Many children are ambivalent about getting braces. On the one hand, they like the idea of perfect teeth, but on the other hand they are nervous about whether the braces will cause pain and discomfort. The good news is that the placement of orthodontic braces is not at all painful, and the end result will be a beautiful straight smile.
Although patients of any age can benefit from orthodontic braces, they tend to work much quicker on pre-teens and teenagers since they are still experiencing jaw growth. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children should first see an orthodontist around the age of seven years-old. An orthodontic examination may be beneficial before age seven if facial or oral irregularities are noted.
What Causes misalignment of teeth?
Poorly aligned teeth often cause problems speaking, biting and chewing. Most irregularities are genetic or occur as a result of developmental issues. Conversely, some irregularities are acquired or greatly exacerbated by certain habits and behaviors such as:
Thumb or finger sucking
Prolonged pacifier use
Poor oral hygiene
What’s involved when a child gets braces?
The orthodontist initially conducts a visual examination of the child’s teeth. This will be accompanied by panoramic x-rays, study models (bite impressions) and computer generated images of the head and neck. These preliminary assessments are sometimes known as the “planning phase” because they aid the orthodontist in making a diagnosis and planning the most effective treatment.
In many cases, the orthodontist will recommend “fixed” orthodontic braces for a child. Fixed braces cannot be lost, forgotten or removed at will, which means that treatment is completed more quickly. Removable appliances may also be utilized, which are less intrusive, and are generally used to treat various types of defects.
Here is a brief overview of some of the main types of orthodontic appliances used for children:
Fixed braces – Braces comprised of brackets which are affixed to each individual tooth, and an archwire which connect the brackets. The brackets are usually made of metal, ceramic, or a clear synthetic material which is less noticeable to the naked eye. After braces have been applied, the child will have regular appointments to have the braces adjusted by the orthodontist. Orthodontic elastic bands are often added to the braces to aid in the movement of specific teeth.
Headgear – This type of appliance is most useful to treat developmental irregularities. A headgear is a custom-made appliance attached to wire that is worn to aid in tooth movement. A headgear is intended to be worn for 12-20 hours r each day and must be worn as recommended to achieve good results.
Retainers – Retainers are typically utilized in the third phase (retention phase). When the original malocclusion has been treated with braces, it is essential that the teeth do not regress back to the original misalignment. Wearing a retainer ensures the teeth maintain their proper alignment, and gives the jawbone around the teeth a chance to stabilize.
If you have questions about braces for children, please contact our office. Dr. James B. Lewis and Dr. Mark W. Hawn are general dentists with extensive continuing education to practice funcitonal jaw orthopedics and orthodontics.