Reactions to braces vary from child to child. While some kids are excited about getting their braces on and see it as an “initiation” of sorts into teenage years, still others have a lot of anxiety about braces as they worry about how they will look or feel. One thing is for sure, braces for kids are a big milestone and this orthodontic treatment will make a difference that will impact them their entire life.
As a parent of a child who might need them, you probably have your own set of concerns and questions about braces. Join us as we cover everything you need to know about kids and braces.
Why Do Some Kids Need Braces?
There are several different reasons why kids might need braces, including:
- Crooked teeth
- Overlapping teeth
- Overcrowded teeth
- A “bad bite”, which is also known as malocclusion
When there is a difference in the sizes of the top and bottom jaws, it is known as a malocclusion. In cases where the upper jaw is bigger than the lower jaw, this is known as an overbite. In cases where the lower jaw is bigger than the upper jaw, this is known as an underbite.
Losing baby teeth too soon can sometimes cause tooth and jaw problems that warrant braces for correction. Oral fixation habits, such as thumb sucking, can also lead to dental issues in kids. However, for the majority of cases, issues with the teeth and jaws are simply inherited and if you needed braces, it’s likely that your child will also need braces.
Identifying the Need for Braces for Kids
Your pediatric dentist will most likely be the first one to notice any alignment or bite issues during a routine examination, and they will recommend that your child sees an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in jaw/teeth alignment problems. The decision as to whether your child definitely needs braces and what devices would work are made by the orthodontist.
Some kids will see the orthodontist when they are six years old, others might not see one until they are 10, and even some won’t see one until their teen years. There is no concrete age at which your child should see an orthodontist. Sometimes even adults go to get orthodontic treatment done. However, many orthodontists recommend that your child has their first visit around age seven because by then issues like overcrowding or uneven bite should be obvious.
It’s important to keep in mind that even if you start the process early, that does not mean that the child will get braces right away. The orthodontist will assess the problems and decide when is the best time to start treatment. Sometimes they need to do things to prepare the teeth for braces, such as having an appliance installed that widens the jaw or removing teeth to create more space in the mouth.
What to Expect at First Orthodontist Visit
During the first orthodontist visit, your child will receive a thorough full mouth examination. They will have your child bite down to look for alignment issues, and ask you if your child has difficulty chewing, swallowing, and if you’ve ever heard clicking or popping sounds coming from the jaw.
At this first visit, there may be X-rays of the mouth and teeth taken in order to see how they are positioned and if there are permanent teeth that still need to come in. The orthodontist may also make a mold (impression) of your child’s teeth. This mold is created by pressing a tray of gooey material into the top and bottom teeth. Once that mold hardens, the result is an exact replica of your child’s teeth which will then be used to determine the best treatment options.
What are the Different Types of Braces?
Through the steady application of pressure on the teeth, braces eventually move the teeth into a straighter position. In most cases, the child will only require braces that consist of brackets, wires, and rubber bands. Brackets attach to the teeth and are connected by a wire and rubber bands. Over time, the wire is tightened in order to slowly line the teeth up properly. Kids enjoy picking out what color to use for the rubber bands. Metal brackets are still commonly used, but there are now options for clear or white ceramic brackets, which is nice because they are a lot less noticeable. There are also braces that go behind the teeth, and those are called lingual braces.
In some cases where only minor alterations are needed, clear removable braces might be used and they are called aligners. As the alignment treatment progresses, new aligners are used to progress the straitening.
Additional devices might also be needed, such as headgear. Headgear is a horseshoe-shaped wire that attaches to the back of the teeth and it provides a greater force to move the teeth. Thankfully, headgear is usually only worn at night.
Frequent visits to the orthodontist spaced out by a few weeks each will be required once the braces are on in order to monitor progress and make any adjustments that are needed. The length of time a child wears braces will depend on how much needs to be fixed, but on average they are worn for about two years. Once the braces are removed, your child will probably need to wear a specially molded retainer. A retainer is either a small hard piece of plastic that has metal wires on it or a thin piece of plastic that is shaped like a mouthguard. Retainers are important because they help prevent the teeth from wandering back to their previous positions.
Should My Child See an Orthodontist?
It’s important that you find a good, reliable orthodontist that you can trust. After all, braces do more than just straighten teeth to make them attractive, they also help to keep your child’s mouth healthy for the rest of their life.
Are you wondering whether or not your child should see an orthodontist? There’s only one way to find out. When your child sees a highly experienced dentist for an examination, not only can they recommend whether orthodontist treatment is advised for your child, but they can also lead you to highly skilled and reputable orthodontists in your local area.
Call us today at (801) 281-8881 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced pediatric dentists.