When should my child first be seen by an orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child be seen by 6 or 7 years old. This is the best time due to the eruption of permanent first molars (6 year molars) and it allows me to view how the upper and lower jaws relate to each other. However, if your child has habits such as thumb or finger sucking, tongue thrust, or mouth breathing, then I would encourage you to bring your child in sooner.
How long does treatment last?
For children, treatment may be divided into two phases or one comprehensive phase. In the case of a two phase treatment, the child may be ready to start between 6 and 12 years old. The first phase usually last 3-12 months, but most typically 6 months. The purpose of this phase may be to widen the palate, to encourage proper eruption of permanent teeth, or to correct a habit that has caused the teeth to be misaligned (eg. thumb sucking). After this first phase the child is given a retainer to wear to hold the teeth in alignment until more permanent teeth start to erupt. The child will be ready for Phase II when many of the permanent teeth have started to erupt.
Phase II or Comprehensive treatment typically is initiated when the child is around 12. However, readiness is based on dental age, not chronological age. I have seen 10 year olds with a full mouth of permanent teeth, and 15 year olds who are still waiting for 12-year molars. In most cases treatment will last 18 to 24 months depending on the complexity of the case.
Adult treatment usually takes a little longer than children's treatment due to the "non-growing" state of the adult mouth. Teeth are not actively erupting and are more "set" in the gums than adolescent teeth. Typically an adult will be in braces for 20-24 months.
What if there is just one tooth out of line?
Typically, aligning a few teeth requires what I call esthetic or cosmetic alignment. Many people have an underlying bite problem that causes the teeth to be in the current crowded position. In a few cases, alignment of one or a few teeth is possible, however, for the teeth to remain straight and the resulting bite to be in a good relationship, the jaw must be healthy.
How much does orthodontic treatment cost?
The cost of treatment is determined by the length and complexity of the treatment. An estimate will be given during the initial complimentary exam. Several payment options are available, such as discount for payment in full, down payment with monthly payments, and third party financing.