Age Limits for Teeth Aligners & Braces

Medically Reviewed by a
Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. Age Restrictions
  2. Early Treatment Pros and Cons
  3. Treatment Age Limits
  4. Late Treatment Pros and Cons
  5. Limits for Aligners
  6. References

Do the number of candles on your birthday cake dictate whether or not you can perfect your smile? Sometimes, the answer to that question is "yes."

Very young people need time to shed their baby teeth, lengthen their jawbones, and develop their adult teeth. Children can visit a dental health expert for an orthodontic assessment as young as 7 years old, but most don't get formal treatment until they are between 9 and 14.

Adults can adjust their smiles at any point. There is no upper age limit for either braces or aligners. Teeth may move more slowly in adulthood than in the teenage years, so treatment times may be a bit longer.

Having treatment very early or very late in life does come with a few pros and cons. Families should be aware of those issues so they can make an informed choice.

How Young Is Too Young?

It's common for very small children to have gap-toothed smiles. Baby teeth fall out before the adult versions come in, and the delay can leave a child's mouth looking lopsided or even a bit silly. But some children have significant smile problems that orthodontic care should solve.

Parents with concerns should visit an orthodontist before the child reaches 7 years old. An expert could:

  • Train. Some children develop crooked or protruding teeth due to an unusual tongue thrust or a thumb-sucking habit. An orthodontist could offer advice parents could put to use to stop the damage before it worsens.
  • Guide. Some children benefit from early treatment with night guards or elastic bands, but they're not quite ready for braces. An orthodontist could help with that.
  • Monitor. Some issues seem significant now but fade away with time. An orthodontist could watch over problems and step in if they worsen.

Experts don't recommend giving orthodontic care to children younger than 7. In most cases, young children need time for their adult teeth to erupt. Their jawbones may be changing and lengthening too, and that work isn't done until later in life.

Pros & Cons of Early Treatment

As a parent, you want your child to have the best care for serious problems, and you want the work to start right away. It's reasonable to push for early intervention if your child's health and well-being are at risk. But drawbacks exist.

Dental health is a major benefit of early treatment for some children. For example, some children are born with significantly protruding upper teeth. They poke out from underneath their lips, even when the child's mouth is closed. If a child takes a blow to the face or has a serious fall, those teeth can be seriously damaged.

A child like this needs braces or aligners, experts say. Without them, the child could face lifelong problems from a single injury.

Long treatment length is a drawback of very early care. Some children get braces or aligners for one problem, only to have another crop up that needs additional care. A child like this might need to stay in braces for several years, but waiting for one course later in life could mean treatment for just two years.

Choose aligners and young age could be a drawback too. Children must take out their aligners to:

  • Eat. Aligner trays are removed to eat every meal. If any beverage other than water is consumed, aligners must be removed first.
  • Care for their teeth. Trays come out during toothbrushing and flossing sessions.
  • Get examinations. Assessments are best performed on bare teeth.

Young children can treat their aligners carelessly. When they take them out, they may misplace the trays altogether. This can lead to long stretches of untreated time, and sometimes, parents must pay extra for the trays a child loses.

It’s important that parents deem children responsible enough to care for their aligners properly.

In most cases, children aren't ready for either braces or aligners until they're at least 9 years old, while some children aren’t ready until age 14.

How Old Is Too Old?

Adults have likely lived with their crooked teeth for most of their lives. In studies, they cite issues like "hope for a better future" as a prompt for getting care. Any adult who wants to enhance their smile can do so. There is no upper limit on treatment with either aligners or braces.

Experts point out that orthodontic devices work in the same manner regardless of a person's age. All devices apply pressure to teeth to shove them in the right direction. The pressure up top results in bone remodeling down below, and the enhanced smile should be permanent when treatment is complete.

That's true whether someone is young or old. As long as all the adult teeth are present, it's appropriate to get treatment.

Pros & Cons of Late Treatment

Age shouldn't limit you from getting the smile you always wanted. You're never too old to make a good impression when you flash your pearly whites.

Enhanced confidence is a major benefit of late treatment. People who delay enhancing their smiles have likely lived for years hiding their teeth behind their hands and worrying about how they look. Putting all of that worry and shame behind them can be incredibly liberating for anyone at any age.

Long treatment times are drawbacks of late treatment. Older bones and tissues simply don't move and remodel as quickly as their younger counterparts. You may need to spend more time in either braces or aligners to get the results you want.

You will need to wear your retainers faithfully to keep your teeth from moving back again. Retainer use is even more important for adults who undergo aligner treatment.

Limits for Aligners

Byte can help children as young as 12 years old with aligners, but will ask for parental approval in any patient younger than 18. All candidates must have all of their adult teeth and receive approval from a Byte orthodontists. Byte aligners are comfortable to wear, and they're hard to see. For any child looking for an easy way to amend their smile, our products are good choices.

We have no upper age limit, and Byte is a great choice for adults. HyperByte technology typically moves teeth faster than our competition, which means it can often help our adult patients get the smile they want without waiting years for it. You’ll only use the HyperByte tool for 5 minutes per day, but it can make a big difference in your treatment timeline.

References

The Right Time for an Orthodontic Check-Up: No Later Than Age 7. (2013). American Association of Orthodontists.

Problems to Watch for in Seven Year Olds. American Association of Orthodontists.

Study Reports Orthodontics Introduced Early May Benefit Children With Severely Protruding Teeth. (February 2016). Dentistry IQ.

Braces for Young Kids Might Not Always Be Best. (September 2010). National Public Radio.

A Decision-Making Process to Undergo Orthodontic Treatment: A Qualitative Study. (2018). Patient Preference and Adherence.

Braces for Young Kids Might Not Always Be Best. (September 2010). NPR.

The Basics of Braces. (March 2016). KidsHealth.

Brace Yourself: The Facts About Dental Braces for Kids. (June 2012). Parents.

Am I Too Old for Orthodontic Treatment? (November 2017). American Association of Orthodontists.

Are You Too Old for Braces? Harvard Medical School.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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