Getting braces for kids is an important decision that can have a significant impact on your child’s future. Although it used to be a luxury, braces for kids today are practically a rite of passage into adolescence. At Runnels Orthodontics of Destin, Florida, we aim to make sure your children have a comfortable experience at the right time in their development. When is the right time to get braces? There are a number of factors to consider, and it all starts with understanding what braces do.
What Do Braces for Kids Do?
Braces are a simple mechanical device used to reposition someone’s teeth. They consist of two main components: the brackets, which are mounted directly to your child’s teeth, and the wire, which is threaded through each bracket transferring tension to each tooth. Rubber bands wrap around the brackets and hold the wire firmly in place.
The objective of using braces is to realign the teeth into the perfect position. Unfortunately, they don’t often emerge this way naturally. Due to a number of factors, teeth may emerge crooked or misaligned. Not only can crooked teeth be a cause of anxiety or embarrassment, but they can also pose health issues in the future. Teeth can wear unevenly after many years. Uneven bites can also make it harder to chew food properly and are more susceptible to damage in sports.
How Do Braces Work Today?
Some parents may recall children with headgear wrapped around them. Fortunately, modern braces are much simpler and far more comfortable than the equipment of the past. There are even new alternatives that make having braces less of a hassle.
Braces work by applying tension across the teeth. This tension pulls them in the direction the orthodontist chooses. By adjusting the tension gradually, we can shift teeth into the perfect position to create a flawless smile.
The Process of Getting Braces
Getting braces for kids requires at least two appointments. In the first, there will be a consultation and examination to determine if your child should get braces. If the decision is made in that moment, we may be able to proceed to the second phase, which is making a mold of your child’s mouth.
Making this mold is essential to the process. A computer scans the 3D mold we create in order to determine how the teeth should be adjusted. A program then generates a schedule to follow, each step taking your child closer to a perfect smile.
During the next visit, we will install the braces. This involves placing a type of cement on each tooth, then placing the bracket. Once each bracket has adhered, we thread the wire through them all and cap each bracket with a rubber band. Your child can choose their favorite color.
Alternatives to Braces
These days, there are other options besides traditional metal braces. These options may cost more, but they also make braces less obvious or even remove them altogether! At Russels Orthodontics, we offer three main alternatives to braces. While two can be considered variants of traditional braces, the last option is one that has completely changed how orthodontia is viewed.
Ceramic braces use a ceramic material instead of metal for the brackets. The main advantage is that they can match the color of your teeth, making them much less noticeable. However, the process is otherwise identical to that of traditional braces.
Clear wires and rubber bands can also be used with ceramic braces. With these installed, ceramic braces are almost impossible to notice from a few feet away. Do note, however, that ceramic braces tend to be less resilient than metal braces. A firm impact or hard crunch could crack a ceramic bracket. Broken brackets mean more visits to the office for repair.
One of the latest innovations in braces is lingual braces. Instead of placing the brackets on the front of your teeth, we fix them to the backside, or lingual side. This way, your braces are truly invisible to everyone else.
The lingual method is much more challenging to install. Nevertheless, Dr. Runnels has received ample education on the topic and has the experience to deliver a flawless installation. If discretion is your priority, be among the first to use the lingual braces approach.
Another way to hide your braces is to never get them at all. With Invisalign, you can straighten your teeth without ever installing a single bracket. This can be a great option in lieu of braces for kids.
Invisalign corrects your child’s teeth by using a series of retainers. These plastic pieces apply slight pressure to the teeth, shifting them gradually. Each retainer is one step closer to the perfect smile. With Invisalign, you have fewer visits to the office and more freedom. However, your child will have to demonstrate considerable responsibility, since the retainers can be removed at any time and the treatment won’t work well if your child can’t keep them in at least 22 hours a day.
Does My Child Need Orthodontia?
Now that you understand what orthodontia is capable of and know its various forms, the next question is does your child need orthodontia? Generally, there is not much an orthodontist can do until around age 9, but you may want to see one earlier for a consultation.
Your child’s dentist is also a good source of information. If your dentist has any concerns, be sure to take your child to an orthodontist for a consultation.
