By Dr. John White

Owner, Smiles by White

Every child hits milestones at a different pace. Some babies take that first step as young as eight months old, while others can take up to a year-and-a-half to start walking. Some kids start reading before kindergarten, while others only learn how to read in the first or second grade. The same variations apply to kids wearing braces. There really isn’t a “right age” to start.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have an initial check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age seven. (This is when most children have at least four of their eight anterior teeth in.)

In my practice, 80 percent of children I examine will not need any treatment at that time, but some do need interceptive treatment.

Before age seven, we are less concerned with the alignment of the teeth and focus more on the alignment of the jaw and the direction of the growth.

For example, if there is an underbite or crossbite, where the jaws are not lining up correctly, it can cause damage to the teeth and alter facial growth. In these cases, I will treat patients regardless of age. I have treated patients as young as three and four years old, which can help them avoid surgery later in life.

Early interceptive treatment usually only takes six months to one year to redirect how the jaw is growing or rearrange a couple of teeth.

Patients can start more comprehensive orthodontic treatment, usually around age 13 or 14, when they still have baby teeth. However, it is important to note that when patients finish treatment they should have all of their 28 permanent teeth either in place or have X-rays showing the molars are coming in fine.