Orthodontic Treatment: How Long Does It Last?
And 7 Other Questions About Orthodontic Treatment for Kids
As your child’s adult teeth begin to arrive, you’re probably starting to think about future orthodontic treatment. You might be wondering whether or not your child will need braces and how to even tell if orthodontic care is really necessary. You’re eager to help your child achieve optimal oral health and invest in orthodontic treatment, but you have some important questions and concerns too.
Here are eight very common questions we hear from parents curious about potential orthodontic treatment for their kids.
1. When should I schedule my child’s first orthodontic examination?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends kids receive their first orthodontic evaluation by their seventh birthday. The reason this age is chosen is because most kids’ first adult molars arrive around this time. These first molars establish your child’s back bite alignment, which in turn has an impact on the alignment of the other adult teeth as they erupt.
If you missed this timeframe, that’s okay! We recommend booking your child’s orthodontic evaluation right away in this situation.
2. What are the signs that my child will need orthodontic care?
Your child will likely need orthodontic care if they:
- Have congenitally missing teeth
- Have trouble chewing food
- Experience bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Often open-mouth breath
- Suck on their thumb past age 4
- Have baby teeth that are crowded or blocking adult teeth
- Have abnormal jaw movement due to malocclusion
- Lost baby teeth very early or late
The only way to know for certain if and when your child may need orthodontic care is through an evaluation.
3. How long can I expect my child’s orthodontic treatment to take?
Orthodontic treatment is a very customized process unique to each child and their needs. Because of this, it’s difficult to determine how long treatment will take until an evaluation is given. That being said, most kids who receive traditional braces will need to wear them for 12 to 24 months. In cases of severe malocclusion, braces may need to be worn closer to 36 months.
4. What is interceptive care and why is it so important?
Interceptive care is a form of early orthodontic treatment that uses orthodontic appliances, like space maintainers or palatal expanders, at an early phase in your child’s smile development. These appliances are used to prevent crowding of future adult teeth by either keeping space open after premature baby tooth loss or expanding the jaw size to allow for incoming adult teeth.
Interceptive care is usually the first phase of a two-phase treatment plan. After the interceptive orthodontic appliance is removed your child may still need braces in the future, though treatment time will be shorter and less complicated.
5. How did my child’s teeth become crooked in the first place?
Teeth can become crooked for a number of different reasons. Two of the more common causes are oral habits and missing teeth. Prolonged thumbsucking habits are a frequent cause of overbites in baby teeth as well as adult teeth. Premature loss of baby teeth is another issue that is much more serious than it may initially seem.
Baby teeth may not be permanent, but they can have a permanent effect on your child’s adult smile. Gaps from congenitally missing baby teeth or baby teeth that had to be removed due to decay can lead to adult teeth erupting crooked, twisted, or tilted instead of straight.
6. Are looks the only reason to invest in orthodontic care for kids?
Definitely not! Straightening teeth is only one benefit of orthodontic care for kids. The primary reason to follow through with an orthodontic treatment recommendation is to ensure your child has a healthy smile that’s easier to maintain.
Straight teeth are beautiful, but they also tend to be healthier because they’re easier to keep clean. Your child will be able to brush and floss much more effectively, which reduces plaque build-up and lowers risks of tooth decay and related oral health issues.
7. Is there any way to prevent my child’s from needing braces?
Unfortunately, there really isn’t any way to 100% prevent your child from needing orthodontic care. However, there are things you can do as a parent to help your child maintain a healthy smile and prevent premature baby tooth loss that could lead to more severe malocclusions.
Prioritize your child’s oral health by making sure they see their pediatric dentist every 6 months, beginning by the time their first baby teeth arrive. Provide a varied, nutritious diet and keep sugars – including fruit juice! – to a minimum. As your child reaches school age, teach them how to brush and floss their teeth independently, and reinforce why keeping our smiles healthy is important.
8. Where do I go for my child’s orthodontic exam and treatment?
Your child can receive an orthodontic evaluation and treatment right here at Must Love Kids!
Dr. Mo provides pediatric orthodontic care for children of all ages, from interceptive treatment for youngsters up to traditional braces for teens. Best of all, since your child is a patient of our practice, we’ll be able to provide all of their other dental care needs without you having to drive to a different location.
Schedule your child’s orthodontic evaluation at Must Love Kids Pediatric Dentistry.
If your child is ready for an orthodontic evaluation, due for a general check-up, or you have questions or concerns, the Must Love Kids team is ready to help. To chat with our team or schedule an appointment for your child, call our Vancouver, WA office or request a visit online.