment more bearable.

Recommendations

The American Dental Association recommends children receive a screening by age seven to evaluate treatment.

In the past, orthodontic treatment wasn’t recommended until after all or most permanent teeth were in place. This is when an orthodontic evaluation took place. Some patients required extractions to make room for teeth and often had to wear braces for several years.

Today, there’s a better way. Early treatment, or interceptive orthodontics, reduces the need to pull teeth by 95 percent using safe, painless growth options.

Growth issues can be addressed when children are young, but once they hit puberty, a majority of growth is completed. This could mean missed opportunities to correct issues so they don’t recur.

Some issues you should watch for include:

  • An overbite where upper teeth overlap the lower
  • A deepbite where upper teeth cover lower teeth when biting
  • An underbite where lower teeth overlap upper
  • Spacing with gaps between teeth
  • Misalignment of upper and lower teeth
  • Crossbite where lower teeth fall inside the upper teeth
  • Crowding where teeth may twist or turn, placing some teeth in front of or behind others

Early treatment can play a dramatic role in a positive outcome for orthodontic treatment and self-esteem. This encourages proper jaw growth in a painless manner to avoid extractions. Early treatment can improve oral hygiene and correct bite issues with less required maintenance.