Ask the Orthodontist: When Should We Start Thinking About Braces?


    Ah, braces. Chances are, you or someone you love have had the pleasure of experiencing teeth alignment at one point or another in their lives. Now that we are parents, when should we start thinking about braces for our children? Can we tell if our baby would need teeth alignment in the future? When should we book our first orthodontic consultation? The answers may surprise you!

    To get the best insights and tips from the best experts in the San Francisco Bay Area, we sat down with Dr. Wendy Fang from the renowned Orthoworks Invisalign and Orthodontics Group and asked her some of the most commonly asked questions from parents – check them out below:

    1. Can we tell by my child’s baby teeth the likelihood of them needing braces in the future?

    Yes! We typically recommend patients have their first orthodontic consultation around the age of 6. While treatment may not be initiated at that time, it is beneficial to evaluate the overall dental and skeletal situation so families can be better informed of the possible need for future treatment. Additionally, this is a great time to assess if a child has any habits, such as finger-sucking, which may be negatively impacting the alignment of their teeth and jaws and early intervention strategies can be employed to help break unwanted habits.

    2. If both parents needed braces, does that increase the chance of their children needing braces?

    There is a genetic component to malalignment of teeth, so if both parents had orthodontic treatment then most likely their children may need it as well. But there is also an environmental component as well. 

    3. When should we start to think about getting braces? 

    You should start thinking about orthodontic treatment as early as 6 years old, which is the typical age for the first adult molars and incisors to erupt. While treatment may not actually begin at this tender age, early identification of misalignment can aid in creating a timeline for future treatment.

    4. How do we know if my child actually needs braces?

    From an aesthetic perspective, your child may need braces if their teeth are crooked, crowded, or have large spaces. From an oral health perspective, crooked teeth are harder to clean so your child may be more prone to developing gingivitis and cavities in those tight areas. Some patients can also have misalignment of the skeletal jaws, either causing an underbite or an overbite. These imbalances should be identified early to a plan for correction can be developed while they are still young and have growth potential.

    Lastly, your child may have some habits, such as sucking on their thumb or lip that, over time, can influence the position of the teeth and jaws. An orthodontist may be able to utilize some appliances to help break these disruptive habits.

    5. How do we recognize a potential bite problem or any other issues that may require orthodontic attention?

    At home, your child may have trouble chewing or biting into certain foods. This could be a sign that you can recognize and prompt you to make an orthodontic consultation appointment. Psychosocially, your child may report teasing or bullying about their teeth. This is another scenario in which setting up a consultation would help to identify the dental problem and allow for steps to be taken to align the teeth.

    I do not expect all parents to be able to identify bite problems on their own. That’s why we have dental professionals to help you make that determination! As long as you maintain routine bi-annual dental appointments with your family dentist, they can always help you recognize orthodontic issues and make the referral to the specialist. 

    6. What sets orthodontics apart from other dental specialties? 

    Orthodontists are considered a type of “orthopedic” dental specialist. By definition, an orthopedist deals with the correction of deformities of bones and joints. The tooth-in-bone relationship happens to be a very special type of joint in our bodies. As such, orthodontists utilize orthopedic forces to move teeth into alignment and improved function. No other dental professional has the 2-3 years of intense specialty training to be able to expertly understand the complex biomechanical process involved with moving teeth.

    Beyond our professional role, an orthodontist is someone the patient and family see many times a year during active treatment. This allows us to form a special bond with our patients as we will be there for many big milestones, such as graduation, birthdays, and weddings! Personally, I love to see how my young patients grow and mature during the treatment process, as taking care of their braces and Invisalign is an opportunity to show responsibility and independence.


    Comment below or email with your questions for the orthodontist to be addressed in future articles! If you think you or your child is ready to think about braces and teeth alignments, visit and schedule a virtual consultation. Summer Promotion: Complementary orthodontic consultation for children aged 6 to 18!



    Dr. Fang is a graduate of Stony Brook University, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS), and Masters in Public Health (MPH). Following dental school, she went on to earn her Certificate in Orthodontics at Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx, NY where she was appointed Chief Resident in her third year. Dr. Fang’s dedication to continuing education and passion for dentistry is what allow her to provide an excellent standard of care to patients of all ages. She is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists and the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists and is ABO board-certified.

    Whilst Dr. Fang is very dedicated to her work and patients, she still finds the time to enjoy the company of family and friends. She is always keen to explore new foodie scenes and adventure out into the world when she gets the chance.


    About Orthoworks Invisalign and Orthodontics Group
    OrthoWorks Invisalign and Orthodontics Group is the #1 Provider of Invisalign treatments in the San Francisco Bay Area and was founded by Dr. David Shen, who is recognized as one of the top five most experienced Invisalign® doctors in the world and is a member of the Top 1% Elite Provider Club. Dr. Shen and Associates specialize in providing orthodontic care using a variety of techniques including Invisalign® appliances, traditional braces, surgical orthodontics, cleft palate/cleft lips, and sleep apnea. In short, their practice is dedicated to one goal: to create healthy and beautiful smiles for children and adults using the highest quality of orthodontic care available. To achieve this, Orthoworks utilizes the latest technological advancements in the field together with the team’s collective experiences. Over the years, the practice has grown from its original three locations to over ten locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, serving over 60,000 orthodontic patients.



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