Having braces is often thought of as a typical part of adolescence. Parents often wonder when is the best time to get braces for kids. The answer is not the same for every child. A consultation with an orthodontist at Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas can help parents decide on the best course of action for their child.
Benefits of Braces
Braces improve the appearance of teeth, but that’s not all they do. Braces can also help:
- Improve oral health
- Ease painful chewing
- Prevent biting inside the of the cheek
- Improve speech
- Reduce grinding and chipping
- Stop jaw clicking and popping
Who Might Need Braces?
Visibly crooked teeth are not the only reason to consider braces for kids. Braces can help with several different issues involving the teeth and jaws.
One common issue is when the upper and lower jaws are different sizes. A larger upper jaw causes a child to have an overbite, while a larger lower jaw causes an underbite. An untreated overbite or underbite can cause tooth decay, jaw pain, headaches, sleep apnea, and other health issues. Teeth with an overbite are also more susceptible to injury.
Another reason to consider braces for kids is when some of the child’s top teeth are inside of the bottom teeth. Called a crossbite, this can cause tooth decay, jaw pain, and asymmetrical facial features. An open bite is when the top and bottom teeth do not meet when the child’s mouth is closed. This can cause difficulties with chewing and swallowing. It may also contribute to speech and pronunciation problems.
When teeth overlap because there is not enough space for them in the mouth, it is called crowding. This may be caused by larger than usual teeth or a smaller than usual jaw. Crowded teeth can be harder to keep clean, which can result in cavities. On the other hand, large spaces between teeth can get food trapped between them, which also causes cavities.
Braces for kids can fix any of these dental issues. If problems are left untreated, however, children will be prone to more dental problems as adults.
The Best Age for Braces
Ideally, a child should get braces while their head and mouth are still growing. They also need to be old enough to cooperate with the treatment process. For these reasons, the years between ages ten and fourteen are often considered the best window of opportunity for treatment.
This does not mean that parents should wait until their child is ten years old before taking them to see an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first orthodontist visit by the time they are seven. While a seven-year-old may not need braces, the orthodontist can screen for future issues. They can check to see if permanent teeth are going to be overcrowded or if the child has a bite problem.
Orthodontic treatment of young children is also known as Phase One treatment, or interceptive orthodontics. It may include the use of a palate expander for a child whose permanent teeth may be crowded or the extraction of some permanent teeth. It could also include working to break habits such as thumb sucking, which could have a negative impact on teeth. Early orthodontic treatment may shorten the amount of time a child will need to wear braces in the future.
Your child will need to have an examination from an orthodontist in order to determine if he or she is ready for braces. In the past, an initial examination with an orthodontist included creating an impression. The patient would bite down on a tray full of clay-like material that would eventually dry and harden to give the orthodontist a 3D view of the teeth. Many patients find this process very unpleasant.
At Ragan Orthodontics, the use of digital technology makes the impression process much easier. Impressions are created with 3D x-rays and printers. You will then be able to view the impression on the computer along with the orthodontist. This will be the time to discuss the next steps in the treatment process.
How Do Braces Work?
The purpose of braces is to move the teeth into the correct position. Pressure is put on one side of each tooth that needs to move. On the side receiving the pressure, the bone around the root of the tooth breaks down. On the other side of the tooth, new bone grows around the root.
In the traditional method, brackets are placed on the teeth and are connected by wires and elastic bands. The positioning of each bracket, and the bending of the wire, depends on where each tooth needs to move.
The brackets, wire, and elastics work together to put pressure on the teeth. When the braces are removed, the teeth usually remain in their new positions. Many patients are given retainers to wear to stop the teeth from moving back to their original places.
Aligners are clear, 3D-printed plastic molds that are placed over the teeth. Patients receive new aligners every few weeks as their teeth move into new positions.
Types of Braces
Generations ago, children who needed braces had only one option: metal braces. Today, there are several types of braces for kids.
Invisalign is a brand of aligners. Because they are nearly invisible when worn, they are often preferred by children and teenagers who don’t want to appear to have braces.
