Braces are the most efficient and accurate way of moving teeth. Brackets are adhered to each tooth with special dental glue and are usually made of stainless steel or a clear plastic material. These brackets act like a handle on the tooth so that it can be moved into its correct position using wires. The brackets remain on the teeth for the entire duration of treatment. Generally adjustments are made to the braces every four to six weeks.
During treatment, patients may need to wear such items as rubber bands. These provide important extra forces for the correction of the bite.
To have a smile that’s long lasting and more importantly healthy, your child needs teeth and jaws that are properly aligned – in other words, a healthy bite. We recommends that your child get an orthodontic check-up no later than age 7. By then, your child’s teeth have developed enough to where subtle problems can be spotted with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. This check-up may reveal that your child’s bite is fine and braces for kids aren’t necessary. Or, our team may identify a developing problem but recommend monitoring your child’s growth and development, and then, if indicated, begin treatment at the appropriate time for your child. In other cases, our team might find a problem that can benefit from early treatment.
Early treatment may prevent or intercept more serious problems from developing and may make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. In some cases, Our Team will be able to achieve results that may not be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing.
While the age that kids get braces may vary, orthodontic treatment most often begins between the ages of 9 and 14, and some orthodontic problems are easier to correct if they are treated early. If it appears that treatment will be needed, your orthodontist can advise you as to the ideal time to begin. This gives your orthodontist the best chance to:
- Guide jaw growth
- Lower the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
- Correct harmful oral habits
- Improve appearance and self-esteem in your child
- Guide permanent teeth into a more favorable position
- Create a more pleasing arrangement of teeth, lips and face.
It’s not always easy to tell when your child may need braces or has an orthodontic problem. Even teeth that look straight may be hiding a problem bite. Here are some clues that may indicate the need for orthodontic attention:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Difficulty in chewing or biting
- Breathing through the mouth
- Crowded, misplaced or blocked-out teeth
- Jaws that are too far forward or back
- Biting the cheek or biting into the roof of the mouth
- Protruding teeth
- Upper and lower teeth that don’t meet, or meet in an abnormal way
- An unbalanced facial appearance
- Grinding or clenching of the teeth
At the first visit, the orthodontist will thoroughly examine your child’s teeth, mouth, and jaw. He or she may ask your child to bite the teeth together and may also ask questions about whether your child has problems chewing or swallowing, or has ever had clicking or popping of the jaw.
The orthodontist may take X-rays of the mouth and teeth to see how the teeth are positioned and whether any permanent teeth still need to come in. He or she also may make a mold (or impression) of your child’s teeth by pressing a tray of gooey material into the top and bottom teeth. When the mold is removed and the material hardens, the result is a replica of your child’s teeth that will allow the orthodontist to decide which treatment options are best.
Braces correct alignment problems by putting steady pressure on the teeth, which eventually moves them into a straighter position.
Most kids just need braces with brackets, wires, and rubber bands. The brackets attach to the teeth and are connected by a wire and rubber bands. The wire is tightened bit by bit over time to slowly help line the teeth up properly. The rubber bands come in fun colors that kids can pick. Though metal braces are still used, so are clear or white ceramic braces, which are much less noticeable. Some even go behind the teeth (lingual braces).
Clear removable braces that move teeth with plastic trays called aligners (rather than wires and rubber bands) are also available, but these are only right for some people.
Some kids may need other devices, too, such as headgear (don’t worry — this is usually worn only at night!). Headgear uses a horseshoe-shaped wire that attaches to the back teeth, providing stronger force to move the teeth. The orthodontist also might recommend that your child have one or more teeth removed to create more space in his or her mouth.
Once the braces are on, your child will have to visit the orthodontist every few weeks for monitoring and adjustments.
How long your child will need to wear braces depends on the problems the orthodontist is trying to fix, but the average is about 2 years. After that, your child might wear a specially molded retainer — a small, hard piece of plastic with metal wires or a thin piece of plastic shaped like a mouth guard. Retainers keep the teeth from wandering back to their original places.
Because it’s so easy for food to get stuck in wired braces, kids who wear them need to work extra hard to keep their teeth clean. Brushing after meals is essential, as is daily flossing (the orthodontist can give your child a special flosser to use in and around braces). Regular dental cleanings and checkups to look for cavities are also a must.
Your child should avoid certain foods (such as popcorn, hard and sticky candy, and gum) because they can damage braces. Sugary sodas and juices can be a problem, too, because they can contribute to tooth decay. Kids with clear plastic aligners should always remove them when it’s time to eat.
Because braces put pressure on the teeth, they can feel uncomfortable once in a while, especially after the orthodontist makes adjustments. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and eating soft foods can help if this happens.
See the orthodontist right away if your child has a loose wire or bracket, or a wire that is poking his or her mouth. If the orthodontist can’t find a problem, your child might use some soft orthodontic wax to cover any sharp spots on the braces that are bothersome or rubbing against the inside of the mouth or gums.