Orthodontic Treatment for Kids

Orthodontics for Kids: Does Your Child Need Braces?

Growing up, you might have seen lots of kids with braces, especially after middle school. Maybe you even had them yourself. That’s most people’s first interaction with an orthodontist. But did you know that orthodontists treat all kinds of other issues? In fact, some kids are getting orthodontic treatment as early as three years old. Does your child need braces or one of the many other treatments orthodontists offer? Read on to find out.

What is Orthodontics?

Orthodontics can be defined as a dental discipline that treats misalignment of the teeth and the jaw. Unlike traditional dentistry, which treats a broad range of issues in the mouth, orthodontists specialize specifically in ensuring that the bite is aligned, clean, and efficient. While the average dentist will treat your cavities and clean your teeth, the average orthodontist will examine your mouth focused only on issues of alignment and bite. Orthodontics doesn’t help with crowns or cavities.

All of that means that when you go to an orthodontist, you’re dealing with a specialist. Like dentists, orthodontists treat both adults and children, and more and more people are taking their kids in early to make sure their smiles are the best they can be.

Why Do Kids Need Orthodontic Treatment?

Kids need braces for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes their teeth aren’t coming in the right way, or sometimes they’ve lost teeth because of accidents early on. Malocclusion, which is basically a misalignment of your teeth, can happen in some kids and is often detected quite early. It’s best to think about these issues proactively and ensure your child gets thorough and specialized evaluations. Keep in mind that it’s never a bad idea to visit your pediatric dentist – pediatrics are better for general dentistry.

How Early Is Too Early?

Generally, you want to take your child in to be seen around 7 years of age. That’s because at 7 years old, they’ve grown in enough teeth to get a thorough evaluation by an orthodontist. This initial evaluation with an orthodontist usually doesn’t result in any treatment, but it’s still considered incredibly important to perform in order to get a good grasp on your child’s dental health. If any major and correctable issues are detected, then treatment can be initiated early at far less cost to you than if they had been discovered earlier in life.

Now, it’s worth noting that some parents are scared away by orthodontic treatment costs, but they don’t have to be. In general, treatment for dental issues has never been more affordable. Besides, most orthodontists are more than willing to work with their patients to establish payment plans and a good orthodontic practice usually has great staff.

Remember: it’s never too early to be seen by an orthodontist if your child has an issue. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment if necessary.

Correct Jawbone Growth

Extraoral appliances, which most people think of as dental headgear, can be used in kids if jawbone growth seems like it will result in problems later down the line; namely, after permanent teeth have started to come in. This usually means treating issues like a narrow jaw or malocclusion. Kids don’t exactly enjoy walking around with their treatment, especially so early on in life, so these treatments usually aren’t done unless the issues are severe and in need of immediate treatment. For the most part, your child’s orthodontist is going to wait for more permanent teeth to come in before starting treatment for mild to moderate issues.

Realign Protruding Teeth

Protruding teeth can be fixed with simple braces or a plastic aligner. These can be embarrassing to your child, which your orthodontist understands, so fixing these sorts of issues is a priority in orthodontic care. The usual braces process can take up to three years, so it’s best not to make your child wait to get these problems resolved. With braces, it’s very important to continue a regimen of flossing, brushing, and dental cleaning. Your child shouldn’t neglect dental hygiene just because of their appliance or else they might be in for a world of cavities and toothaches later on down the line.

After your child is finished wearing their braces, they’ll usually have to wear a retainer. Retainers are clear plastic devices made in the shape of your child’s teeth that fit snugly and keep those teeth from reverting to the positions they had before treatment. While they can be a little sore at first, they usually don’t cause any pain or discomfort. How long do they need to wear their retainer? Well, it depends, and your orthodontist will give you the specifics. Sometimes, your child only needs to wear the retainer for a short time. In other cases, a retainer is an appliance that needs to be worn for life.

Don’t despair, though. Retainers are easy to wear and often only need to be worn at night. They’re like blankets for your teeth!

Adjust for Missing Teeth

If your child has what’s called a congenitally missing tooth, which is the absence of one or more of their permanent teeth, you’ll want to take them in to see an orthodontist. It’s possible to close the space where your child’s missing tooth is with a careful application of orthodontic appliances. There are also other solutions available, including tooth replacement, but these are best discussed with your orthodontist in person or over the phone.

Space Out Crowded Teeth

All in all, there are all sorts of reasons to take your kids to the orthodontist. It’s better to begin regular checkups early so any emerging issues can be treated immediately without pain or hassle later on down the line. Most of the time, significant orthodontics issues only arise much later because of a lack of care early on. That’s why tackling these issues head-on is the best approach. If you have any more questions, you can easily call any orthodontist in your neighborhood for more advice.

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