A beautiful smile can have an incredibly positive impact on your child’s health throughout his or her life, so at what age should your child begin orthodontic care and what are the best kind of braces for kids? At The Happy Tooth in Chapel Hill, NC, we provide treatments for children starting at age 7.
The Benefits of Early Treatment
What Is Early Treatment?
Early treatment, also referred to as Phase 1 treatment, is orthodontic care for children who still have some baby teeth. This phase of care can be started on children aged seven to 10, after all of the baby teeth have grown in and some of the adult teeth have appeared. At this time, we make assessments about the development of a child’s jaw, face, and teeth.
Why Are Braces for Kids Sometimes Needed?
Many parents wonder why it is necessary to put braces on baby teeth. After all, baby teeth eventually fall out. Actually, baby teeth serve an important purpose developmentally: they create paths for the adult teeth. Depending on the severity of the situation, misaligned baby teeth can even cause speech impediments, difficulty breathing, and discomfort.
What Happens After Early Treatment?
In most cases, children who go through Phase 1 require braces again once all of their adult teeth have grown in. Following Phase 1, we assess whether further orthodontic care is necessary on a case-by-case basis. Generally, there is a one year “resting phase”, during which we will monitor the development of your child’s teeth. Happily, if braces are necessary after the resting phase, the extent of the care required will be significantly less than if the child had not completed Phase 1.
What Are the Advantages of Early Treatment?
Addressing orthodontic problems early can greatly reduce the complications your child will face at a later stage. You can save time and money on orthodontic care by having issues treated while they are still in a developmental stage. Additionally, if your child’s misaligned teeth are causing problems with speech, breathing, and/or confidence, Phase 1 will get them on the path to feeling more comfortable as soon as possible.
What Are Some Problems Early Treatment Can Address?
Children can present a variety of orthodontic problems. Phase 1 targets:
- Misaligned teeth
- Protruding teeth
If your child shows signs of any of these issues, it is best to take them into our office for an exam.
How Do Braces Straighten Teeth?
Braces are a system of metal brackets and wires that are used to straighten a patient’s teeth. The brackets are adhered to the teeth using special dental glue. Usually, they attach to the wires via rubber bands.
Treatment times vary, but most people can expect their treatment to be finished within two years. During that time, the wires put consistent, gentle pressure on the teeth, causing them to move into the desired positions. The pressure should never be great enough to cause a significant amount of pain; however, it should be strong enough to reposition the teeth.
What Kind of Braces Are Available?
There is a lot of variety in the world of orthodontic care. Many different kinds of braces are available. Traditional braces continue to be one of the most popular options. They attach to the front of the teeth and are not removed during the treatment. Some people prefer ceramic braces, which are less noticeable because they are tooth-colored. You can even get braces that attach to the back of the teeth.
Invisalign is an option for people who prefer clear, plastic aligners over traditional braces. They can be removed for eating and are designed to be extremely subtle when you wear them.
Comparing Types of Braces for Kids
Traditional Metal Braces
Traditional metal braces are usually the best option for children (and for most adults). They are incredibly versatile and can tackle even the most severe cases of misaligned teeth. The system of wires and brackets gives orthodontists a lot of control over the movement of the teeth, allowing for complex repositioning.
Metal Braces vs Ceramic Braces
While ceramic braces have the cosmetic advantage of being less noticeable, the material they are made of is more fragile and can sometimes break. For most children, it is best to select an option that requires less care. Traditional braces are made out of steel and titanium. These materials are very sturdy. Instances of popped wires and breakage are uncommon with metal braces.
In addition to being more fragile, ceramic braces are larger than metal braces. For this reason, they can cause damage to the back of the top teeth if they are applied to the bottom teeth. People who get them often have them only applied to the top. Traditional braces do not present this issue.
Metal Braces vs Invisalign
Invisalign allows people to go through the process of straightening their teeth while avoiding metal pieces altogether. They are a great option for people who are very conscious about their looks, adults who want to avoid the teenage connotations that go along with braces, and people who have professions that are heavily influenced by their appearance.
Unfortunately, Invisalign cannot treat a severe misalignment. If your child is in need of Phase 1 treatment, chances are his or her case lies beyond the scope of Invisalign. Also, children who are still growing into mature adults might have trouble caring for their aligners, which can easily be misplaced when they are removed. Some children might even forget to wear them, extending the length of treatment.
The Best Braces for Kids
For most children, traditional braces are the best option. They are strong, precise, and effective. While they require care and vigilance, they are not as easily damaged as other options. The high degree of control they offer orthodontists makes them one of the fastest options for straightening teeth. Happily for parents, they are also usually the most cost-effective solution. And, while they are more noticeable than Invisalign, many children enjoy the fact that the rubber bands come in different colors.
Helping Kids Care for Their Braces
Having braces can be an excellent learning opportunity for children. Understanding how to care for braces properly can give your child a sense of responsibility and help him or her develop good habits. Having braces will also teach your child to have patience and look forward to long-term benefits. Some children actually enjoy having braces because it makes them feel more mature.
When your child has braces, he or she should take extra care to clean them. We recommend brushing four times a day: once after each meal and once before sleeping. Flossing with braces is also important.
Eating the Right Foods
There are a few foods that people should not eat when they have braces. These foods include raw vegetables, ice, and sticky candies.
Following the Orthodontists’ Instructions
When we provide braces for your child, we will give you all the information you need to care for them correctly, especially with regards to cleaning and eating. You and your child can always feel free to ask questions about the process.
The Life-Long Benefits of Braces
Whether the process of achieving straighter teeth via braces is started during childhood, in the teenage years, or during adulthood, the benefits last a lifetime. Braces create smiles that are both healthy and beautiful.
Straighter teeth are easier to care for and less prone to developing gum disease and cavities. This is because, without areas of overlap, it is easier to brush the entire surface area of each tooth. When teeth do not protrude, there is less risk of injury. In some cases, braces can even reduce headaches and speech impediments.
Having a straight, well cared for smile can be an incredible boost to a person’s confidence. People who have braces as children can enjoy presenting a professional-looking appearance during their adult years. Having straighter teeth can eliminate camera shyness and the feeling of having to hide one’s teeth. Best of all, your child will never need to feel that crooked teeth are holding him or her back in life.
Braces for Kids Create Healthy Smiles for Life
Staying vigilant over your child’s orthodontic care is an excellent way to set him or her up for a lifetime of dental health. For most children, traditional metal braces are the way to go.
We recommend bringing your child in for an orthodontic screening starting at age 7. This does not mean that braces will be required, but it gives us the opportunity to assess your child’s situation early to prevent later complications. Addressing orthodontic problems early can save you money and time. For more information, contact The Happy Tooth in Chapel Hill, NC. We will be delighted to provide expert orthodontic care for your family.