Ask Dr. Parker: What is the Right Time to Get Braces?

September 28, 2017
What is the Right Time to Get Braces?

People are more confident and can communicate better when they know their teeth look healthy and straight.

Braces are an important part of helping teeth grow the right way. If teeth grow in at odd angles, it can be painful and difficult to speak and chew. Braces slowly straighten out the teeth and move them, so they’re not pushing or grinding against each other.

When overbites occur or crooked teeth grow in, you know braces could help your child, but you might not know where to start.

Consider these questions when getting braces for your child:

  • Is there a braces age limit?
  • What kind of teeth do you have, i.e. adult vs. primary?
  • What kind of braces would work best for you?

Learning the answers to these questions, and understanding more about the different stages your teeth go through as you age, can help you determine what the best age is to get braces.

At AZ Family Dental, we have helped people of many ages with their braces. Read on to learn more about the process and how you can decide when to get your child’s teeth straightened.

Best Age for Braces?

Each person is different, so there isn’t a go-to age to get braces. When asking if it’s the right time for braces, you need to know the status of the teeth in the mouth.

braces when baby teeth are gone

There are two types of teeth we may ask about when you come to our office to discuss getting braces:

  • 12-Year Molars: Also known as second molars, these permanent teeth usually erupt between ages 11 and 13. These teeth should be present before putting in braces.
  • Primary Teeth: You likely have heard these referred to as “baby teeth.” While braces can be placed when primary teeth are still present, this can lead to longer treatment times because the adult teeth still need to erupt. It’s best to wait until all the primary teeth are gone.

How Many Teeth Do You Have to Lose to Get Braces?

Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. While orthodontists generally prefer kids wait until all the baby teeth are gone, in some cases kids will need to get braces earlier than that, to address issues such as overcrowding of teeth, severe under- or overbites, or abnormal growth of the jaw.

In these cases, getting braces can help clear the way in the mouth for the permanent teeth to come in safely and with enough spaces. That’s why you can see braces in patients 10 years old or even younger.

Talking to Your Child About When Is the Right Time to Get Braces

Remember that your child is an important part of the decision regarding when to get braces. While they don’t have the final say, you should give them a chance to voice their concerns. Many children are self-conscious about getting braces.

Adolescence is a sensitive time, and this is a direct change in their appearance. You can reassure them by explaining:

  • Braces Are Common: Chances are your child will know other people their age with braces. Point out many people get braces around this time.
  • They Will Improve Their Future Smile: Talk about how beautiful their teeth will be after treatment. They won’t have to worry about crooked teeth hurting their mouths or affecting their speech.
  • They Will Not Affect Activities: When children get braces, they can still participate in all the sports and after-school activities they love. They may have to wear a mouth guard, but we can help you figure out which one will fit best with your child.
  • They Will Better Dental Health: Note that braces fix jaw alignments along with straightening teeth. Braces do more than make a cosmetic change. They also take care of dental health and prevent major complications in the future. If jaw alignment goes unchecked, it could result in TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, or difficulty speaking and chewing.

When your children have their 12-year molars and have lost their primary teeth, they’re usually around ages 12 and 13. After consulting with an orthodontist, you’ll know if this is the appropriate age for your child to get braces.

Braces aren’t only for children and teenagers, however. If you’re an adult and your family couldn’t afford to get you braces as a child — or didn’t know you needed them, or you did get braces but didn’t follow up with your retainers — you can still get braces as an adult.

There isn’t an age limit for braces!

Beyond Crooked Teeth: Other Reasons Your Child May Need Braces

Braces align the teeth and mouth so after treatment you can enjoy life with straight teeth and a jaw that doesn’t cause any pain or trouble. Braces also actively fix problems maligned jaws and crooked teeth cause. They protect your mouth and help your jaw form correctly.

