Understanding Your Child's Options For Braces

Children develop a crooked or misaligned smile due to a variety of factors that range from bad genetics to losing their baby teeth at too young an age. In order to correct these problems and provide your child with the smile he or she deserves, parents need to schedule an appointment to see the orthodontist.

While many parents who experienced wearing braces as child might feel reluctant to subject their child to the uncomfortable headgear and mouthful of metal they remember, orthodontic treatments have come a long way over the last 20 years, and now feature a number of discreet and comfortable options.
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Types of Braces
While a variety of orthodontic treatments are now used to improve a patient’s smile, braces still rank as the primary means for correcting a misaligned bite or straightening teeth. Braces help correct your smile by applying consistent pressure to the jaws and teeth in order to adjust them into the preferred position. Depending on your budget and aesthetic preference, you’ll have a number of options when selecting your child’s braces.

Stainless Steel. The type of braces that most people picture when the word comes to mind, stainless steel braces rank as the most popular and affordable type used by orthodontists today. While older brands of stainless steel braces were known to occasionally stain a patient’s teeth, new versions are made from a combination of nickel titanium and stainless steel in order to prevent this from occurring.

With these types of braces, small brackets get bonded to each individual tooth and linked together with a thin wire. To help brighten up the sterile appearance these type of braces feature, the brackets can be decorated with ligatures and elastics in a variety of different colors.

Ceramic braces. Second only to stainless steel in prevalence, but certainly more popular with teens, ceramic braces are clear and blend more naturally with the color of your child’s teeth. While ceramic braces aren’t completely invisible, they do offer self-conscious adolescents a less conspicuous alternative to the traditional “metal mouth” look of stainless steel braces.

These types of braces do cost more than traditional steel, and the ceramic materials from which they are constructed tend to be far more likely to break. To offset the delicate nature of ceramic braces, a number of manufacturers have started to increase the thickness of each individual bonded tooth bracket.

Lingual braces. Metallic braces that are bonded to the back of the teeth, lingual braces offer an orthodontic treatment method that corrects a child’s teeth without changing the appearance of her smile. Unfortunately, the reversed nature of lingual braces make them incredibly difficult to adjust and can often interfere with the tongue’s natural movement. In some extreme cases, lingual braces have been known to cause speech problems and tongue trauma duo to their positioning. The difficult nature of applying lingual braces also make them far more expensive when compared to both stainless steel and ceramic brands.

Invisalign. The so-called “invisible braces,” Invisalign offers a great alternative for children who suffer from mild orthodontic problems. Unlike the other types of braces previously covered, Invisalign doesn’t use brackets or wires to correct the position of your child’s teeth. Instead, Invisalign uses a series of custom made retainers that gradually correct the positioning of your child’s teeth.

In addition to being completely transparent, the ability to remove the retainer also makes Invisalign the most orally hygienic orthodontic treatment method available. While Invisalign does cost more than traditional stainless steel braces, the price is generally comparable to ceramic and far cheaper than lingual braces. However, Invisalign may not be an option for children who suffer from moderate to severe orthodontic problems.

When to Start
Both the American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthodontists recommends children undergo an orthodontic evaluation by the age of seven. By this age, an orthodontist can determine if there are any subtle problems developing with a child’s emerging teeth and jaw growth. Once potential problems have been spotted, the majority of children begin undergoing orthodontic treatment between the ages of nine and 14.

To reduce the amount of time it takes to correct your child’s orthodontic problems, it’s important that treatment begins while he’s still growing. Once a child stops growing, treatment may take longer and require more extensive work.

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Timothy Lemke
About the Author:

A freelance writer, Timothy Lemke learned about the different braces options for his kids from Dr. Jacob Marrow, a Portland dentist.

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