Here’s what you need to know about dental braces for children.
Why children need braces
Kids need braces for different reasons. Crooked, overlapping or overcrowded teeth or malocclusion or a bad bite are some of them.
Malocclusion is the misalignment of teeth when the jaw closes. This irregular contact between the upper and lower teeth can manifest as an overbite, open bite, under bite or cross bite.
Losing baby teeth too soon, habits like thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting, or accidents can cause teeth and jaw problems.
If you needed braces, it’s likely that your kids will too. These issues are often inherited.
When should a child see an orthodontist
An orthodontist is a dentist with additional training—they specialize in aligning and straightening teeth. They correct irregularities of the teeth, bite and jaws.
Children first visit their orthodontist at different ages—some do it as young as 6 while some go in their teens. But we recommend that they get checked when their permanent teeth start coming in, usually around the age of 7.
Orthodontists can already see issues such as uneven bite and overcrowding at this age. It doesn’t mean your child will get braces right away. Your orthodontist will determine the proper time for treatment to begin.
(See also: Dental care for your children)
Your child’s first visit to the orthodontist
The orthodontist will examine your child’s teeth, mouth and jaw thoroughly and study their bite. He or she will ask your child questions about chewing or swallowing or if their jaw pops or clicks.
It’s possible that the orthodontist will take X-rays to see the positioning of teeth and to find out if other permanent teeth still need to come in. He or she might also need to make a mold. This process involves pressing a tray of gooey material onto your child’s teeth. This material will harden and will become a replica of your child’s teeth. The orthodontist will then use it to decide on treatment.
The orthodontist might recommend removing one tooth or more to make space in your child’s mouth.
Kinds of braces
Braces straighten teeth by putting steady pressure on them, slowly moving them into straighter position.
Your child can get conventional braces that consist of stainless steel brackets that are attached to the teeth and connected by wires and rubber bands. The wire will be tightened little by little over a period of time.
There are also ceramic braces that are tooth-colored.
Lingual braces are attached to the inside of the teeth. They’re less noticeable than conventional braces.
Rubber bands or elastics are used when more force is needed to move teeth into position. Kids have fun choosing their rubber band colors.
Another option is clear aligners. These are a sequence of removable trays that need to be kept in the mouth from 20 to 22 hours each day. Invisalign is the most popular brand of aligners.
There are other orthodontic devices like the headgear—a removable horseshoe shaped wire that attaches to the braces from the back of the head.
How long do kids wear braces?
How long your kid needs to wear braces will depend on the severity of their case. The average time is two years.
After that, they will most likely need to wear a retainer. This is a small, hard piece of plastic with metal wires or a thin piece of plastic. Retainers keep the teeth in place after braces are removed. They prevent teeth from moving.
Benefits of braces for children
Your child will have a nicer smile, that’s for sure. But good orthodontic care does a lot more than that.
Braces do not just fix dental crowding, close gaps and correct bites, they also enhance the patient’s facial aesthetics.
Straight teeth that align like they should make it easier to chew food. They can even prevent snoring.
Give your child the gift of straight and healthy teeth. They will thank you for it.