It may be a surprise to some parents to see 7-year-olds with braces on their teeth already, but it’s becoming more common in today’s orthodontic world. Traditionally, treatment with braces began after most baby teeth were lost, and the majority of adult teeth have developed. Newer theories have led to putting braces on baby teeth so that orthodontists can manage jaw development and positioning of adult teeth. This has created a two-phase approach to orthodontics, with baby teeth braced in the first phase, followed by a rest period, and then a second phase of adult bracing.
Types of braces
Baby teeth usually don’t need full braces in the entire mouth. It depends on your child’s specific orthodontic issues as to what kind of bracing is required. Sometimes a retainer is needed to manage a cross bite, or bracing of only the front baby teeth to correct an overbite or minimize the protrusion of front teeth. Back molars and front teeth are the most commonly braced baby teeth.
Once baby teeth have been positioned to create room for permanent teeth, the second phase of braces is usually shorter than the first. Sometimes a second phase isn’t even needed if the first set of braces allowed the adult teeth to align correctly. A healthy bite has been created that doesn’t need further treatment.
You should have your child evaluated by an orthodontist by age seven, so that the need for early intervention can be determined. This lessens the requirement for more aggressive treatment later, like pulling teeth if there isn’t enough room in the jaw.
Early orthodontic intervention is especially critical if your child was a thumb sucker or used a pacifier for a long time. Habits like these may have altered your child’s jaw or created a crossbite. Without bracing the baby teeth, your child’s jaw may not develop correctly and lead to a permanent misplacement of the jaw and a poor profile.