Braces: some of us wanted them, some of us didn’t, some of us were lucky enough to never think twice about them.
Regardless of what side of the aisle you fall on, though, it’s your responsibility as a parent to help your child adapt if he or she requires braces. No matter what your child is thinking about braces, you likely have many concerns and questions of your own.
How will you pay for the braces? How long will the child have to wear them? How do you make sure the braces fit your child’s teeth?
Here’s a complete breakdown of everything you need to know to ensure your child’s braces are up to snuff.
Why Kids Need Braces as They Grow
First things first, why do kids need braces? The answer, as it turns out, is varied. Kids need braces for a wide assortment of reasons, including overcrowded, overlapping, and crooked teeth, or a mismatched bite (also know as malocclusion).
Malocclusion happens when there is a marked difference in the size of the top and bottom jaws, or when the upper jaw is larger than the lower jaw. This latter condition is known as an overbite. Underbites, on the other hand, happen when the mouth lower jaw is bigger.
In some cases, a child needs braces because they’ve lost their baby teeth too soon, because they’ve had an accident that impacted the alignment of the teeth, or because they’re suffering from a bad dental habit, like thumb sucking or extended pacifier use.
In most cases, a child’s dentist is the first person to realize they need braces. Orthodontists can identify jaw or teeth alignment issues and decide whether a child needs braces and, if so, what kind of braces will work best for your child’s mouth.
While children typically get braces at a young age, there’s no set age for the first braces application. In some cases, children get braces when they’re six, ten, or fifteen. As a child grows older, issues like uneve bites and overcrowding become progressively more apparent, so it’s common for teenagers to have braces to correct dental issues.
The First Orthodontist Visit
If you suspect your child may need braces, the first thing you can do is take your child to the orthodontist. During this first visit, the orthodontist will do a general overview of your child’s mouth. He or she might ask your child to close their mouth, bringing their teeth together, and may ask if the child has issues chewing, swallowing, or ever experiences clicking or popping in their jaw.
After asking these questions, the orthodontist may order some new or updated X-rays of your child’s mouth. These x-rays will identify the position of teeth, and determine if the child has permanent teeth that haven’t come in yet. In some cases, the orthodontist may also order molds or impressions of your child’s teeth, which can allow the orthodontist to determine which treatment options will be most effective, and figure out which braces fit will work best for your child.
The Types of Braces Children May Wear
Braces work to correct alignment issues by creating steady pressure, which shifts the teeth into the correct position over an extended time. For braces to do their job correctly, though, they need to fit as well as possible.
The way they fit, of course, depends on what kind of braces they are. Most children need braces that use wires, rubber bands, and brackets to attach to teeth. In this type of brace setup, the wire tightens gradually, which helps line teeth up properly and solve alignment issues. These braces are also popular because rubber bands come in dozens of bright colors, which children get to choose.
If your child doesn’t get metal braces, clear or white ceramic braces are an option. These braces are much noticeable, and some may even sit behind teeth. The latter are known as lingual braces.
There are often transparent, removable braces that align teeth with the help of plastic trays known as aligners, instead of wires or rubber bands. These are available, but are only right for some types of dental issues.
In some cases, depending on your child’s needs, additional devices may be required. Headgear that is worn at night is one option, as it can provide more force to move teeth and expedite the resolving of dental issues.
How to Care for Braces
No matter what kind of braces your child wears, you’ll have to care for them. This can provide a serious hurdle for kids and parents. After all, if you never had braces yourself, it can be tough to figure out how to care for them on your child’s teeth. Fortunately, it’s not an impossible question to solve. Here are a few must-dos for long-term braces care:
- Floss daily. Braces may help realign teeth, but they add structures to the teeth that can make it easier for tiny food particles to become trapped in the teeth and cause cavities and decay. With this in mind, it’s essential to floss daily around braces. A dentist can provide a special flosser designed to fit into the spaces between braces. Routine dental cleanings and checkups are also essential.
- Avoid certain foods. Popcorn, sticky or hard candy, sugary juices, gum, and sodas all contribute to dental decay, which means that children with braces should avoid them as much as possible. If your child wears clear plastic aligners, they should take them off when it’s time to eat.
- Take OTC pain relievers for discomfort. Braces create traction in the mouth, they can (and will) feel uncomfortable at times. This is especially true after the child has visited the orthodontist for adjustments. Fortunately, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever can help cut down on some of this discomfort.
- See your dentist at any sign of loose wires or brackets. If your child’s braces have a loose wire or bracket, or anything at all is sticking into the child’s mouth and causing pain, see the dentist right away. If the orthodontist doesn’t identify any problems, your child can use orthodontic wax to cover sharp spots on the braces and prevent them from rubbing up against the gums or inside of the mouth.
Finding the Right Fit for Braces
The final consideration for braces is to find a fit that works for your child. This is easier said than done, and requires the assistance of your dentist and orthodontist. When it comes to considering fit, you want to make sure you find something that fits your child’s physical mouth structure, as well as their lifestyle.
While bracket and wire braces are still the most popular options out there for children, there are many reasons they may not work for your child. As such, it’s essential to work closely with your dentist to ensure that the braces you choose suit your child’s teeth, growth, and lifestyle. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your orthodontist to clarify.
Braces and Kids: A Smarter Approach
If your child needs braces, you likely have many questions. Fortunately, there are lots of answers out there. By understanding which braces options are right for your kids, and how to care for these options, you can ensure a healthy mouth and a long life of good dental care for your child.
Does your child need braces? Contact our team today to schedule your braces consultation and information session!
Dr. Felicity is a National Board Certified Dentist and a Longtime resident of Charleston.