The smart parent’s guide: braces

Confused about when to seek orthodontic treatment for your kids? Here’s expert help.

WHAT DO BRACES DO?

A: “Braces” is a term used to refer to brackets and wires on teeth. These are used to do a number of things including removal of dental crowding; closing of spaces; providing alignment of the upper and lower dental arches; correction of the bite so that the front teeth meet and, on closing, the back teeth mesh together; reducing the likelihood of damage to prominent teeth in younger children; modifying the growth of the jaws; or fixing problems like impacted, unerupted, or displaced teeth. Braces can also be used in more challenging cases, where orthodontists work with general dental practitioners and/or other dental specialists in preparation for advanced dental treatment, such as crowns, bridges, dental implants, or correction of tooth drifting due to previous severe gum disease.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD NEEDS BRACES?

A: The New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO) recommends seeking an orthodontic opinion as soon as you notice an irregularity in your child’s bite. Look out for things such as crowded, crooked, or misplaced teeth; protruding teeth; early or late loss of baby teeth; underbite or overbite; jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face; thumb- sucking beyond the age of five years; or difficulty in chewing or biting. Generally, these can be assessed in children between the ages of six to 10 years old.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT MY CHILD GETS BRACES IF THEY'RE NEEDED?

A: One of the main reasons is that crooked teeth are hard to clean. This may lead to tooth decay or gum disease. Crooked teeth may also cause excessive strain on the gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth. Additionally, orthodontic treatment can have psychological benefits such as improved self-confidence, self-esteem, and self- image, especially in adolescents. There is also a chance that untreated orthodontic issues may worsen over time. Treatment by a specialist to correct those original problems is often less costly than the additional dental care required to treat serious problems that can develop in later years.

DO I NEED TO WAIT UNTIL MY CHILD'S BABY TEETH FALL OUT AND THEIR PERMANENT TEETH ARE IN?

A: It is a common misconception to only seek orthodontic treatment once all of your child’s baby teeth have fallen out. Some orthodontic problems can be easily corrected when treated in young, growing jaws; however, waiting until the teenage years can lead to further worsening of these early problems. This can result in more complicated treatment methods, which would otherwise have been avoided.

HOW LONG DO CHILDREN USUALLY HAVE BRACES FOR?

A: There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Treatment time is as varied, as your child is an individual. Generally, treatment time depends on the growth of the mouth and face, the severity of the problem, and your child’s commitment to treatment. The NZAO reports that treatment time ranges from three to 24 months depending on patient age, extent of the problem, and treatment requirements. Some braces cases can finish well before six months.

HOW MUCH DO BRACES COST?

A: The cost of braces varies due to many reasons, including the difficulty of the orthodontic problem and the type of treatment required. Without an initial consultation, however, it is near impossible to determine the cost of braces treatment, as each case is unique. Most orthodontists extend the payment for treatment over the length of the treatment, while some also offer discounts for siblings or early payment.

WHAT DOES MY CHILD NEED TO DO ENSURE THEIR BRACES WORK?

A: In order to achieve the best results possible, your child needs to maintain excellent oral hygiene throughout treatment, as well as follow instructions about their orthodontic dietary requirements. Some foods can be particularly damaging, so the advice is generally to adjust the way you eat them, or avoid these foods altogether. Once treatment is complete, it is of utmost importance that your child wears their retainer(s) correctly, as there is a tendency for teeth to move even after braces. These tooth movements are due to normal age-related changes. Long-term use of retainers is needed to help prevent these from occurring.

DO BRACES HURT?

A: The process of placing the braces onto the teeth itself does not hurt, as the brackets are simply glued to the faces of the teeth. However, a degree of discomfort is likely as the teeth start to move. Namely, the teeth will be tender to bite on – this tenderness usually wears off after a few days. Some patients experience it for a longer period, although normal painkillers are usually effective in resolving the discomfort. Some further discomfort may be experienced when the braces are adjusted subsequently, depending on what adjustments are made.

Tots To Teens Says...

Looking for orthodontic treatment for your kids? Check out the following websites:

New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO) orthodontists.org.nz

Dental Council of New Zealand (DCNZ) dcnz.org.nz

The New Zealand Dentists Orthodontics Society (NZDOS) nzdos.co.nz

Dr Mohamed Al-Dujaili (BDS, DClinDent(Ortho), MRACDS(Orth), MOrthRCSEd) is a Specialist Orthodontist at Shakespeare Orthodontics in Milford, Auckland (mybraces.co.nz).

 

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