Is it too early for an orthodontist?

kids orthodontist

Believe it or not, the right time to make the first orthodontist appointment is when your child still has baby teeth! The American Academy of Orthodontics recommends that kids get a checkup by age 7 – and earlier if your dentist suspects a problem.

By 7, your child has enough adult teeth to tell if the mouth and jaw are developing normally. If not, the orthodontist can advise which treatment will work best in your child’s case.

In order to get braces, kids need most of their permanent teeth. So treatment with braces usually starts between the ages of 8 and 14. For younger kids, orthodontists may recommend what’s called an “interceptive” approach. It’s a two-step plan where other “appliances” are used first to help guide the growth of face and jaw bones.

 Types of dental appliances:

  • Palatal expander – Helps widen the upper jaw to make room for incoming teeth
  • Nance button – Holds a space open if a baby tooth is lost too early
  • Headgear – Straps around the back of the head to help with overbites and underbites
  • Twin block – Helps make sure the lower jaw grows correctly

 The second phase of treatment with braces usually begins once a child has mostly adult teeth. Some orthodontists believe that kids who have worn dental appliances need braces for a shorter time.

Lots of things can cause your child to need treatment early. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Thumb or finger-sucking
  • Baby teeth that come in early, late or fall out irregularly
  • Crowded teeth
  • Teeth that meet incorrectly
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Teeth and jaws that look too small or too big

If your child is experiencing any of these issues, talk to your dentist. He or she can likely recommend a good orthodontist. Or use our online Find a Dentist tool to search for in-network orthodontists near you. 

Learn about different orthodontic treatments