Orthodontic Treatment: An Age-By-Age Guide

For most children, an initial visit to the orthodontist at age 7 will be low-key and inexpensive, says Don Joondeph, D.D.S, M.S., an orthodontics professor and member of the American Association of Orthodontists. Often the strategy, Joondeph says, will be a “wait and see” approach.

Here is an age-by-age guide of what to expect from orthodontic evaluation and treatment.

    T face=Verdana>Ages 2 to 3 – In very rare cases, children as young as 2 or 3 with extremely distorted bites may need to begin treatment.

    T face=Verdana>Ages 5 to 7 – This is the ideal time to counsel children to stop bad habits, such as thumb-sucking and tongue-thrusting, according to Jeffrey Ahlin, D.D.S., who has taught at Tufts and Harvard universities and is the online editor for the American Orthodontic Society. Although most malocclusions are hereditary, habits can make problems worse if they continue after permanent teeth have come in.

    T face=Verdana>Ages 6 to 8 – This is the time to correct crossbite (when teeth overlap each other, most commonly when the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth, toward the tongue), Ahlin says. This condition makes it difficult for children to bite and chew properly. If the lower jaw is jutting out, the upper jaw will need to be brought forward, and the window of opportunity for doing that is at a young age, Joondeph notes.

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