Braces align your jaw

According to, getting braces can help with the following conditions:

  • Affected Speech: Inability to communicate is a hindrance to success. Braces will help your child speak and enunciate clearly.
  • Gum Disease and Tooth Loss: Keeping your teeth straight and your jaw aligned correctly also helps your gums stay healthy.
  • Jaw Problems: Braces will take care of the jaw, so your child won’t have issues chewing in the future.
  • Teeth Grinding and Wear: Braces align your jaw, which stops teeth from grinding together and coming in contact when they shouldn’t. They also prevent possible chronic headaches and neck pain that comes from misaligned teeth wearing each other down.
  • Chance of Injury: Straight teeth have less of a risk for injury because they face the right direction. When teeth aren’t protected or fixed by braces, there is a greater chance of breaking if they come in contact with something.
  • Appearance: When your jaw is aligned and your teeth are set, your face gets shaped and put into proportion.

Other Benefits of Braces

When you know your mouth is healthy and you have a beautiful smile, the added psychological benefits help your identity and presentation. Advantages of having braces for kids and adults can include:

  • Improved Self-Esteem and Confidence: If you have healthy teeth, there’s no pressure to hide them or feel as if others are judging. You can present yourself confidently around family, friends, and co-workers.
  • Boosts Your Mood: When you have high self-esteem and confidence, your mood and outlook will be positive, and you will be more prepared to face challenges of the day.
  • Better First Impressions: Making a strong first impression will be helped by your confidence and mood, and you won’t have to hold anything back while meeting someone for the first time.

Types of Braces

While you might think there is only one choice for braces, your child has options. There are four main types of braces to choose from, and each comes with their pros and cons.

  1. Metal Braces

These are the traditional braces most people are familiar with. While they tend to be cheaper and come in different colors so children can pick what they want, they are also the most obvious type of braces. If your child wants something that’s more subtle, you might consider exploring other options.

  1. Ceramic Braces

Like metal braces, ceramic braces go on the outside of teeth. The brackets are camouflaged white to match the teeth. These are more expensive than metal braces and need to be taken care of so they don’t stain.

  1. Lingual Braces

These are built like metal braces but go on the inside of teeth so they’re less noticeable. While this is the main attraction to these braces, they come with their difficulties. Lingual braces are tricky to clean and more expensive. They also don’t work for cases in which the teeth are unusually out of line.

  1. Invisalign

Plastic aligners are custom-made for the mouth, and the patient gets new ones every two weeks. These are nearly invisible, and they lack the eating and drinking restrictions that come other types of metal braces. However, these work only on mildly out-of-line teeth and are expensive. They could take longer to align teeth than traditional braces.

What Happens When Your Child Gets Braces?

When your child gets braces, you’ll have a treatment plan detailing how long they’ll need braces and care after you’ve had them taken off.

Braces are typically on for about 18-30 months

For metal and ceramic braces, it takes about two hours to apply. After cleaning the teeth, your orthodontist will put bonding glue on the teeth and attach the brackets. Then the wire will be placed on the brackets and set with rubber bands.

Your child will regularly visit the orthodontist for check-ups and to get the braces tightened. This helps keep your teeth moving in the right direction.

How to Deal With Pain From Braces

While this process doesn’t cause a lot of pain, it can cause soreness. Using ice packs and consuming cold food and drinks can help ease the sensation. Rinsing the mouth with warm water mixed with salt can also reduce pain. Remember, the sore feeling won’t last forever. The mouth just needs time to adjust to the braces.

Feeling discomfort in teeth with braces is common. While this will probably go away quickly, your child has the option of taking painkillers like ibuprofen.

How to Care for Braces

Brushing and flossing your children’s teeth regularly will keep them clean, healthy, and prevent cavities. They will need to brush and floss thoroughly but softly, so they don’t ruin their braces.

Since food particles can get stuck in braces, your child should brush and floss after every meal. They should have a soft toothbrush and make sure their toothpaste contains fluoride.

If your child has a habit of chewing on pens and pencils or biting their nails, try to break that habit quickly, because that could also damage the braces. Sometimes accidents do happen and wires snap or brackets become loose. If this happens, schedule an appointment with the orthodontist to get them fixed as fast as possible.

