Let’s face it, most kids dread just going to the dentist. If your child needs braces or other orthodontic treatment, this can be quite an uphill battle. Kids worry that they will be made fun of for having braces, or that they will be uncomfortable.
Regardless of how much your child might protest, there will eventually come a time where an orthodontist visit is necessary. But when exactly is the right time?
Start Them Young
The appropriate age can vary from child to child. Somewhere between the ages of 6 and 10 is fairly typical. This might surprise some readers since waiting until they are teenagers is more common. Adolescence is alright, too. Occasionally even adults will need to set up an appointment.
However, orthodontists typically agree that the best time for a first visit is after the permanent teeth have started coming in. Issues solved by braces such as crooked or misaligned teeth are noticeable pretty much as soon as those teeth start fitting themselves into place.
Ask Your Family Dentist for Advice
Another good way to know if you need to visit the orthodontist is to discuss it with your child’s regular dentist. They will be able to identify potential problems and can also recommend you to reputable practices in the area. Orthodontists are dentists who specialise in realigning teeth and jaws. They can decide for sure if your child needs braces, what kind, and for how long.
Some dental offices, like our office here at Valley Ridge Dental in Calgary, offer orthodontic services. This is in addition to our general practice. We offer both in the same building for your convenience.
Reasons Kids Need Braces
There are many dental health issues that braces help to alleviate. That’s why the earlier they are put in, the easier the problem is to fix. Malocclusion is a common problem that braces can help with. Malocclusion is the technical term for overbites and underbites, where one half of the jaw is a different size than the other half.
Other issues that braces solve include crooked, overcrowded, or overlapping teeth.
Sometimes problems with the teeth or jaws can be due to external factors such as excessive thumb sucking, losing teeth too early, or unforeseen accidents.
But more often than not, these problems are hereditary. So, if your family has a history of needing braces, it might be inevitable for your child.
The First Visit
Your kid isn’t going to get braces on their first visit to the orthodontist. This visit is just important to determine what the plan for their teeth should be going forward.
When they first go to the orthodontist, a thorough examination will take place. Typically, they ask the kid to bite down in order to assess how their teeth align naturally.
This will be followed by a few questions that you and your child can answer together. Some questions might ask if they have trouble swallowing or chewing, or frequently feel a pop in their jaw when they move it.
If the orthodontist sees a potential problem, they may call for an X-ray of your child’s mouth. This can help them identify what’s going on underneath the gums, and whether any permanent teeth are still coming in.
The final step in the first visit usually involves getting a mold of the upper and lower jaw. After taking the mold and waiting for it to harden, the orthodontist can examine your child’s jaws from every angle using the mold to give the most accurate diagnosis.
Types of Braces
So, if your child does need braces, what comes next? And how do braces even work?
Braces put constant pressure on the teeth and force them into the correct positions. Eventually, this will permanently shift the placement of the teeth until they align correctly on their own.
Nowadays, there are many different kinds of braces that are meant to be more comfortable or less noticeable. These are vastly different from the traditional metal contraptions that most people think of. Those traditional ones are still common though. They are comprised of wires, rubber bands, and wires.
The brackets are attached to the teeth and connect to each other with the wires and rubber bands. Your child will need to visit the orthodontist periodically in order to slowly tighten the wire over time. This gradually adjusts the position of the teeth. Kids often love picking out their favorite color for the rubber bands.
Unfortunately, the metal braces still have a bit of a social stigma. This has made alternatives like clear or ceramic braces more popular.
There are other types of braces that are actually removable. However, these are only effective in certain situations.
The length of time that your child will need to keep the braces varies case by case, with the average being about 2 years. After getting them removed, your child will probably need to wear a retainer for a while. Retainers are essentially plastic mouthguards that keep the teeth from moving back into their original positions.
Caring for Braces
One of the aspects of having braces that kids find the most annoying is getting food stuck in them. They will have to brush after every meal to prevent this. Special kinds of floss that work around the braces are also important.
To that end, your kid will also have to avoid eating popcorn, hard candy, and other similar foods. All of these can damage the braces as well as the teeth themselves. Drinks high in sugar will cause tooth decay quickly.
If your child has removable aligners, they should always take them out before eating.
Because braces put constant pressure on a child’s teeth, they can often be uncomfortable. Eating soft foods or taking mild pain relievers can mitigate some of this discomfort.
If something comes loose in your child’s braces, you should see the orthodontist as soon as possible. If not properly maintained, braces can cause extreme discomfort and even bleeding in the gums occasionally. Sometimes the problem may be hard to identify. The orthodontist can give your kid some orthodontic wax to soften the edges in the bracers and help with the pain.
Braces aren’t fun, but many people need them to ensure a healthy smile. If you suspect your child or teen needs braces, make an appointment with Valley Ridge Dental Care in Calgary today!