Orthodontics for Children & Teenagers

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When you think about orthodontics, the image that flashes up in your mind is likely of a teenager wearing metal braces. Perhaps the teenager was you, and the braces you recall were the classic and much–maligned “train tracks” of a bygone era.

Orthodontics is no longer just the realm of the teenager! It’s not even necessary to wait for all of your child’s baby teeth to erupt before seeking the opinion of your dentist about their developing bite.

In selected cases, the provision of orthodontic treatment during childhood can eliminate or reduce the need for further treatment during the teenage years.

We love all forms of preventive and minimally invasive dentistry at Alma Dental. Orthodontic intervention during childhood may provide the following benefits.

  • It may be possible to reduce the amount of time the child needs to wear braces in their teenage years 
    Better health, improved sleep and a greater ability to concentrate (crucial for all young people to help them maximise their potential)
    Better airways and improved breathing patterns
    There can be psychosocial benefits of having straight teeth and well-proportioned facial features. 

Why Should We Consider Doing Orthodontic Treatment For Young Children?

It can be very beneficial to identify and treat developing malocclusions in young children.

  • Straighter teeth are easier to keep clean, so having well-aligned teeth may help your child or teenager experience better dental health throughout their lives
  • Front teeth that protrude are at much higher risk of being damaged during sporting or other accidents.
  • Early orthodontic treatment can help a child overcome persistent oral habits like thumb sucking
  • Early orthodontic treatment may be helpful in the treatment of speech or chewing difficulties
  • It may help to treat or manage breathing difficulties

The first step to effectively managing malocclusions is to obtain a correct diagnosis.

We assess airways and breathing patterns at a very early age. If there are any suspected obstructions (for example, enlarged adenoids and tonsils), we refer to sleep physicians and/or ENT for further assessment and treatment.

Why Do Kids’ Teeth Become Crooked?

Several factors can cause crooked teeth and misaligned jaws:

  • Genetics – this influences jaw size, tooth size, missing teeth, the development of extra (supernumerary) teeth, and the size of the upper and lower jaws
  • Oral habits such as lip sucking, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and prolonged use of pacifiers (dummies)
  • Early loss of baby teeth
  • Dental disease
  • Trauma to the teeth and lower jaw
  • Abnormal breathing patterns
  • Unbalanced head and neck musculature

At What Age Should My Child Have An Orthodontic Assessment?

At Alma Dental, our dentists will review your child’s developing teeth and jaws at every check-up from their very first appointment. For many of our young patients, this means we are assessing their developing bite from before their first birthday.

In other words, we are continuall checking your child’s teeth and jaw alignment.

Most of our young patients visit us annually for a check-up. During these appointments, we’ll ask their parents about oral habits, unusual chewing or speech patterns and about the age at which their baby teeth have arrived and departed.

When we examine your child, we’ll look at their bite (to assess the position of their upper and lower jaws) and the position of their teeth. If there are signs of mouth breathing or unusual tooth wear, we’ll let you know.

If we identify a developing misalignment, you’ll know about it very early on. We’ll make sure you are also aware of treatment options and their ideal timing.

Do All Developing Malocclusions Require Treatment?

Not always. In some cases, parents or oral myologists can help their child’s developing bite by encouraging better chewing and swallowing habits. It’s sometimes possible to correct developing misalignments by training the muscles of the mouth and jaws to move optimally.

The Benefits Of Treating Malocclusions Early

Parents might wonder whether there is any point in treating their child’s malocclusion before they become teenagers. The benefits are often significant:

  • Children are growing – in some cases, this growth can be harnessed during treatment to achieve better outcomes more rapidly
  • Early treatment can prevent more significant misalignments from developing
  • Children tend not to be so self-conscious about wearing orthodontic braces and appliances
  • Some young people like to finish their treatment before significant life events (school formals, 16th and 18th birthdays)

Are There Any Challenges In Treating Such Young Children?

While there are significant plusses regarding early treatment, there are some things that can negatively affect the orthodontic treatment of a child, especially a very young child. The most important of these are compliance and dental hygiene.


Relying on a child to remember to wear a removable orthodontic plate or retainer is a big ask.

Young minds are more likely to be focussed on the joy of life and the present moment than the importance of regular, ongoing wear of an appliance. Youngsters might lose, forget to wear, hide or even destroy removable appliances.

To overcome this problem, we can bond orthodontic appliances directly onto the teeth of very young children so prevent their removal.

Oral Hygiene

Excellent dental hygiene is critical during orthodontic treatment. But this can present a challenge for children and even young teenagers.

Children often don’t have the manual dexterity to properly clean their teeth (brushing and flossing) until they are around 12 years old. Add a removable or fixed orthodontic appliance into the mix, and all of a sudden, there are lots of new places for plaque to accumulate.

Children (and teenagers) undergoing orthodontic treatment will always need the support and encouragement of adults.

Not All Malocclusions Respond Well To Early Intervention

Some misalignments of the teeth and jaws do not benefit from early treatment. In these cases, we’ll let you know about the presence of the developing malocclusion and the ideal timing for its treatment.

The Most-Asked Questions About Orthodontics For Children And Teenagers

Will My Child Need Braces?

Sometimes it is best to treat malocclusions with braces during the late childhood/early teenage years. Others might benefit entirely from early intervention treatments with fixed or removable plates or appliances.

Sometimes a combination of orthodontic modalities works best. This could involve, for example, early intervention with appliances followed by some fixed braces during the teenage years to finish the treatment.

Will My Child Need To Have Any Teeth Extracted?

Our preference is to treat misalignments of the teeth and jaws without removing healthy adult teeth.

However, if treatment is left too late, sometimes extractions are necessary. There may be no other way to create the room required to accommodate all of the adult teeth.

There are some exceptions to this rule.

  • Baby teeth don’t fall out on schedule. Slow-to-be-lost baby teeth aren’t always a problem, and most baby teeth eventually fall out of their own accord. But in some cases, persistent baby teeth will need to be removed.
  • Adult teeth sometimes become “impacted”. An impacted tooth is one which fails to move into the mouth properly because something blocks its eruption. Wisdom teeth are notorious for becoming impacted, but this can happen to any tooth in the mouth. In most cases, impacted adult teeth either need to be extracted or uncovered and dragged into position using orthodontics. In both cases, surgery is usually necessary.

How Much Does Orthodontic Treatment Cost?

It all depends on what treatment is required, how long it will likely take and how many visits or appliances will be required to achieve the desired result. If your child would benefit from orthodontic treatment we will always provide a clear estimate of the costs and timeline before their treatment begins.

Phase 1 (Early Intervention) treatments could range from $2000 – $5000 for a course of treatment.

Phase 2 (Fixed Braces) treatments start at $5000.

In many cases, fees for treatment are not payable in full upfront, so your payments can be spread out over the course of treatment. We also offer payment plans.

Because every case is different, it’s impossible to provide a quote for orthodontic treatment until we have met and examined the child.

How Long Will My Child Need To Wear A Retainer?

In most cases, following orthodontic treatment, the position of the teeth will need to be maintained. Retention is achieved by wearing a fixed or removable retainer.

It’s also necessary to address anything else that might cause teeth to drift, such as tongue thrust or mouth breathing.

Without orthodontic retainers, teeth will almost certainly drift back towards their pre-orthodontic positions. This drifting is a phenomenon called “orthodontic relapse“.

We recommend either very long term retention or lifelong retention, depending on the individual needs of the child or teenager.