Kids Braces: How Young Is Too Young? Expert Advice from an Orthodontist!

Oct 25, 2021 | Baby and Kids, Health

The last time we were at a family get-together, I was shocked to notice our eight-year-old niece had braces. Don't eight-year-olds have baby teeth?! I decided to ask my orthodontist all about kids braces, and today I'm sharing his unfiltered expert option!

two young girls with braces, from Fun Cheap or Free

Okay. Call me crazy, but I was blown away to see an eight-year-old in braces. That seemed ridiculously young to me! And you guys know I don't shy away from asking tough questions, so I decided to ask my ortho for the 4-1-1.

I asked him point-blank if orthodontists were scamming us all by leading us to believe our 8-YEAR-OLDS needed braces. Our conversation was so fascinating, I asked him if I could do a post on it, and he said yes! So here is a 110% honest-to-goodness, unsolicited opinion from an orthodontist (whom I trust wholeheartedly) who has been in “the biz” for decades. Brace yourself!


WHEN SHOULD PARENTS CONSIDER KIDS BRACES OR ORTHODONTIC WORK?

If you found your way to this post, then I bet you've asked yourself this question! I wondered the same thing, so I asked my doc, and here's what he said. Parents should bring their children in for an orthodontic screening by eight years old. Yup. Here's why.

It's essential to screen for complex orthodontic problems that can be corrected BEFORE braces, which can simplify future orthodontic treatment times, cost, and procedures (such as extractions of permanent teeth or even surgery in some limited cases).

This “Phase 1” treatment is not indicated for simple orthodontic issues but is indicated for obvious problems such as excessive lack of space for the erupted or un-erupted teeth, significant over-jet (buck teeth), underbite, crossbites, or to modify a child's growth for his or her benefit. While some parents may want to straighten teeth at a young age, the purpose of Phase 1 treatment is to address foundational concerns of the jaw alignment and create space for permanent teeth to come into the arch. After these foundational concerns are met, the child should be ready for a fairly straightforward “Phase 2” or comprehensive orthodontic treatment (i.e., braces).

Pro Tip: If your kiddo needs braces, find out how to budget for those bills! We share tons of tips in this post about Invisalign costs and braces deals.


IS THERE SUCH A THING AS TOO YOUNG?

kid at orthodontist appointment for braces, from Fun Cheap or Free

According to my orthodontist, parents can have braces put on in Phase 1 for two reasons:

  • To Accomplish the Above Goals – If jaw alignment or creating space for permanent teeth are concerns, then go ahead and go for the braces, regardless of age.
  • For Personal Preference/Reasons – To align teeth for reasons important to those children or parents who would like teeth straight early. For example, if your child models/acts/participates in an activity that requires straight teeth.

TL;DR: No. There's no such thing as too young. It depends on your kiddo! The American Association of Orthodontists recommends orthodontic treatment to begin at age 7. In rare cases, treatment may start earlier.


HOW CAN YOU FEEL CONFIDENT YOUR ORTHODONTIST ISN'T JUST TRYING TO MAKE A FEW BUCKS SELLING KIDS BRACES?

Okay, here's the truth, straight from the mouth of an orthodontist I trust. Most children do not need Phase 1 care. A parent should understand and see via radiograph a discrepancy that needs to be addressed to improve the foundational, skeletal, or crowding concerns at an initial visit.

It should not be a mystery to those involved. If this is clear, the parents can be sure that the extra funds used to initiate and complete Phase 1 treatment are not an unnecessary expense, but a worthwhile investment into the future beautiful smile of their child.


SUMMING IT ALL UP: KIDS BRACES 101

young girl holding braces, from Fun Cheap or Free

In dumbed-down terms from my own head…here's the Cliff Notes version of this post:

  • Your child should go in for an orthodontic evaluation at 8 years old.
  • If there are serious issues with their bite or jaw, or if teeth are too crowded for permanent teeth, Phase 1 treatment will start.
  • Phase 1 treatment is NOT meant to straighten a child's teeth.
  • Most kids don't need Phase 1. If an orthodontist recommends Phase 1, “it should not be a mystery to those involved” (as my doctor said). This means it should be pretty darn obvious that your child has some funky stuff going on! Buck teeth, prominent overbite, etc.
  • If an orthodontist recommends Phase 1 for reasons you have never noticed before, you might want to get yourself a second or third opinion.

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And there you have it! Just a bit of expert advice from my orthodontist. Hopefully, this helps you make the right decision for your family!

Do your kids have braces? How young were they when they got them? I'd love to know, so please leave a comment below!

Image with text that reads "kids braces" from Fun Cheap or Free

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Hope this helped!

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30 Comments

  1. sara

    My son started young. Perhaps 7? I have to say though he was waking up ALL night long and it increased to what I thought were night terrors. He was seen by every specialist with no answers other than medicate him. Nearly a year later and us both exhausted form nearly no sleep my sister sent me to an orthodontists. Sure enough his bite was so off it was cutting off his airway at night. SCAREY! A simple appliance helped fix that nearly immediately and we were once again finally getting sleep. His issues were a small mouth, large teeth and all of them coming in at once. To look at him you wouldnt think his teeth looked wacky but boy what a disturbance they caused.

    Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      Oh my word, you are kidding?! What a crazy story! I’m glad you got it sorted out.

      Reply
    • Opal

      I had braces at eight, and it was two days before my birthday.

      Reply
  2. Amanda

    I had phase 1 work starting at age 8 because of a crossbite and some serious crowding. Definitely not cosmetic, it actually made my teeth look worse as it my bite was corrected. Phase 2 was when they started looking better again. As far as my experience is concerned, this is all spot on.

    Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  3. Maria

    So Fun seeing Dr. Parker -Justin is a dear friend who use to live down the street from my family in St. Louis…he is an awesome man and has a wonderful family – next time you go in for an adjustment tell him Maria and the Masurat gang say hi!

    Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      Small world!! And all the way in St. Louis, no less! I’ll be sure to tell him you say hi ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  4. joiee

    This is all so good to know!:) Another thing I wonder about is bringing your kids to the dentist… how are u supposed to believe if they really need treatment or if the dentist is just loving collecting the insurance money?

    Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      Right?? It’s so hard. That’s just why you have to go with someone you trust, which is why I sing Dr. Parker’s praises.

      Reply
  5. audra

    I was just asking my kids’ dentist about this yesterday. My child will need extensive dental and orthodontist work due to missing 5 adult teeth. She is 7 and we have known since her first xrays at age 4 that she was missing her two adult bottom teeth. She is also missing three adult top teeth and she will need implants, jaw treatments and retainers. Your post included excellent information. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Dustin

    This is actually really relevant to me right now. My wife recently took our 7 year old to an orthodontist. As I understand from what she relayed to me, he basically said the same thing. He could wait, but it would be better to start now and do a two step program. Thanks for the info on this. It’s always nice to have a second opinion.

    Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      Thanks for reading, Dustin! Always nice to have a male representative once in a while ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  7. Becky B

    My son is 8 and wears a specific mouth guard at night. It has helped with his overbite so much! He won’t have to wear braces because of it. It’s called orthotain or perfect start. Dr Baird at the Draper, Ut Apex Dental offices got it for us. He is an awesome Dentist too! http://apexfamilydental.com/perfect-start-orthodontics-utah/

    Reply
  8. Chelsie

    I had braces starting in 7th grade. The first ortho i had gave everyone 3 year treatment no matter what. I had some pretty big issue, a missing permanent tooth (never grew in, wasn’t knocked out) right next to my front teeth on top. This allowed for a large gap between my front teeth. Every month at my appt my front teeth would immediately separate and then the ortho would tie them together again with bands/chains, there was too much movement for sure – a huge red flag this ortho did not have my best interest at heart, I needed something else. After 3 years I got my braces off and a retainer with a tooth attached to fill in where the missing tooth was. I couldn’t take my retainer out even long enough to eat without my front teeth moving. My Sr year of high school my aunt referred us to an orthodontist that she had told about my situation. I was devestated to have to get my braces back on. But we quickly realized this ortho always had the patient in mind (we thought it was cute that he would always said “if you were my granddaughter I would suggest….”) he quickly had me get some of my gum tissue from between my front teeth removed and was able to have my front teeth in the correct place with braces while my gums healed, 6 months later my braces were off. The gums had been easily identified as the cause of the issues with my front teeth and had my original orthodontist addressed this issue I would not have had my roots of my front teeth completely damaged. Typically the roots on your front teeth are twice as long as the portion of the teeth you see, mine are 1/4 the length they should be and run the risk of easily falling out. This causes a lot of anxiety. I had worked with many specialists this past year to get an implant where the missing tooth was and every single one of them, looking at my x-rays, had said “you must’ve had an awful orthodontist”. All this to say, parents be very very careful and selective when choosing your child’s orthodontist. I know my mom wanted to help (I has severe self esteem issues from my teeth and was bullied at school) so she found the cheapest ortho she could so that they could afford the braces monthly. Looking back there were lots of red flags while seeing my first ortho, and ultimately so much damage was done from improper care that the cost will be so much more emotionally and financially. This is a great post and I think it speaks a lot to my experience with orthodontics. Straight teeth may be the end goal but ensure the proper route is taken.

    Reply
    • Chelsie

      Sorry for all the typos, that was all done on my phone….

      Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      Wow, thanks for sharing your experience! Such good advice!

      Reply
  9. Nikki

    I got braces at age 8 and got them off at 11. Eventually, my retainer didn’t fit anymore and the reason was because my wisdom teeth were coming up.

    My mom became extremely angry with me because my teeth were spreading and she thought that I was lying. Lo-and-behold, my dentist told her that I was right.

    I got braces again at 16 and off at 18. This time, my orthodontist took them off prematurely (in my opinion) because I had a VERY noticeable gap on the upper left side. I decided to stop wearing them because I didn’t see the point in keeping a permanent gap in my mouth and she also ignored my complaints of soreness.

