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!

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