One of the most common questions people ask me is when they should bring their child for an orthodontic consultation. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should be seen for a consultation at age 7. The reason for this is that most children begin to get their first few permanent teeth by age 7, and so should be seen at that time to make sure they are coming in properly.
Having said that, I do not believe that most children need to be seen by an orthodontist at age 7 unless either a parent or the general dentist suspects a problem exists. I generally recommend that kids be seen by age 9. Frankly, there are few orthodontic problems that cannot be treated as effectively at age 9 as age 7, and there is generally a big difference in psychological and emotional maturity between those ages.
Now, the fact that I recommend children be seen at age 9 does not mean that I generally treat most kids at that age. Many orthodontic problems are best treated once all of the permanent teeth have come in, which may not be until age 12-14. However, there are some problems that are best treated early so as to avoid worse problems down the road. These include crossbites, underbites, and habits damaging to the teeth (such as thumb sucking).
I generally tell parents that our consultation appointments are free of charge, so bringing their child to see me won’t cost them anything. I may tell them that no work needs to be done and that they should return in a year, or I may identify a problem that requires immediate attention. Either way, it is to the child’s benefit to know.
It is never too late for orthodontic treatment – I treat many mature adults in my practice. But treating at earlier ages often makes the treatment faster and easier. So bring your child for a consultation by age 9, or even as early as age 7 if you or your dentist suspect something might be wrong.