Watch for Possible Problems
Keep an eye out for warning signs in the single-digit years. Crowding can be detected when you see teeth that are tightly packed together. If they won’t fall out on cue because they are overcrowded, things aren’t likely to improve as large adult teeth protrude.
Similarly, if you see lots of space between each tooth, that could be a sign that your child will need braces. Also, bad oral habits such as thumb sucking or jaw clenching can cause teeth to shift in undesirable ways. If you or the dentist have identified a potential issue, make an appointment to see the orthodontist. If braces are indicated, the next step will be to figure out when that should happen.
When Should My Child Get Braces?
Braces are only suitable when there are enough permanent teeth in place to fix brackets and make adjustments. This means that most kids aren’t able to get braces until at least age 9.
If baby teeth are lingering due to crowding or other factors, the orthodontist might recommend extraction to help permanent teeth move into place. Once they are all present, orthodontia can be installed without any issues. However, you should consider some other factors before deciding to get braces for your child. Let’s examine some of these variables.
The National Trend
Estimates vary, but orthodontists suggest that anywhere between 25% and 50% of Americans require orthodontia to correct an issue. Up to 75% of people could benefit from braces, either medically or cosmetically. It should come as no surprise then that around 80% of young people get braces.
Braces aren’t only for children these days. Today, one in five patients are adults, and they are probably the other 20% who didn’t get braces only to see their condition worsen with age. Clearly, nearly everyone is getting braces. We mention this not to suggest that you should do something simply because everyone else is doing it, but instead to reassure you. Many parents are worried about how their child will feel with braces. It’s natural to think that your child might be bullied or feel awkward about having them.
The truth is that almost every kid will have them, so it likely won’t be an issue for your son or daughter. If anything, not getting braces could lead to being ostracized later in life.
Since permanent teeth are needed to apply braces, the first thing an orthodontist needs to know is how your child’s teeth are developing. We use X-ray images to see how adult teeth are forming underneath the surface. This can reveal if they are likely to emerge crooked or askew.
We also look at how your child’s baby teeth are progressing. They need to fall out to make room for the new adult versions. Failure to do so can cause adult teeth to emerge differently due to the pressure from above. We also want to be sure that all teeth are healthy before applying braces. If everything looks to be within acceptable parameters, we can proceed. If not, the doctor might make some recommendations, including extracting baby teeth or waiting to see how the situation unfolds.
Another variable is your child’s maturity. Your child needs to be old enough and mature enough to understand the importance of dental hygiene during this time. Wearing braces makes cleaning teeth more difficult, and therefore more important.
This is especially true when looking into alternatives such as ceramic braces or Invisalign. Traditional braces leave you very little room for choice, so they have fewer complications. With alternative treatments, failing to follow instructions can prolong the process significantly or even undo previous results! As a parent, you have an important role in instilling good habits. Especially in the first few weeks after getting braces, be sure to remind your child about what they must do.
How Long Will My Child Have Braces?
The length of treatment depends on the severity of the issue to be corrected. Some simple adjustments may take as little as a year. However, most patients have braces for a year and a half to two years.
If a bracket ever comes off or breaks, you should schedule an appointment as soon as you possibly can. Whenever a part in the system breaks, your child’s teeth are no longer being straightened completely. This means it is going to take longer to complete the process. Installing braces earlier usually results in faster treatment. In the middle years, your child’s jaw is more flexible and adaptable. This means that teeth move faster than they will in their teenage years.
How Often Do Braces Need Adjustment?
How long it takes for braces to work depends on how punctual you are about your routine maintenance appointments. We recommend a monthly visit to the office to tighten and clean your child’s braces. Skipping these appointments can delay your progress, so make sure you find a time that you can stick to.
Make Your Appointment Today
If you would like to know more about our options for orthodontia, contact Russels Orthodontics of Destin, Florida. We can help you determine if braces are right for your kids, even if your dentist hasn’t recommended any treatment yet. We can start planning your child’s treatment well in advance, so don’t wait to take that first step towards a perfect smile.