Your child’s orthodontist isn’t just focused on making sure she has a beautiful smile. Properly aligned teeth can also help prevent dental problems throughout her life. How do you know when she needs to see the orthodontist? The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that kids see an orthodontist (just for a routine check-up) no later than age seven. You might need to make an earlier appointment if she has any of these symptoms—even if her teeth look straight:

• Early or late loss of baby teeth (check with your dentist) 

• Difficulty chewing or biting

• Breathing through the mouth 

• Thumb-sucking

• Crowded, misplaced or blocked out teeth 

• Jaw that is too far forward or back 

• Biting the cheek or biting into the roof of the mouth 

• Protruding teeth 

• Upper and lower teeth that don’t meet, or meet in an abnormal way 

• Grinding or clenching her teeth

How common is it to be treated by an orthodontist? In 2014, members of the AAO saw nearly four million patients 17 and younger. Most kids begin treatment between the ages of nine and 14. Those with more severe problems may start earlier, even while some baby teeth are still present.

The average length of orthodontic care is 22 months, and depending on the condition being treated, can range from 12 to 36 months. The average time between appointments is six weeks. 

Treatment can be pricey. Comprehensive orthodontic care of adolescents ranges from $4,685 to $6,500, according to the American Dental Association’s 2013 Survey of Dental Fees. Most orthodontists offer payment plans, and many also provide a free or low cost initial consultation.

Martta Kelly has been a health and wellness writer for more than 15 years. She lives in West Orange.