- How do you know if your child needs braces?
- At what age do kids get braces?
- How do braces work for children?
- What are the various types of braces?
- How much do braces cost?
- How long should the child wear braces?
- What to feed a child with braces?
- How to care for a child’s braces?
- Do braces have any drawbacks?
Teeth define our facial features. But not everybody has a set of well-placed teeth, and it is natural to have certain anomalies in their formation.
A tooth can come out misaligned, impacting the functions of the mouth while also affecting your child’s smile. Dental braces help correct such misalignment of teeth. But before getting the braces for your kid, you need to know if they actually need them, how long they should wear, the cost involved and the care you need to take.
How Do You Know If Your Child Needs Braces?
Your child’s dentist is the best person to tell you whether or not your child needs a realignment of teeth. But parents can also look for certain issues such as (1):
- Misaligned teeth. The teeth appear out of shape, and it is visible when the child smiles.
- Improper jaw alignment. Poor alignment of teeth can make it difficult for the child to close their mouth, which could affect the appearance of the jaw. For instance, the jaw could appear recessed or protruded and may shift from side to side.
- Problem chewing and biting. The teeth of both the jaws do not meet, making it hard for the child to chew.
- Teeth hitting the tongue or cheek. If the child complains of a tooth always biting at their tongue, cheek, or even lips, then it could be a tooth out of place.
- Abnormal loss of baby teeth. If your child loses their milk teeth earlier than usual, then the new permanent teeth may display misalignment.
- Thumb sucking after the age of five. A child who continues to suck their thumb after five years is likely to have a problem with their teeth (2).
Take your child to a dentist if you spot any of the above conditions. Your doctor will check the teeth and the gums, and tell you if the kid needs braces, depending on their age.
At What Age Do Kids Get Braces?
Orthodontic treatment with dental braces works best for children in the age group of 9-14 years. The children of this age have some permanent teeth and alignment has a good chance of working well. But don’t have it so early that your child would have to go for a second round later in their childhood.
However, this should not stop you from taking your child to an orthodontist at least once before the age of seven.
How Do Braces Work For Children?
Braces work by applying constant gentle pressure on the teeth so that they gradually move into their correct position. Here are the details on each component of the braces (3):
- The main component is the bracket. It is the metal stub you see on the top of the tooth. Using dental cement, the bracket is attached on each tooth that requires realignment.
- The wire applies the pressure. A metal wire passes through the bracket and puts pressure on the teeth. The wire is tightened as the teeth fall into their right position. The dentist continues to alter the length of the wire until the teeth are correctly aligned.
- Additional tools could be needed. Depending on the level of misalignment, a child may need other equipment like a headgear to be worn at night, to put additional pressure on the teeth.
These are the basic components but they might have some variations depending on the type of braces.
What Are The Different Types Of Braces?
A child can get any of the following types of braces (4):
- Conventional: These are the usual metal dental braces. The brackets are made of high-quality stainless steel with a rubber/soft-plastic holder on top to keep the wire in position. The wire is also made of stainless steel. Metal braces can have a modular design, which means you can add components of your choice. For instance, metal braces allow attachment of dental rubber bands so that your child can have a new color rubber band every month.
- Self-ligating: These are similar to conventional metal braces but do not have rubber holders on the top. Instead, a metal clip locks the wire to its position on the top of the bracket. Self-ligating braces require less frequent adjustment, which in turn reduces the number of follow-ups with the dentist. These braces are easier to clean and more comfortable than the conventional ones.
- Ceramic: Here the bracket is made of ceramic. A ceramic bracket is less prominent but larger in size and brittle. It needs more care and thus is ideal for older kids.
- Clear: These do not contain the conventional braces. They have an acrylic tray/shell that goes over the teeth and applies pressure on them. These are easy-to-remove, and you can clean them every time the child eats. Clear aligners are comfortable for the user but their use is limited and not all children with misaligned teeth can use them.
