Orthodontic Treatment — Every Stage of Life

Evidence Based
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Orthodontic treatment, such as braces and clear aligners, is different for every age group. For example, some children may need treatment before all of their permanent teeth have grown in. Others may be able to wait until their teenage years, especially if they only have mild dental crowding.

Adults and older adults are also candidates for some types of orthodontic treatment. Many of them may be getting treatment for the first time, while others are investing in another round of treatment after their teeth become crooked again.

Orthodontic treatment corrects “malocclusions” in people of all ages. Malocclusion (teeth misalignment) is when the teeth are not appropriately positioned in the upper and lower jaws. Common types of treatment include clear aligners, metal braces, and headgear (children only).

Early (“Interceptive”) Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontists recommend beginning check-ups around 6 or 7 years of age. During this stage of life, children have a mixture of baby teeth and permanent teeth (mixed dentition phase). Depending on the severity of misalignment, some children may need early treatment before all of their permanent teeth grow in. 

In particular, your child may be a candidate for early treatment if they have: 

All of the above conditions are considered relatively serious bite problems. So, treating these conditions early (while a child still has growth potential that the orthodontist can harness during treatment) may prevent the need for surgical correction later in life. 

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However, not all children are candidates for early orthodontic treatment. This is because many of them only have minor dental crowding or misalignment, which can be corrected during their teenage years (typically around age 14). Children who are usually not candidates for early treatment include those with mild bite issues. 

It is essential to begin visiting an orthodontist as your child’s baby teeth fall out, and his or her permanent teeth grow in. Most patients first visit their general dentist, family dentist, or pediatric dentist, who then refers them to an orthodontist when indicated. From there, the orthodontist can assess whether treatment is needed right away or later on.

Learn more about early orthodontic treatment.

Orthodontic Treatment for Teens & Young Adults

Many pre-teens, teens, and young adults seek orthodontic treatment. In fact, this is the most common age group to undergo treatment because all of their permanent teeth have likely grown in. In addition, their jaws are still not fully developed, which makes treatment easier since the teeth and jaw can move more freely. 

There are many reasons why treatment is beneficial at this age. Some benefits include:

  • Taking advantage of growth spurts during this stage of life helps orthodontists direct jaw growth and correct any bite problems
  • Treatment can be completed before high school or college, which is preferable for many teens and young adults 
  • The straighter your teeth are, the better your oral and general health will be as well
  • It helps prevent tooth loss and damage to teeth over time

The majority of children can wait until their teenage years, or later, to start treatment. This is because most of them have mild to moderate teeth misalignment.

Learn more about teenage orthodontic treatment.

Braces for Adults

Adults of any age can invest in orthodontic treatment. The primary reason adults seek treatment is to boost their confidence and appearance. Also, having straight teeth is beneficial for your health because the teeth are easier to clean, brush, and floss. As a result, you have a lower chance of developing cavities and gum disease

However, for most adults, the idea of having metal brackets and wires on their teeth for over a year isn’t appealing. Fortunately, there are a few affordable types of braces to choose from as an adult, including:

  • Traditional metal braces, which are the most visible option
  • Ceramic (clear) braces, a less noticeable alternative to metal braces
  • Lingual braces, which are placed on the back of teeth 
  • Clear aligners, a removable and virtually invisible alternative to braces

It’s never too late to invest in orthodontic treatment. Adult braces enhance the appearance of teeth, improve facial structure, and boost self-confidence.

Learn more about options for adult braces.

Invisible dental teeth brackets tooth aligners on blue background, plastic braces dentistry retainers to straighten teeth. Orthodontic temporary removable straighteners in dentist office dental

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Berg, Joel H., and Rebecca L. Slayton. Early Childhood Oral Health. Wiley Blackwell, 2016.

Keates, Nancy. “The 8-Year-Old With a Perfect Smile.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 16 Nov. 2010, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703326204575616460332062620.

“Malocclusion of Teeth: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001058.htm

Patti, Antonio, and Guy Perrier DArc. Clinical Success in Early Orthodontic Treatment. Quintessence International, 2005.

Freedman, George A. Contemporary Esthetic Dentistry. Elsevier, 2012.

Proffit, William R., et al. Contemporary Orthodontics. Elsevier/Mosby, 2019.

Updated on: May 22, 2020
Alyssa Hill
Medically Reviewed: March 17, 2020
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Lara Coseo

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