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Updated on November 18, 2022

Braces for Kids

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When Can Kids Get Braces?

Kids often first have braces placed between the ages of 8 and 12. This is because:1, 2

  • Their permanent teeth have started to come in 
  • The bone is softer at this age, so future problems with tooth alignment can be mitigated 

Braces for kids are generally intended to guide adolescent growth toward a positive outcome, both in terms of function and aesthetics.1

In some cases, waiting for all the permanent teeth to erupt isn’t optimal, and the braces specialist may suggest early treatment (before puberty).3, 4

Signs Your Child Needs Braces

Your child may need braces if he or she suffers from malocclusion, which refers to misalignment of the teeth, jaws, or both.5, 6

Some signs to look for include:

  • Visibly crooked or misaligned teeth
  • Difficulty chewing or biting
  • Trouble making certain speech sounds
  • Habits such as thumb or finger sucking or mouth breathing
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)

Orthodontists generally recommend that children have their first orthodontic checkup by the age of 6 to 8.3, 4 Depending on your child’s needs, the orthodontist may recommend waiting before starting treatment or opting to start the first phase of treatment right away.

5 Types of Braces for Kids

Here are the most common types of braces for children:

1. Traditional Metal Braces

Traditional metal braces apply pressure to the teeth with a series of brackets attached to an archwire. They’re often made from stainless steel, but titanium can also be used.

Traditional braces generally use elastic bands called ligatures to secure each bracket to the archwire. These ligatures may be separate o-rings or come linked together as power chains.

Pros

  • Most widespread and readily available option
  • Highly effective at aligning and repositioning teeth
  • Durable
  • Multiple options for elastic ligatures

Cons

  • Highly visible
  • Can be challenging to keep clean
  • Nickel in stainless steel can cause allergic reactions

Average Treatment Length

Treatment time can vary from 6 months to over 2.5 years, depending on your child’s needs.

2. Self-Ligating Braces

Self-ligating braces are similar to traditional braces but don’t require ligatures. This is because the brackets are designed to stay attached to the archwire by themselves.

Pros

  • Shorter appointment lengths since there are no ligatures to replace
  • Possibly more comfortable than traditional braces
  • Easier to clean due to lack of ligatures

Cons

  • Just as visible as traditional braces
  • Allergic reactions to nickel are still possible

Average Treatment Length

Treatment length is similar to traditional braces but may be shorter or longer depending on the teeth involved.

3. Lingual Braces

Lingual braces work similarly to traditional braces. The main difference is that they are placed behind the teeth rather than in front of them. This makes them less visible.

Pros

  • Least visible of any metal braces
  • May be more comfortable for the lips 

Cons

  • Harder to keep clean
  • Potential for tongue irritation or for tongue to be caught in a bracket
  • More expensive than traditional braces
  • May require longer treatment time

Average Treatment Length

Treatment time for lingual braces is comparable to that of traditional braces, but it may take longer in some cases.

4. Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces, also referred to as clear or invisible braces, feature brackets made of ceramic rather than metal. This material is generally transparent or colored to match the teeth.

Pros

  • Less visible than metal braces
  • Less allergenic than metal braces
  • Wide variety of colors

Cons

  • Break more easily than metal braces and can break when being removed
  • Take longer than metal braces
  • More expensive

Average Treatment Length

Ceramic braces don’t move teeth as quickly as metal braces. They may also require replacement from time to time due to breakage. For these reasons, treatment time may be somewhat longer.

5. Clear Aligners

Clear aligners are thin plastic trays that fit over buttons on the teeth. They offer a less invasive alternative to metal and ceramic braces, though they vary in quality.

Pros

  • Virtually invisible
  • Easy to remove and clean
  • Shorter treatment time in many cases

Cons

  • More upkeep required
  • Can be accidentally thrown away or lost since they are not fixed in the mouth
  • Not suitable for severe malocclusions

Average Treatment Length

Treatment time is often between a year and 18 months, making clear aligners a potentially faster alternative to traditional braces. This is because clear aligners are only used to treat mild problems. 

Benefits of Braces for Kids

Orthodontic treatment is generally considered easier for children and adolescents than for older people. This is because the pressure applied by braces works especially well in conjunction with the soft bone and rapid growth of adolescence.1

When the body is already growing and teeth are shifting into their adult placement, it becomes easier for braces to guide the teeth into proper alignment.4, 6

Older people are more likely to have denser bone and have developed age-related tooth problems, making treatment even more difficult.7

Orthodontic treatment times for children and adults don’t usually differ much, but children and adults may have different orthodontic needs that determine treatment length.8, 9

What to Expect During an Orthodontic Consultation 

During your first appointment with an orthodontist, the orthodontist will examine your child’s teeth to determine whether braces are warranted.

If the orthodontist determines that braces (or clear aligners) are suitable for your child, they will take impressions of your child’s teeth. They may also take X-rays and/or have digital models made to determine the best treatment option for your child. 

How Much Do Braces Cost for Kids?

The cost of braces can vary according to the type and material and the specific needs of your child. The following are general estimates:10, 11

Braces Cost
Traditional $2,000 to $7,000
Self-Ligating $2,000 to $7,000 (comparable to traditional; may be slightly more)
Lingual $8,000 to $10,000
Ceramic $4,000 to $8,000
Clear Aligners $1,000 to $8,000 (varies widely by brand)

Does Insurance Cover Braces?

Dental insurance may cover the cost of orthodontic treatment up to a certain amount. Policies differ, and there may be a yearly or lifetime maximum or an age requirement.

Many orthodontists offer flexible payment plans. Some offer a discount for paying in full at the beginning of treatment.

You may be able to save money by having treatment done by students in training at a dental school. Financial aid for orthodontic treatment is also available.

Summary

Orthodontic braces are often recommended for kids either in early puberty or a bit before. This is because teeth are generally easier to move into alignment before they’ve settled into their adult positions.

Several kinds of braces are available. Schedule a consultation with an orthodontist to determine which options are best for your child.

11 Sources Cited
Last updated on November 18, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. es.” Dental press journal of orthodontics vol. 21,5 : 67-74.
  2. Braces.” American Dental Association.
  3. The Right Time for an Orthodontic Check-Up: No Later than Age 7.” American Association of Orthodontists.
  4. Pietilä, Ilpo et al. "Orthodontists' views on indications for and timing of orthodontic treatment in Finnish public oral health care." European Journal of Orthodontics vol. 30,1 : 46-51.
  5. Jawad, Z. et al. "Who needs orthodontic treatment? Who gets it? And who wants it?" British Dental Journal vol. 218 : 99-103.
  6. Väkiparta, Marjo Kirsi et al. "Orthodontic Treatment Need from Eight to 12 Years of Age in an Early Treatment Oriented Public Health Care System: A Prospective Study." The Angle Orthodontist vol. 75,3 : 344-349.
  7. Meyer-Marcotty, Philipp et al. "The adult orthodontic patient over 40 years of age: association between periodontal bone loss, incisor irregularity, and increased orthodontic treatment need." Clinical Oral Investigations vol. 25 : 6357-6364.
  8. Abbing, Allen et al. "Duration of orthodontic treatment with fixed appliances in adolescents and adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis." Progress in Orthodontics vol. 21,37 .
  9. Dyer, Gregory S. et al. "Age effects on orthodontic treatment: Adolescents contrasted with adults." American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics vol. 100,6 : 523-530.
  10. LaPonsie, Maryalene. "The Average Cost of Braces and How to Save." US News. June 28, 2021.
  11. Self-Ligating Braces vs Metal Braces: Cost, Pros & Cons, Pictures, FAQs.” Diamond Braces.
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