Each Invisalign tray is 3D-printed specifically for the patient. Every two weeks, the patient receives a new set of Invisalign trays. Monthly appointments with an orthodontist are necessary to make sure that the teeth are moving correctly. Adjustments to the aligners can also be made during these appointments.
Invisalign trays should be worn at least 22 hours a day. However, they can be removed while eating or drinking and while brushing teeth. It is also acceptable to remove them for special occasions in the child’s life, such as school pictures. The patient will need to continue wearing the aligners for six to fifteen months.
Metal braces are still an option, but today’s brackets are made using an advanced technology called Metal Injection Molding. This means that the brackets are smaller, smoother, and more comfortable than earlier versions. Different colors can be added to make the experience more novel for kids and teens.
NeoLucent Plus™ Ceramic Braces
For those who want braces, but don’t want their braces to be obvious, clear braces can be a great option. NeoLucent Plus™ brackets are clear and stain-resistant.
Some patients may be good candidates for lingual braces. These are braces placed on the backs of the teeth, hidden from view. Not all orthodontists offer lingual braces because they must take continuing education courses in order to use them. However, these braces are available at Ragan Orthodontics.
Carriere® Self-Ligating Bracket System
The Carriere® Self-Ligating Bracket System is an improved version of the traditional bracket and wire braces. The brackets are bound with wires but not elastic bands. The system puts less pressure and force on the teeth than traditional braces for kids. They are also more comfortable for patients than traditional braces. Fewer appointments with the orthodontist are needed, and total treatment time is often reduced.
In the past, the use of headgear was an effective option for patients with more severe bite issues. Children and teens who wear headgear often find them uncomfortable and awkward and may be embarrassed by them. The Carriere® Distalizer uses elastic bands inside the mouth to achieve the same results as a headgear in a more comfortable and subtle way. The Carriere® Distalizer is usually used for a few months before beginning treatment with braces.
Preparing Your Child for Braces
Getting braces is a big event in a child’s life. Some children may be excited to get braces, especially if they have friends who already have them. They may see braces as a rite of passage. Other children may be nervous or apprehensive. They may be worried about their appearance or fear that they will get teased by their peers. They may have heard that they will have to avoid eating things while wearing braces.
There are a few things that parents can do to help ease the way for more reluctant children.
Let Them Know What to Expect
Talk to your child about the process of getting braces. It might be helpful to visit the orthodontist’s office before their first appointment if they have never been there before. Getting them a book or encouraging them to watch a video about braces can also help ease any anxiety they may have.
Focus on the Positive
Explain the reasons for getting braces. Point out that having braces now will help them to avoid dental problems when they are older. Remind them that braces are only temporary. Since even six months can seem like forever to a child, you can point out a future event that will have meaning to them. For example, “Your braces will be off by the time you start eighth grade!”
Include Them In the Process
Kids may enjoy getting to see a 3D image of their teeth on the computer. Encourage them to ask the orthodontist any questions they may have. If there are several acceptable options, allow your child to have a say in the decision. Remind them of the decisions they will definitely have control over, such as choosing the color of their rubber bands.
Support Them In Taking Care of Their Braces
If your child’s orthodontist gives your child a list of foods they need to avoid, make sure those foods are not in the house to tempt them. Help your child brainstorm a list of treats that they can enjoy while wearing braces.
Give Them the Supplies They Need
Provide your child with any of the accessories they need for their braces, including:
- A soft-bristled toothbrush
- Flouride toothpaste
- Ortho wax
- Dental floss
Braces for Kids
While not every child will need braces, all children should see an orthodontist by the time they are seven years old. Early screening allows an orthodontist to make sure the child’s teeth and jaws are developing properly and to start any interventions that may be necessary. If your child does need braces when he or she is older, having had that early screening and monitoring by an orthodontist will help the treatment process to go more smoothly.
Getting braces is a much more pleasant experience than it was in years past. With the development of 3D X-rays and digital impressions, the improvements in traditional braces, and the addition of new types of braces, children and their parents have nothing to worry about. To make an appointment with an orthodontist, contact Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX.