Your dentist may have discussed with you the benefits of having healthy teeth and proper jaw alignment. Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. This can result in tooth decay, worsen gum disease and lead to tooth loss. Other orthodontic problems can contribute to abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, inefficient chewing function, excessive stress on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth, or misalignment of the jaw joints. These can lead to chronic headaches and face or neck pain.
It is recommended that a child's first visit to see the orthodontist is around age 7 - 9, for a screening assessment to advise if orthodontic treatment is required and the best time for treatment. The first permanent molars and incisors have usually come in by that time and cross bites, crowding and other problems can be evaluated. When treatment is initiated at an early age, the orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaw and guide incoming permanent teeth. Early treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb-sucking, and eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems.
In some cases, early treatment as an interceptive measure will simplify treatment in later years. Most treatments in children however, would usually commence around 12-13 years of age, but this can vary. Treatment time typically ranges from 1 - 3 years, depending on the growth of the patient's mouth and face and the severity of the problem. Patients grow at different rates and will respond variously to orthodontic treatment, so the time to case completion may differ from the original estimate.
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, and adults especially appreciate the benefits of a beautiful smile. More and more adult patients are taking up orthodontic treatment in this day and age and there are many options to enable braces to be much more discreet than before.