    Reply
    • Erin

      I am very sorry to hear how your mom reacted, this is emotionally abusive to get angry with a small child for something that was clearly out of your control. I just want you to know this was not your fault and your mother was hugely in the wrong. Therapy could be beneficial as I’m sure this wasn’t the only issue with her parenting. I wish you well.

      Reply
  10. Mary

    My daughter had braces at 9 and her wisdom teeth removed at 13. She clearly didn’t have enough room in her mouth for all of those teeth.

    Reply
  11. Gretchen

    Thanks for this post. It was exactly what I was looking for in my search for advice on my 8 yr old who is currently having phase 1 treatment and may need phase 2 now as well. Ugh. Poor girl but I can visibly see the major issues in her pretty mouth. Your ortho said pretty much the same as mine. Reassuring post. Thanks!

    Reply
  12. kenzie

    My parents decided I needed braces when I was 7, it was miserable. I had them for 9 years. I had corrective jaw surgery at 16. I had a slight overbite and I definitely didn’t need braces for 9 years to fix it, but I’m glad I got them straightened out as a kid.

    Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      Yikes!! Wow thanks for sharing! I wondered if starting early would just prolong the process. So interesting!

      Reply
  13. Justin

    I don’t know what to do. My 8 year old has serious over crowding. The orthodontist said 2 permanent teeth will Have to come Out if we wait and and do nothing the he will need braces to anyway. My thinking is that why make him go through all this problems at 8 when we will have to do it at 11-12 again. And what if his mouth straightens out on its own. I have heard of this

    Reply
    • FunCheapOrFree

      I would get a second and third opinion!

      Reply
  14. Aby

    One day, when I was 8, I had an awful tooth ache, probably a cavity in a milk tooth since it was in a molar and I was very young. I finished in a nearby dentist that convinced my mom I needed braces. She managed to put in 10 in the upper jaw and 4 in the lower. In pictures all you can see is a gap between all my teeth, I had a very normal denture, no jaw out of place, not one thooth crooked, and while growing up I had beautiful white small baby teeth. I had not a good higiene, like, I was learning, my parents had little clue as to what was happening, their mistake for not controling and leaving it to the dentist. Eventually most of my upper teeth decayed a little and some less damage happened with the lower ones. But taking the braces off after 4 YEARS, that is, I was 12, I lost a lot. It is by far the most horrible experience, I was depressed about it, not smiling, not cleaning enough cause I was so ashamed of looking at my teeth in the mirror, making it worse… and though I kept on going to the dentist almost weekly for my whole adolescence, the damage was done. A teeth that has a cavity and is refilled is never as protected and healthy, problems still araise today even after having a bridge. At least now I smile more but I am 29 and this has destroyed my self-estime in key moments of my life. It affected my social, professional and academic life, and I am just recently understanding it is my teeth and not my whole being that is decayed. I hope professionals stop choosing money over someone else’s (A CHILD’S) health.

    Reply
    • Fun Cheap or Free

      Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that! We definitely want the wellbeing of our children to come first and foremost!

      Reply
  15. Carrie Lynn Blandino

    So glad I found this. Took my three year year old to the dentist today. He has an underbite. She wants to put in a device before he is 4. I feel it is way to young. Definitely will be getting another opinion.

    Reply
    • Fun Cheap or Free

      Definitely get a second opinion! I’m sure everything will turn out perfectly for him ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  16. Kristin

    Jordan YOU HAVVVEEE to listen to a book called BREATH by ca shames Nestor itโ€™s AMAZING and actually I learned from his book and my ENT that if babies BABIES are mouth breathing than the likely hood of illness AND over or under bite goes up 100 fold. In order to have proper face and oral development we have to be Nose breathing. PLEASE go and read it I know you have a million things to do but itโ€™s pre dentist and doctor because the AAPD also state that the number one cause of cavities isnโ€™t sugar itโ€™s mouth breathing. All of that saves a family money if they know about it EARLY and can work with a pediatric dentist and ENT to help remedy the issues before bones fuse together etc ANYWAY my whole thing in saying that is as I tell husband when I check in on my baby I tell him โ€˜I am just trying to protect him from ortho work in the future which protects the pocket book and his overall development.โ€™ SERIOUS you have GOT to make time to listen or read it both you and Bubba itโ€™s DANG good. Little hippy in places but dang good.

    Reply
  17. Cindy

    Myself and my 7, 11, & 15 year olds all have braces right now. My teeth have been bad for decades I thought it was poor enamel. Turns out I had needed them since I was a child. My 11, & 15 year olds have had a slight over bite and did r need them until 6th grade. My 7 year old has teeth just like me. She saw an orthodontist at 6 because her teeth were straight but crowded and I worked closely with my dentist and orthodontist to time her phase 1 at the appropriate time for her growth. I was lucky and found a dentist I trust and followed his advice.

    Reply

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