This important dental question is one that we get every day in our orthodontic offices, and is perhaps the most controversial dental issue in orthodontics. The simple answer is that we wait until all of the baby teeth have been lost and all of the permanent teeth (except wisdom teeth) are growing in. Usually this is 11-12 for girls and 12-13 for boys. There are many patients that develop sooner or later than those ages, but these numbers are accurate for the majority of patients.
Many patients and parents have heard of or have had 2 “Phases” of braces, sometimes from friends or their dentist. Many orthodontists use an early set of braces to expand the upper jaw and try to make the teeth straighter during younger years of a patient’s life. The Phase 1 of braces can take place any time between age 7-10. The Phase 2 of braces usually happens as indicated above, when the baby teeth are all lost and the permanent teeth have grown in.
At Fry Orthodontic Specialists, we want to limit the time patients are in braces. The less time in braces or other orthodontic appliances, the less money it costs, the less time missed from school, and the less chance of scarring or other dental problems. We treat over 95% of patients without an early Phase 1 of braces. Since 1977 and after treating over 30,000 patients, we have a lot of data indicating that nearly all orthodontics can be done successfully without an early phase of braces or expanders. The results are the same or better without doing unneeded treatment.
The only reasons to do an early Phase 1 of braces, is if there are crossbites or if a child is being teased or has some self-esteem problems associated with their teeth.
The best way to analyze these dental situations is to come in for a free exam to any of our Kansas City area orthodontic offices. It is still recommended to visit with parents and children at age 7, but these visits are mostly to develop a relationship and trust with the family. We follow patients for years completely free of any cost. Most orthodontics are not started until age 11-13.