Bracing for braces?

Q: When do kids need to start seeing an orthodontist?

A: Although most kids aren’t ready for orthodontics until middle school, it’s a good idea to have children evaluated early. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all kids receive a check-up with an orthodontic specialist by no later than age 7. 

By this age, most kids have enough permanent teeth for an orthodontist to spot developing problems. A screening exam allows parents to gain an overview of the current orthodontic situation and insight into what, if any, treatment may be ahead. 

This allows for peace of mind that a serious problem hasn’t been missed, and allows the family to plan for timing and financial implications of treatment. 

Most orthodontists offer screening exams for new patients free of charge, without a referral from a dentist. Families should definitely take advantage of this complimentary service, since for many, evaluation by age 7 allows the orthodontist to use phases of growth to a child’s advantage, providing the shortest and most efficient treatment possible. 

In some cases, early identification and timely treatment allow for results to be achieved that may not be possible once growth of the face and jaws is complete.

Q: How important is flossing for kids?

A: Brushing and flossing have been the mainstay of personal dental care for as long as many parents can remember. It therefore came as a surprise to many when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently dropped its recommendation for flossing from its guidelines.

This change — coupled with a recent flurry of articles on the subject of flossing — has left many parents confused regarding if and when their young children should begin flossing. 

If you ask dental professionals (who works in kids’ mouths every day), they agree that flossing is a critical step in preventing cavities and keeping gums healthy. This is because flossing removes plaque and food debris from the areas between teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach. 

For kids undergoing orthodontic treatment involving brackets and wires that pose additional hygiene challenges, the importance of flossing is magnified. 

The American Dental Association recommends that kids begin flossing their teeth as soon as they have two teeth that touch together. This typically occurs with the eruption of the first permanent molars, around 6 years of age. 

Flossing can be a bit tricky for young kids, and takes time and practice to master, so parents definitely play an important role. By working with a child’s dentist and hygienist to teach and develop good hygiene techniques early on, parents can help kids build the skills necessary for a healthy, strong smile.

Q: What’s the benefit of braces for kids whose teeth look OK and appear to work fine?

A: It’s not always obvious when a child has an orthodontic problem. Teeth that look straight and appear to function well may be hiding subtle orthodontic issues that can negatively impact oral health later in life. 

Breathing through the mouth, unbalanced facial appearance, biting the cheek or roof of the mouth and snoring are all warning signs that point to an underlying problem that may warrant treatment. 

Teeth that are straight and fit together well are easier to clean, contribute to proper chewing and speech and stand up to wear over time. This minimizes the potential for costly restorative work later on. 

Proper alignment also encourages the restorative, refreshing sleep that’s so important to a child’s development and well-being. Thanks to today’s smaller and more efficient braces and the development of new orthodontic therapies — such as Invisalign Teen, a removable aligner system developed specifically for teenagers — parents have more choices than ever to help their children develop healthy smiles.

Dr. Trudy Bonvino is an orthodontist and the owner of Cosmopolitan Orthodontics in Lakeville and Prior Lake, offering Damon and Invisalign braces systems and complementary evaluations for all ages. Learn more at