When can my child get braces and when is too old for braces?

When can my child get braces and when is too old for braces?

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Dr. Nathan Coughlin / Orthodontist

Hey guys, Dr. Nate here at Thrive Dental and Orthodontics, and I want to talk to you about what age is the best to get braces; what is the youngest age, and what is the oldest age you can get orthodontics. I get people coming into the office all the time, and they’re in their 20s and 30s, and they are wondering if they’re too old to get braces. I always chuckle because I think that’s funny. Maybe five or six years ago, I had the most senior patient I’ve ever done braces on, and he was 75 years old. So at 75 years old, we put metal braces on, and he had a pretty big deep bite and an overjet. The top teeth were sticking out, and we corrected that with just some braces and some rubber bands. The quick answer is you can get braces from the age of seven or so all the way until at least your seventies and maybe eighties. I haven’t treated any 80-year-old patients, but in theory, that is possible.

What are some of the limitations for adults in braces, things you cannot do in adults that you can do in kids?

Number one, expansion. You can do expansion slightly with some rubber bands and wires, but you can’t do nearly as much in adults as you can in kids. In kids, if they come in and they have a crossbite (the top teeth are too narrow), you put something called an expander in and have them expanded out. There are many different types of expanders, but all of them work the same way. They’re just expanding out top teeth to make them match better with the bottom arch. Expanders are easy in kids, and there are potentially some innovative new ways we can do it in adults, but it is very, very cutting edge and difficult in adults. The majority of the expansion can only be done for children. If you want to expand in adults, you need surgery, or some sort of implant, along with the expander device, to make it function in adults.

The second thing you can’t do in adults, and this is going to be pretty obvious, but you cannot modify growth. When a child comes in at the age of six, seven, eight years old, nine years old, ten years old, there are different appliances you can use to correct their jaw growth. If an adult comes in and has an underbite there is no good way to fix that without some type of surgery. It is way more manageable when you come in, and you’re still growing. You can put this appliance on and bring that top job forward to match with the bottom. So you are correcting the teeth, which is essential to get them nice and straight, but you’re also correcting the jaw bone if they grow. In adults, you cannot do that without some surgery.

What makes treating kids easier than adults to treat with braces? 

Number one, kids have most of their teeth. If they’re growing, they have some baby teeth. But in their teens, they mostly have all their teeth. So it’s easiest to get as good as possible of a result when they have all their teeth. Many adults do not have all their teeth. So you’re trying to do your best and modify your treatment to get it as best as possible. But whenever you’re missing teeth, it just doesn’t fit quite as well.

The second reason is the bone, and the teeth are more malleable in children. You can move teeth around more easily in kids than in adults. For instance, if a kid comes in with midlines that are off, you can wear rubber bands and get things to modify pretty well to get it pretty darn close to perfect. In adults, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s going to be pretty good, but it’s hard to get the midlines and bite to line up perfectly in adults because everything is so much more solid.

What makes treating adults easier than treating kids? 

Number one, adults are way more responsible. And why is that? My theory is that they’re paying for their braces. It is easier to tell an adult what to do and most of the time, they will listen.

As you know, you can’t miss appointments if you want to get them done as fast as possible. You need to do exactly what the orthodontist says, and you need to keep your teeth clean. Adults, in general, are way better at doing this than kids. So it is generally easier to treat kids than adults, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get a great result as an adult if you want to.

I’ve talked about the maximum age and why it’s better to treat kids than adults, but what is the minimum age?

What is the minimum age you can come in to get braces? Well, for me, and then this is just my opinion, seven to eight years old is the earliest you can get braces. And why is that? I am looking for the front four teeth, or at least the front two teeth and the first molars. Those don’t come in until roughly six years old because we call those the six-year molars. So, that is pretty much the earliest you can get braces. 

Conclusion

There you have it. That is the youngest and the oldest you can get braces. Those are some of the advantages of getting braces earlier than getting them as an adult. But remember, you can still get great results both ways.

Thanks for reading this and I’m Dr. Nate here at Thrive Dental Orthodontics. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below. I’m trying my best to answer them as best as possible. I’m putting out videos every single week, so you can become the best, most informed patient possible. If you enjoyed this please watch the Youtube version that goes along with this. Thank you! 

Dr. Nathan

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