Every parent wants the best for their kids—it’s totally natural! You want them to have bright white, perfectly straight teeth and healthy, beautiful smiles. What if your child’s teeth are starting to look a little crooked or misaligned? How do you know when they’re old enough to get braces or some other form of orthodontic treatment? Are their mouths developed enough to begin braces? And are your kids mature enough to take proper care of their braces?

In this article, we’re going to answer these questions and more, and ease any worries you have about getting braces for your kids. You’ll discover that straight teeth brings self-confidence, better jaw function and health, easier-to-clean teeth, and most importantly happiness. So, it makes sense to get braces as soon as you’re ready. We’ll explain when that is and help guide you through this new stage for you and/or your child!

Let’s first address the most asked question when a patient is considering getting braces for their orthodontic treatment: Do braces hurt? Like anything new, braces may feel a little uncomfortable when you first get them, but the soreness should only last (at most) a few days on average, but every patient’s pain tolerance is different. Taking pain relievers like Tylenol or Motrin can be a big help! Occasionally patients will get the wires in their braces upgraded to move treatment along so there can be some aching for a few days after that visit. It’s important to help assuage your child’s possible apprehensions about braces before considering when/if they’re ready to get them.

Regarding the question of WHEN they may be ready for braces or some other orthodontic treatment, that can vary from patient to patient as everyone grows and develops differently. A good rule of thumb and the recommendation from the American Association of Orthodontists is to start the conversation by booking a consultation when they’re around 7 years old. If a patient isn’t ready for any sort of orthodontic care, most will come back every 6 months or so to have observation checkups and further monitor their growth and development. In some cases, early orthodontic treatment can help prevent longer, more complicated orthodontic treatment when they’re older.

One way to tell IF your child needs braces would be to make sure they visit the dentist regularly—at least twice a year is recommended. Pediatric dentists can be a great indicator of when/if your child may be ready to see an orthodontist; they will tell you if your child is developing properly, if any teeth look are crooked, crowded or misaligned, or if their bite is off. They will also have an idea of how the adult teeth are coming in and will recommend going to see an orthodontist. Having your dentist there to ease you into starting the process can be a big help when trying to navigate the new world of orthodontia.

There are a few different kinds of braces to pick from when starting treatment: traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, and lingual braces which go behind the teeth. Then there are clear aligners like Invisalign that may be used as an alternative to braces for many patients.  You would need a consultation to see if your child is a candidate for any of these options, but it is always good to have a general idea of treatment options. Treatment time with braces varies between patients depending on their orthodontic needs and how compliant they are with taking proper care of the braces, but that question is addressed in the consultations when the child is first seen by the doctor so they can see exactly what each patient needs.

Getting braces can be an intimidating experience, but it doesn’t have to be! Listening to your pediatric dentist and being aware of your child’s orthodontic possibilities can make the entire experience much smoother for everyone. If you are comfortable with the treatment choices ahead, your child will be more comfortable too! If you are thinking your child may be ready for orthodontics, confer with their dentist or call to make a consultation appointment with an orthodontist!