How to Tell if Your Child Needs Braces


Braces can be a godsend for children with crowding and alignment issues that often cause pain or embarrassment. But, how do you know if your child really needs orthodontic treatment? The following guide will tell you all about braces to help you make an informed decision about whether your child will benefit from traditional orthodontics or Invisalign aligners.

How to Tell if a Child Needs Braces

It’s not always easy to tell if a child will need braces; however, there are some things you can watch for, including:

  • Late, early or irregular loss of baby teeth
  • Difficulty biting or chewing
  • Misplaced, crowded or blocked-out teeth
  • Jaws that pop or shift
  • Teeth that do not meet normally
  • Biting of the cheek
  • Teeth and jaws that do not seem in proportion to the face

When dentists suspect a child may have a crowding or alignment issue, they will typically refer the child to an orthodontist around the seventh birthday. This is usually when adult teeth begin to descend and give an orthodontist a better window into what exactly is happening – and what will continue to happen – inside the child’s mouth.

In most cases, the orthodontist will look for jaw misalignment and tooth crowding. If a problem is discovered, he or she may recommend early intervention, since children tend to have more malleable bones and respond well to treatment. Early intervention can also prevent crowding down the road by creating more space for adult teeth.

Why Do Kids Need Braces?

Most of the time, orthodontic problems are genetically inherited from family members. Other times, problems can develop due to mouth breathing, thumb or finger sucking, accidents, dental decay or poor nutrition. Sometimes there is simply not enough room in the jaws for the teeth to erupt normally. When this occurs, teeth can become crooked or crowded, or the jaws may not line up properly. In most cases, patients seek braces because they are worried about aesthetic issues; however, pain and chewing difficulties can also be a major driving force.

When Do Kids Need Braces?

According to the American Dental Association, orthodontic treatments tend to begin between the ages of 8 and 14. That said, there are certain situations where earlier intervention can lead to better results and sometimes orthodontics is best completed in two separate phases. On the other hand, sometimes it’s better to put off any sort of intervention until a child’s mouth has had more time to develop. Since each situation is different, experts recommend that you visit your orthodontist to get a thorough examination and recommendation on how to treat your child’s particular issue(s).

How Much do Children’s Braces Cost?

According to the American Dental Association, the cost for comprehensive treatment for adolescents to fix orthodontic problems such as overbites or misaligned teeth can range from about $4,000 to $7,000. Braces cost for kids will generally depend on the extent of your issues and the duration of treatment.

Does Insurance Help With Braces Cost?

Most dental insurance plans do not usually provide coverage for orthodontic procedures. That said, in accordance with the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), some plans will cover orthodontic treatments deemed medically necessary for children through age 18. If you feel your child has a legitimate medical need for orthodontic work, you should talk to your dentist.

How Long Do Braces Take to Work?

This also depends on the extent of your issues and the duration of treatment. It could take as little as 6 months or as long as two or more years. For patients who simply need to close a gap, six to eight months may be enough. For more serious issues, it will take more time. Talk to your orthodontist to get an estimate of your expected treatment timeline.

Braces vs. Invisalign

In the past, children tended to be embarrassed by braces, because they were typically quite noticeable. Over the years, however, modern braces have become much less noticeable, with some designed to seamlessly match the color of natural teeth. With that said, many kids prefer the idea of Invisalign aligners, comprised of smooth, comfortable, BPA-free clear plastic.

Invisalign aligners are also typically preferred because they can be removed at mealtime and require no dietary restrictions. They can also be removed before brushing, which makes it a lot easier to keep teeth white and clean.

The Invisalign system also results in less discomfort compared to traditional braces. That said, because the aligners can be removed for brushing and eating, they are also easy to lose. Invisalign aligners must also be worn at least 20 to 22 hours a day and may not be appropriate for patients with severe crowding or alignment issues.

The cost of Invisalign treatment is similar to braces; however, there are some instances where metal braces will work faster or better for a patient. If you are interested in Invisalign aligners for your child, talk to your local orthodontist to determine whether they might be a good fit.