If you didn’t need braces as a kid, count yourself lucky. Not all children are so fortunate. Those who need braces aren't alone because they share the stage with a few noteworthy brace wearers.
Celebrity orthodontia owners include fan favorites Gwen Stefani, Kendall Jenner, Drew Barrymore, and Dakota Fanning. Even Prince Harry wore braces.
Great names to know when comforting a child who's distraught over the prospect of braces for kids.
If you’ve talked with parents who worry about their kids needing braces now or in the future, there are some things you should know. Take a minute and learn more about kids and orthodontic health and why considering braces is important.
Best Age for Braces
Long before parents notice signs pointing to a need for braces, the child has (hopefully) seen a dentist.
Many children today visit the dentist by their first birthday. Maybe they tag along with an older sibling and take a turn in the dentist’s chair. Or, maybe the parents schedule an appointment just for them.
Either way, that first visit is more about getting them familiar with what happens at the dentist office.
Around 6 months of age, kids should begin receiving regular dental care and should visit every 6 months. Most dentists suggest x-rays for kids between 4 and 6 years of age. What about visiting the orthodontist?
The family dentist is an excellent resource for helping parents decide if/when a child should see an orthodontist. That first visit should take place no later than age 7.
If a kid needs braces, they’ll likely start wearing them between age 9 and 14.
Not Your Mother’s Braces
We’ve all seen those school pictures where at least one child had a mouth full of metal. Perhaps you or one of your parents stood out in the crowd with their shimmering braces.
Braces are not new inventions. Archeologists believe mummies wore them. We’ve come a long way since the days of crude metal bands held together by catgut found in the mouths of our ancestors.
While metal braces for kids still work best for many patients, they’re not as bad as what you or your parents wore. Today braces are much less in-your-face. Patients also have more choices for braces than in the past.
If they wear traditional braces, kids can express themselves by choosing different colored bands. In cases where the orthodontist recommends self litigating braces, the child won’t need bands because those braces use clips or brackets to guide the archwire.
Knowing their child won’t need as much metal as kids needed in the past probably brings parents some relief. But how do parents know if their child might need braces in the first place?
Those Beautiful Baby Teeth
One of the biggest milestones in an infant’s life is the first tooth. The next dental milestone is the first loose tooth.
Most children have their first visit from the Tooth Fairy by age 5 or 6. Hence, the awkward Kindergarten class photos.
Some children lose their baby teeth much earlier than normal. Others lose their first tooth well after parents (and dentists) think they should. Kids who lose baby teeth either too early or too late could end up wearing braces.
When a child loses teeth too early, remaining teeth can shift to the empty spaces. This could affect the way their developing adult teeth come in. When baby teeth hang around too long, that can interfere with proper alignment of teeth.
Teeth Lost in the Crowd
Crowded teeth do damage to more than a person’s self-esteem.
When teeth grow too close together or overlap, it can cause several issues. For one, crowding prevents proper brushing and flossing. The result is an increased risk of cavities.
Crowded teeth can also interfere with eating due to the discomfort felt when chewing or biting down on food. Speech issues such as lisps are another problem associated with crowded teeth.
You may not realize it, but crowded teeth can also cause mouth breathing. We’ll talk about this later, but it’s another reason why some kids need braces.
If a child has crowded teeth, braces can fix the problem. Braces help straighten the teeth and move them into the correct position.
The Dreaded Thumb Sucking
Do you think parents should snatch a child’s thumb immediately from their mouth? Or do you feel it’s better that they suck their thumb rather than walk around with a pacifier?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), both prolonged thumb sucking and pacifier use can cause problems with the alignment of teeth.
Sucking on thumbs (or fingers) and pacifiers may cause protrusion of the front teeth. It’s not only front teeth that suffer. Thumb suckers also often have crowded bottom teeth.
While most children give up sucking their thumb and/or pacifiers somewhere between 2 and 4 years of age, others don’t give up so easily. If a child continues the habit after their permanent teeth begin coming in, they may end up wearing braces.
The Mouth Breather
Healthy people use both the nose and mouth when breathing. Unless you have a cold or allergies, you likely don’t think much about whether you’re using one or the other, or both.
In kids, mouth breathing can result in crooked teeth. Mouth breathers also may have facial deformities or suffer from poor physical development.
Since most children won’t complain to parents about the fact that they breathe most of the time through their mouth, the parent and often doctors and dentists must put on their detective hats. Snoring is the most noticeable symptom of a mouth breather, but also watch for the following signs:
- Dry, cracked lips
- Large tonsils
- Problems concentrating
- Sleepiness during the daytime
- Slower than normal growth rate
If mouth breathing is an issue for a child, be aware that wearing braces can help correct the problem.
What Happens When Kids Don’t Wear Braces?
People don’t normally celebrate the day they find out a child needs braces. They’re inconvenient, uncomfortable, and for most parents, are a financial investment. But if a child requires braces and doesn’t get them, they may end up with serious health issues.
Crooked teeth don’t only affect a child’s smile. Take a minute and look at a few of the conditions orthodontists can help correct with braces for kids:
- Difficulty chewing
- Sleep apnea
- Teeth grinding
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
- Speech problems
Since many of these health issues are noticed first at home, the parent is often the first line of defense. Next, the child’s medical providers including pediatricians, dentists and orthodontists can diagnose and suggest treatment.
Parents Considering Braces for Kids?
All parents hope their children arrive with excellent health and of course, perfect teeth. Since that isn’t always the case, you may have parents who are in the process of deciding whether it’s time for braces.
Thinking about braces for kids should always include the dentist and orthodontist. They’ll offer support and the best solutions for each child’s oral health.
If you’re interested in reading more articles about oral and general health, we invite you to access our archives here.