Early orthodontics: What’s the best age for braces?


By Dr. Robert Sunstein,

La Jolla, Carmel Valley Orthodontist

It used to be that orthodontic braces were most common among middle and high school students. But these days, children are the new face of orthodontics. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, all children should receive an orthodontic screening by age 7 – prompting a whole new generation of orthodontics wearers.

“Permanent teeth generally begin to come in at age 6 or 7. It is at this point that orthodontic problems become apparent,” says Thomas Cangialosi, D.D.S. in an article at

  1. “Because bones are still growing, it’s an ideal time to evaluate a child. Then we can determine what orthodontic treatment, if any, may be needed either now or in the future.”

Having fostered a personal relationship with Dr. Cangialosi at Columbia University, I echo his recommendation. More often than not, children who receive early orthodontic care tend to have shorter treatment times with an easier ability to address challenges such current or future crowding.
When a young child is treated, it’s known as interceptive orthodontics. Although considered young by older generations, treating a child with orthodontics is actually proactive when it comes to dental care. For instance, when teeth are erupting, it may be easier to guide them into better positions with early orthodontics. And, if a child presents a small dental arch, a device called a “palatal expander” can make room in the mouth for incoming adult teeth.

“It is important to note that children who receive interceptive orthodontics generally still need braces or other orthodontic appliances later,” Dr. Cangialosi says. “However, this early treatment may shorten and simplify future treatment in selected cases.” This is commonly known as two-phase treatment.

One of the most important conditions that require intervention are crossbites and protruding front teeth. If you’re child shows any signs of unevenness in the jaw or teeth that protrude to far from the mouth, it’s a good idea to see us.

For more info on your child’s braces, give our offices a call -- in La Jolla at 858-459-3353 or in Carmel Valley at 858-755-1551.


If you’re like many parents, it may be a challenge to get your child excited about wearing braces. Here’s what you can do to make braces hip.

Let them choose their elastic bands.

Colorful rubber bands in the mouth help the young patient feel more involved in the process of orthodontics. Plus, it can be fun to choose colors around a holiday or school event.

The coming of age.

Sometimes, kids long to feel “older” so when it comes to braces, you can position it as a turning of a page into adolescence – braces are what the “big kids” get.

Talk about your own experience.

Let your kids know how you felt when you got braces and how excited you were when you had a beautiful smile afterward.