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Orthodontics for Children: Developing A Healthy Smile

Are you considering orthodontic treatment for your child? You’ve come to the right place. Our parent’s guide to child orthodontics will help you understand how the process works, from understanding early check-ups to post-treatment best practices.

A Complete Guide to Child Orthodontics

Orthodontic treatment can be a crucial part of your child’s oral health care. Teeth that work together make it possible to bite and chew properly. The beautiful smile that results from child orthodontic treatment is the outward sign of good oral health, and sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy teeth.

Understanding Early Check-Ups

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends children get their first check-up with an AAO orthodontist either at the first recognition of an orthodontic problem or at age 7

Around that age, children have a mix of baby (primary) and permanent teeth. An examination at this age gives the child orthodontist a wealth of information. If a problem exists, or if one is developing, your orthodontist is able to advise you on which treatment is recommended, when it should begin, and estimate its length.

If your child is younger than 7, and you notice something that appears “off,” it’s not necessary to wait until your child turns 7 or until you get a recommendation from your dentist. You should take your child to an orthodontist the moment you notice an issue, regardless of age.

Signs Your Child May Need Orthodontic Care

One of the easiest ways to determine if it’s time to take your child to an orthodontist is if you notice any of these early warning signs:

Early or Late Loss of Baby Teeth

Although there are ranges of normal variation, losing baby teeth too early or too late can create problems with the permanent ones that should replace them. A child orthodontist is an expert in recognizing and treating adverse variations.

Difficulty Chewing or Biting

Eating should not hurt. Although there is discomfort associated with “teething,” painful chewing may indicate there are orthodontic problems that should be addressed.

Mouth Breathing

Although orthodontists cannot correct mouth breathing, there are orthodontic problems that can develop as a result of this pattern of breathing which can be addressed and corrected by an orthodontist.

Jaws Shifting or Clicking

Shifting of the lower jaw due to a bite problem can lead to jaw pain and other dental consequences. Orthodontists are experts in evaluating how your teeth come together and can make sure they’re properly aligned.

Cheek Biting

In a normal bite, the outer cusps of the upper teeth hold the cheeks away from the lower chewing surfaces. If your child is constantly biting their cheeks, they may have a crossbite or other condition that is preventing normal chewing.

Facial Imbalance

The appearance of the lips, chin, and other facial features are affected by the underlying teeth and jaws. Orthodontists are experts in evaluating the relationship between the teeth, jaws, and the face.

The First Exam

As stated above, we recommend that children have their first check-up with an orthodontist no later than age 7. By that age, a child will have a mix of baby and permanent teeth, and the orthodontist will be able to recognize orthodontic problems (“malocclusions”) even in their earliest stages.

Five essential questions are generally covered during the first exam:

  • Is there an orthodontic problem, and if so, what is it?
  • What are the options to correct the problem?
  • Is there a possibility teeth will need to be removed?
  • How long is the recommended treatment expected to take?
  • How much will the recommended treatment cost?
  • Braces


    Composed of brackets that are affixed to teeth and wires that are threaded through slots in the brackets.

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  • Aligners


    Clear, thin, plastic-like trays that are formed to fit an individual’s teeth. Patients are responsible for insertion and removal.

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  • Retainers


    Removable, clear, thin, slightly flexible, and made of a plastic-like material. They fit the exact shape and placement of the teeth.

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  • Archwires


    Archwires fit into the slots in braces and actually move the teeth.

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  • Elastics


    Elastics are tiny rubber bands that apply extra force to a tooth or teeth in ways that braces alone cannot. This helps teeth move into their ideal positions.

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  • Mouthguards


    A mouth guard is used by athletes of all ages to protect teeth from trauma during competitive and individual sporting activities.

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  • Orthodontic Surgery

    Orthodontic Surgery

    Surgical orthodontics, also called orthognathic surgery, is corrective jaw surgery performed to remedy skeletal problems that affect the ability to bite, chew and speak.

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  • Gifted Smiles

    Gifted Smiles

    Gifted Smiles is a program of the American Association of Orthodontists Foundation (AAOF) that provides necessary orthodontic treatments to children of families who lack access to care.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Browse our list of child orthodontics FAQ. If you can’t find an answer to your question, contact us and we will supply an answer and any other information you may need.