Does My Child Need Braces?by April Sanders
Whether or not your child needs braces can only be determined by a trained orthodontist. Still, there are some signs that indicate a need for braces. In fact, the odds may in favor of your child needing braces. About 4 million children in Canada and the United States have braces, according to Better Homes and Gardens article published in 2004.
Braces work to repair malocclusions, or "bad bites". They are used to fix everything from minor problems such as slightly crooked teeth to serious issues like misaligned and other jaw disorders. Braces are also used to repair overbites, underbites and to reposition the teeth after crowded teeth are removed.
Children who may need braces will exhibit some common behaviors and visual characteristics, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. They may have obviously overcrowded or crooked teeth. Children with malocclusions may have trouble chewing, or closing their lips over their teeth. They may grind their teeth, have oral fixations such as thumb-sucking or breathe through their mouths. Early or late tooth loss is also sometimes a sign that a child might need braces in the future.
Children are getting braces earlier and earlier, according to the MSNBC website. This is not always a good thing, as many problems that are fixed too early might have to be repaired again when the child hits puberty. This is especially true with overbites and overcrowded teeth, although underbites can be treated as early as age 7. The ideal age for most children to get braces is any time between the ages of 10 and 14, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Braces range widely in type and are made from stainless steel, plastic or even ceramics. A traditional set of metal brackets will run you about $3,000, whereas an extensive set of "invisible" braces might cost as much as $10,000. Often, external devices used to align the jaw or an overbite are also called "braces." Traditionally, braces are attached to the front of the tooth, where they slowly apply pressure to force the tooth to move in a certain direction. Braces can also be applied to the back of the teeth, according to MedicineNet.com.
Braces can be a large expense. They can cost several thousand dollars, depending on the treatment needed, and can remain in place for years. For these reasons, it is important to carefully determine if your child really does need braces and for how long. Children with mild overcrowding may not need braces at all, according to the Better Homes and Gardens website. Even children with more severe overcrowding may not need braces because the teeth may straighten out on their own as the child's jaw grows. If an orthodontist recommends braces for cosmetic reasons only, it might be a good idea to wait and see what happens before you invest thousands of dollars.
Your orthodontist should monitor your child's braces carefully, including performing regular X-rays. Some children have a rare reaction to braces, in which the roots of the teeth shrink badly enough that the braces need to be removed, according to the website of Kinder and Gentler Orthodontics.
- MedicineNet.com: Dental Health: Braces and Retainers
- MSNBC: Kids Getting Braces Younger and Younger
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Orthodontics/Braces
- American Association of Orthodontics: Early Warning Signs Indicating it is Time for an Orthodontic Exam
- Better Homes and Gardens: Does Your Child Really Need Braces?
- Kinder and Gentler Orthodontics: Informed Consent
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images