Hey C.-- this is the first response I've ever given, but I do think I'm a bit qualified to give a little advice. I got braces when I was 15. My parents couldn't afford it til then. I wore them for 5 years, and got them off at age 20- 6 weeks before my wedding. I had a bad crossbite and had to wear an appliance to spread out the top of my mouth. I also had to have my 4, 12 yr molars pulled because my mouth was too small for all my teeth.
I have 3 children. All three have been under orthodontic care since they were very young. All three had cross bites. My oldest child is 17. He's a sr in high school. I can't remember exactly, but I think he went to the orthodontist for about 9 years. Bear in mind that some of that time is just a waiting period. He had to wear the expander in the roof of his mouth, as well as head gear. He got his braces off about 6 months earlier than what they predicted (and that was about 2 1/2 years ago) because he did everything he was told. He also had to have his wisdom teeth extracted afterward. He does wear a retainer at night, but doesn't have to EVERY night.. every other one I think... not sure.
Right now I have 2 in braces. My girls are 14 and almost 13. My youngest child had her first "evaluation" when she was about 3. Dr. Pool looked at her- during a visit with one of my other children- and told me that she would be the worst one. He has been accurate. If we hadn't started on her when we did, she'd have had to have her jaw broken and re-set before she was 20 years old.
All three of my children had braces more than once. NOt a full set necessarily, but braces nonetheless. And various sorts of headgear. All three had to have the expander in the top of their mouths.
Lots of people wrongly think that orthodontics is only for crooked teeth. That is so NOT TRUE. It is also for the formation and growth of jaw bones and mouth structure. If you help the bones and surrounding tissue grow correctly the FIRST time, it won't have anything wrong to revert back to.
My children can look at pictures throughout their childhood and see various stages of orthodontic treatment. They have, and are working on, BEAUTIFUL smiles. Although it costs a lot, and we have NO orthodontic insurance, I don't regret for a second starting treatment on any of my children when we did.
HOpe this helps you in your decision. I don't know where you live, but we live in Byron, and use Dr. GAry POol in Warner Robins. I highly recommend him.