Your child is getting closer to his or her teenage years, and you wonder whether it’s time to see an orthodontist. Your child points out that some of his or her friends already have braces. You wonder about the “magical age” when it’s best to get braces.

While most kids start with orthodontics between ages 10 and 14, there might be reasons to get braces at a different age. The right age to get braces depends on the state of your child’s teeth.

Ages 3–9

Typically, dentists and orthodontists wait until all the permanent teeth arrive to start an orthodontic plan. But sometimes, it’s in your child’s best interest to start braces at a younger age.

One reason to start early is when a child’s misaligned teeth cause problems with talking or eating. Perhaps these issues cause your child low self-esteem and serious social distress. Getting braces early can correct these problems and improve your child’s daily life.

Early braces are also a good idea if your child has severe dental problems that prevent normal dental development. These problems could include:

  • Protruding teeth
  • Crossbite
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Tooth crowding

If your dentist notices any of these problems, they may recommend that your child see an orthodontist at about age seven for a consultation. The orthodontist will look closer at your child’s teeth and jaw and decide on a treatment plan. Early treatment can help your child’s jaw and teeth grow in a better position. It can also prevent your child’s adult teeth from crowding as they grow in.

Ages 10–14

If your child’s primary teeth don’t have serious problems, braces can wait until his or her permanent teeth grow in. This means your child will be ready for braces between ages 10 and 14.

The orthodontist will look closer at your child’s teeth by taking x-rays or making a mold of the teeth. He or she then decides on the best treatment plan.

Traditional braces consist of wires, brackets, and rubber bands. Your child will visit the orthodontist periodically so he or she can tighten the braces and help move the teeth into the desired position.

If your child doesn’t want to show off his or her new metal teeth, you can choose a different kind of braces.

  • Ceramic braces still have brackets and wires, but are less noticeable than metal braces.
  • Lingual braces are placed behind the teeth.
  • Clear braces include a series of plastic aligners that slowly move the teeth into place.

Most children’s teeth can be straightened in a time period of about two years. After treatment, the orthodontist may recommend a retainer to keep the teeth in place.

The pre-teen and teen years are a good time to get orthodontic treatment because the orthodontist can address problems early and prevent them from getting worse.

Ages 15–18

Occasionally, an orthodontist may want to wait to start braces until your child is a little older. For example, if your child has a severe underbite, this condition may continue until your child finishes growing. If he or she were to get braces early, his or her teeth might end up needing additional treatment later on. In this case, the orthodontist may want to wait to start braces until after the jaw stops growing.

Ages 18+

Many people didn’t get the chance to have orthodontic treatment as a kid or teen. Fortunately, it’s never too late to get braces. Braces can get you the straight smile you’ve always wanted. Some adults find that their teeth have shifted over time, and braces can bring their teeth back into alignment.

Besides improving your teeth’s appearance, braces can correct dental health problems as well. Misaligned teeth might cause increased plaque buildup between the teeth, which can lead to tooth decay. Teeth and jaw problems can also cause pain in the face and jaw. Straightening the teeth can correct these problems.

With new braces designs that are clear and less noticeable, an increasing number of adults are choosing to wear braces. Even celebrities like Faith Hill and Tom Cruise have sported braces as adults.

As you can see, there’s no one right age to get braces. While we’re accustomed to seeing braces on kids ages ten to fourteen, orthodontists are realizing that early treatment benefits some kids. Plus, many adults are beginning to realize how much braces can benefit their health and their self-esteem.

It’s best to have your child see an orthodontist by age seven, when his or her permanent teeth start to come in. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she will need braces right away. It gives the orthodontist the chance to catch any problems and decide on the best time to start treatment.

If you wonder what the best time is to get braces for your child, see a dentist or orthodontist.