Most people begin orthodontic treatment between ages 10 and 14. In particular, middle school students often receive phase II orthodontic treatment before high school begins. This is especially true if they had phase I treatment as a child. Although, adolescents and teens are the most common age group because all of their permanent teeth have grown in. Any dental crowding, spacing, alignment, and bite issues are also evident during the teenage years.
Orthodontic treatment improves speaking, breathing, chewing, and swallowing capabilities.
Between 10 and 15 years of age, the body is rapidly changing. This includes growth spurts, puberty, and even skeletal changes in the mouth. During teeth cleanings, many teens receive routine orthodontic screenings to check for any changes. This ensures any issues are caught and treated early before the mouth and jaw fully develop. Some orthodontic issues that may indicate the need for treatment include:
There are many benefits to receiving orthodontic treatment during the teenage years. Some parents may decide to start earlier, around age 6, but that isn't always the best option. This is because there is no way to guarantee against phase II treatment later on.
The primary advantages of teen orthodontic treatment include:
Three common types of orthodontic treatment for adolescents and teens include, but are not limited to:
Traditional braces are popular orthodontic appliances that correct misaligned teeth, crooked teeth, and other bite-related issues. There are three common types of braces, including metal, clear, and lingual braces. Adolescents and teens usually get braces after all of their permanent teeth erupt and before high school begins. Lastly, treatment usually takes between one and three years.
“Almost five million Americans, most of them being children and teenagers, get braces. Additionally, about 80 percent of people who receive orthodontic treatment are between 6 and 18 years of age.”American Association of Orthodontics (AAO)
Puberty increases inflammation in the body, which can affect the gums. As a result, teens are commonly diagnosed with gingivitis (mild gum disease) around this time. Swollen, red, and tender gums are common symptoms of gingivitis. Treatment for this condition includes professional teeth cleanings and following a good oral health regimen at home. If gingivitis is left untreated, periodontal disease (severe gum disease) can form over time.
Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly reduces the chance of developing gingivitis during the teenage years. If your teen has braces, however, it is more difficult to floss and brush effectively. So, most teens abandon flossing completely while they have braces on. Unfortunately, the combination of puberty and neglecting oral care throughout treatment almost always results in gingivitis. Although, there are ways to prevent gingivitis while wearing braces:
Clear aligners (invisible braces) are removable orthodontic appliances that correct crooked and misaligned teeth. In particular, adults prefer clear aligners over braces because they are invisible, comfortable, and convenient. Although, teens are also candidates for treatment because their permanent teeth have grown in by this age.
Visit your dentist every 4 to 6 weeks to receive the next few sets of aligners. Multiple aligners are used because a single aligner is only capable of moving the teeth 1 mm or less. On average, they must be worn for at least 22 hours per day and the length of treatment depends on individual needs.
Headgear is often used in combination with braces if your teen has a severe overbite, underbite, crossbite, or open bite. The appliance is usually attached to a patient’s head or face with a neck strap and influences proper jaw growth. Braces only fix teeth positioning. Common types of headgear include:
“Braces.” Mouth Healthy TM, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/braces.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. NIH Publication, 2013. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/periodontal-disease_0.pdf
Patti, Antonio, and Guy Perrier DArc. Clinical Success in Early Orthodontic Treatment. Quintessence International, 2005.
Proffit, William R., et al. Contemporary Orthodontics. Elsevier/Mosby, 2019.