A child’s dental and jaw development is incredibly important. I can ensure they can eat comfortably, care for their teeth and gums adequately, and smile to their heart’s content. About one-third of all children need orthodontic treatment, and a considerable percentage are borderline cases. The treatment involves the correction of irregularities of the teeth. And developing the jaw, with a view to improving both the function and appearance of the mouth and face. More often than not, treatment will involve the use of braces.
Fortunately, the stigma around braces is becoming a thing of the past. There are more options available for children orthodontic treatments, and they are often pleased to have to wear them. In fact, 94% of orthodontists have experienced children being brought to them because the child wants to have braces.
When Should Children Visit an Orthodontist?
Braces are often associated with teenagers, but much younger children can also benefit from early orthodontic treatment. Regular trips to the dentist are recommended as soon as your child’s first teeth emerge. However, The Australian Society of Orthodontics recommends your child have an initial evaluation with the dentist at around the age of seven. This is the age when adult teeth start to appear, and problems can occur with the development of the teeth and jaw.
Being proactive with orthodontic treatment can simplify or resolve any future issues. When we are younger our jaw bones are still growing which makes treatment easier. Orthodontists have the opportunity to guide the growth of the jaw to help encourage adult teeth to grow correctly. Your dentist should help you look out for problems that could benefit from early orthodontic treatment such as:
Loss of baby teeth
Most should be lost between the ages of five and 14, if they fall out too early or late it could be cause for concern.
If done to excess and continued past the age of four, thumb sucking can have a significant effect on the jaw and teeth.
Lisps, slurring or mispronunciations can be the result of orthodontic issues as well as mouth breathing and snoring.
Other things to look out for are teeth that don’t bite together properly, teeth that protrude and crowded front teeth. With the appropriate early treatment, interceptive measures can be put in place to lay the groundwork for healthy adult teeth.
When are Braces Required
The age a child will need to have braces fitted varies according to their physiological development and treatment needs. However, the average is around 8 years of age. Earlier appointments give orthodontists and parents a chance to help resolve harmful habits, to track jaw development and, where appropriate, to perform an interceptive treatment.
Braces can be used on a small number of front teeth to improve developing problems by guiding teeth into optimum positions. Meanwhile, space maintainers can help avoid overcrowding. This early treatment can reduce the need for extraction and shorten the treatment time for full braces. However, when braces are required, not only are children generally more accepting nowadays, but there are a number of options available.
Types of Braces for Children
Widespread correction of children’s teeth will require the use of orthodontic braces, usually in the early teens as we’ve discussed. The term ‘orthodontic brace’ refers to a device used to apply force onto the teeth with the goal of aligning the teeth and correcting the bite. There are a few different types of braces that can be chosen, dependent on specific patient needs. These include three main varieties, metal, ceramic and clear braces, which are summarised below.
Metal braces are the most common type of braces used for children and are the typical image that we picture when thinking about braces. However, modern brackets are smaller and less noticeable than the train-tracks of years gone by. They are made up of brackets that are attached to the teeth and connected by a thin metal wire and rubber bands. The wire is tightened slowly over time to achieve the desired movement and help the teeth line up properly. These are a popular option as children can choose fun colours for the rubber bands, giving them a chance to express themselves. They are also usually the least expensive option.
These are very similar to metal braces in that they consist of brackets, wires, and rubber bands. However, instead of the metal brackets, tooth-coloured ceramic or brackets are used. This can make treatment option more discreet, and are popular with older teens and those who are more self-conscious about wearing braces. However, the ceramic braces are more fragile, require careful cleaning to avoid staining and are more expensive than their metal counterparts.
Although many children are excited to wear braces, there are still many that want to avoid them at all costs. Clear braces are growing in popularity as an almost invisible solution. Invisalign is the most recognized brand name, involving a series of custom made, mouth guard-like clear plastic aligners. The aligners are made from a digital scan of your child’s teeth, they are removable and are replaced every one to two weeks. Being custom made, and composed of flexible plastic, the aligners are a lot more comfortable than metal and ceramic braces. As the aligners are removable, children are able to eat and drink as usual and to retain great oral hygiene.
Children can continue to play the sports they enjoy without the risk of repeated emergency visits to fix broken brackets and wires. The aligners need to be worn for at least 22 hours a day to be effective. To ensure teenagers are wearing them enough, they come with a blue compliance indicator that fades when worn.
Although not yet as popular as metal braces, the aligners do offer a number of advantages and aim to improve children’s smiles without interrupting their lives. Clear braces are generally a more expensive treatment than metal braces but are often covered by insurance plans.
If you’d like to discuss the options for your child’s oral health, schedule their free 30-minute orthodontic Assessment today.
During your child’s Assessment, one of dentist’s will examine their teeth and smile using an OPG panoramic scan–(valued at $140)–so he can see exactly how your child’s teeth are developing. From there, our Dentist will create a personalized treatment plan just for them, and discuss the best options for helping your child avoid complex orthodontic needs down the road.
Call us on (02) 9567 4151 or visit our children’s orthodontic page for more information.