Most kids aren’t too keen on wearing braces — and who can blame them? Though wearing braces may be a “badge of honor” signifying one’s teenage years, they may be uncomfortable and, depending upon the style, might be a hassle to keep clean. Your child might also be worried about how braces will affect their appearance. Of course, many children wear braces, so they’ll likely be in good company! But why do kids need braces? And how can you, as a parent, decide if they should wait or get them right away? In this article, we try to answer these questions.
Telltale Signs that Your Child Might Need Braces
If your child is going for regular dental exams — and they should be, starting within 6 months of their first baby tooth or by 1 year of age — then your dentist will be keeping a close eye on those pearly whites and the underlying jaw structure. They’ll be able to tell you if they see any developing problems early on. But here are some possible issues that may require braces:
- Difficulty (or pain) when biting or chewing
- Shifting or noisy jaws
- Baby teeth that are lost early, late or in an irregular fashion
- Misplaced, crowded or blocked teeth
- Misalignment of teeth that causes the child to bite their cheek or the roof of their mouth
- Abnormal meeting of teeth, or if they don’t meet at all
- Teeth and jaws out of proportion to the face
The causes for these problems are wide ranging. It may be genetics. If other family members have wide spaces between their teeth or an overbite, it might have been inherited. Other tooth issues might develop due to mouth breathing, thumb sucking, an accident, dental decay or even poor nutrition. There might not be enough room along the jaws for the teeth, so they grow in crooked or overcrowded. Misalignment of the jaw can also cause incorrect spacing of the teeth.
Benefits of Wearing Braces
Wearing braces might help to correct overcrowded, crooked or overlapping teeth or even a “bad bite” (known as malocclusion). A bad bite can occur if the upper and lower jaws are different sizes, causing an overbite or underbite. If left untreated, the problem might get worse as permanent teeth begin to appear, which is why it’s often a good idea to get braces at an earlier age. There might also be psychological reasons to get braces. A person’s smile is one of their most noticeable facial features. Having healthy, beautiful teeth can boost a child’s overall confidence.
What is the Best Age for Braces?
The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children be evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7, but your regular dentist can help you decide what’s best for your child. Depending upon their dental health, your dentist might suggest that they have an orthodontist visit at age 5 or 6. In other cases, you might wait until their permanent teeth begin to come in (around the ages of 10 to 13). Orthodontic treatment typically occurs between 8 to 14 years.
Making the Decision — Braces or No Braces?
Certain dental issues might require early treatment, even if not all your child’s permanent teeth have arrived. Other dental problems might require treatment, but not necessarily braces. Dental expertise and detailed knowledge about each patient is the best guideline. Consult with your child’s dentist to determine the correct course of action and the best time for treatment.