- Lingual: The bracket goes behind the teeth instead of the front. You can go for these if you do not want the braces to be visible. Each lingual brace bracket is custom-made for each tooth.
Your dentist will help you decide on the type of braces to use. It also depends on the cost.
How Much Do Braces Cost?
The average cost of braces could be about $5,000 (5) but it might vary depending on the model you choose. If the child requires realignment but the cost is a concern, then you may approach dental foundations and associations, such as the Smiles Changes Lives program in the US, for financial aid. If approved, parents can get braces for as low as $250.
You may also check with orthodontic medical schools where doctors and medical students might do it at a subsidized cost. Ask your dentist about such options where you can get the braces at a discount.
How Long Should The Child Wear Braces?
The duration depends on the extent of the misalignment. On an average, a child would have it for 1-3 years. Immediately after the removal of the braces, the child might have to wear a metallic wire called a retainer to keep the teeth adequately aligned. Once your child has the retainer removed, the realignment of teeth is complete.
As long as the braces are on, you need to make sure that the child is avoiding some foods.
What To Feed A Child With Braces?
You do not have to make any significant changes to the child’s diet but need to avoid certain foods. The American Dental Association recommends the avoidance of the below foods (6):
- Hard candy
- Chewing gum
- Chewable soft candy
- Hard fruits like apples and pears and raw vegetables like carrots
- Hard pretzels
- Pizza crust
- Hard rolls or bagels
- Non-vegetarian preparations with bones
- Sugary drinks since sugar can cause bacterial propagation
In short, avoid anything that is hard, sticky, and too chewy. Meals for kids with braces can include:
- Cooked grains and vegetables
- Boneless meat chunks
- Pulpy fruits like mango and banana, which require little chewing
Also, you must make sure that the child is taking adequate care of the teeth.
How To Care For Child’s Braces?
Oral hygiene is not very different from the usual, and you will only need some extra care. Here is how you should take care of a child’s teeth with braces (7):
- Brush after every meal. Tiny particles of food can get lodged between the brackets and brushing helps keep the brackets clean.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and a specialized brush. Get a toothbrush that is specially made for brushing teeth with braces. These brushes have smaller heads and softer bristles that can get between the brackets and the wire. If the child intends to use a regular toothbrush, then buy one with a smaller head and soft, thin bristles that can go smoothly around the braces.
- Brush with gentle circular strokes: Brush slowly in a circular motion around the braces to cover a maximum surface area. Brush above, below, and over the bracket. Turn the toothbrush at an angle and brush over the wire gently. If your child has lingual braces (attached behind the teeth), then they have to be extra careful while brushing.
- Floss teeth: Your dentist will explain how to floss the teeth. If the child finds it difficult to floss with common floss thread, then they can use a floss threader, a loop of floss thread that is easier to slide between the wire and the teeth.
Your child doesn’t have to be this extra cautious forever but until they have the braces.
Do Braces Have Any Drawbacks?
The child may face a few irritants such as:
- They might find it difficult or cumbersome to take extra care of their teeth every day.
- If you are getting the orthodontic treatment early in the child’s life, they may have to get it done again once they get all their permanent teeth.
- They might feel embarrassed and uncomfortable with the idea of showing their braces to others.
If the dentist thinks that braces are inevitable, you should definitely go ahead with it irrespective of the drawbacks. Once the braces are gone, the child can eat any food but oral care is still essential. Continue to follow the toothcare rules such as brushing twice a day and having regular dental check-ups, and your child can have a lovely smile on their face.
What is your take on braces for kids? Let us know your views in the comment section below.
2. Thumbsucking; The University of Chicago
3. Braces; American Dental Association
4. Types of Braces; Children’s Dental Clinic Of Las Cruces
5. Affording Braces; Rady Children’s Specialists of San Diego
6. What (and How) to Eat When You’re Having Dental Issues; American Dental Association
7. Dental Hygiene with Braces; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
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