Eating With Braces: Restrictions

diet changes while having braces

You might have to make a few changes to your child’s diet while they have braces. Many types of food could potentially mess up the braces. It’s best to avoid these foods entirely. This will keep your child’s mouth safe and keep them on the treatment plan to having a perfect smile as soon as possible. Avoid the following:

  • Hard Foods: Your child shouldn’t eat pizza crust, raw vegetables, and snacks like nuts. Keep them away from tough meat, such as steak. Popcorn has hard kernels that can crack brackets, hurt your teeth, and also get stuck in your braces. Foods your child has to bite into, like apples or corn on the cob, could potentially damage the braces.
  • Sticky Foods: Do not eat anything sugary or brittle. Candy or caramel isn’t a good option with braces because they’ll easily get stuck in your child’s teeth.
  • Chewy Foods: Bagels or other hard breads can get stuck in braces as well. Any chewy candy and gum could potentially damage the braces.
  • Ice: Some people enjoy chewing on ice, but this isn’t a good idea for those who have braces.

What You Can Eat With Braces

There are still plenty of delicious foods your child can eat with braces. They tend to be softer and are typically more nutritious than the foods you should avoid.

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Eat soft fruits such as nectarines, strawberries, and bananas. If you’re a bit unsure about the softness of the fruit, you can always turn it into a smoothie for your child. Steamed or cooked veggies are much softer and a safer alternative to raw vegetables.
  • Meat: Soft meat like chicken, turkey, and lunch meat are safe to eat with braces.
  • Dairy: Cheese and yogurt are soft and are full of calcium that promotes strong bones and teeth.
  • Eggs: This is a safer breakfast option than sugary, crunchy cereals and tough meat like bacon.
  • Mashed Potatoes: An extremely soft food, mashed potatoes are safe to eat with braces. Have your child take small bites to ensure there aren’t any bits of hard potato in their mouths.
  • Pasta: It’s easy to chew and many dishes include it. Pasta makes an easy meal to prepare on the days when your child’s braces have been tightened and their teeth feel sensitive.
  • Casseroles: If the casserole is made of soft food, then it should be a safe food to eat.
  • Soups: Make sure they don’t contain any vegetables that are too crunchy. Soups with heavily cooked ingredients are the best option because they’re the easiest to chew and not get stuck in braces.
  • Desserts: Cold desserts like ice cream and pudding are fine for braces. Moist cakes, sherbets, and applesauce are also good options.

After first getting braces, your child will find eating only soft foods will be the best option. Foods like yogurt and applesauce will be the easiest to handle the first week with braces.

After Braces: Helping Your Child Keep Their New Smile Straight

When your child’s braces get taken off, they’ll still have to take care of their teeth to make sure they stay straight. Most people get a retainer to keep their teeth in place. There isn’t a general guideline for how long you’ll need the retainer because it’s different for everyone.

Retainers have their own set of rules, like braces. While you don’t have to worry about wires snapping or brackets coming loose, your child still has to take care of their retainer to keep their teeth and mouth as healthy as possible, keeping in mind the following precautions:

  • Take the retainer out when eating. While your child should wear their retainer according to what the orthodontist says, they’re not like braces and are made so people can frequently remove and place them back into the mouth.
  • Be careful your child doesn’t throw it away. Since they remove the retainer when eating, it’s easy to cover it up with a napkin and accidentally throw it away. Send a retainer case with your child so they always have it in a safe spot.
  • Retainers should be cleaned once a day. Your child can put toothpaste on their toothbrush, scrub the retainer and rinse it with warm water.
  • Whenever your child takes out the retainer, help them make a habit of placing it in a retainer case. They’ll always know where it is, and then nothing can get on the retainer and make it unhygienic. Label the case with your child’s name and contact information. If they lose it, someone who finds it will be able to get it back to you.
  • Retainers are plastic. If exposed to hot liquids or heat, the retainer could melt, so make sure your child avoids consuming hot beverages with the retainer in.
  • Protect the teeth. If your child is an athlete, have them wear a mouth guard while they play sports.

Also remember, the retainer should come with your child to their orthodontist appointments.

Talk to Us: What Do You Think Is the Best Age for a Child to Get Braces?

Braces are an important step to giving your child the perfect smile that will give them confidence and high self-esteem. We’ll help your family start that journey by advising you on what is the best age for braces for your children.

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