Braces for Kids
70 percent of people in the US wear braces. It’s a good idea to have your child evaluated at age 7, or when their adult teeth have just about all grown in, for future orthodontic treatment. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that treatment should be between 9 and 14. Your family dentist should be able to tell you when your child should be checked, and will usually have several orthodontists to recommend. Other parents are good sources of recommendations as well.
The most common reasons for braces are:
- Malocclusion I – Crowded teeth that are either too close, crooked, or protrude
- Malocclusion II – Overbite, sometimes known as buck teeth
- Malocclusion III – Under bite, where the lower jaw is too is too big or the upper jaw is too small
The type of treatment needed determines when it should start. The average length of time that kids where braces is from 1-3 years. Studies show age doesn’t have anything to do with length of time. When a problem calls for earlier treatment, there is a good chance there will be a second phase later on. Sometimes an expander needs to be worn to expand the jaw before braces are installed. This can extend the treatment time. Most orthodontists are able to give you a fairly good estimate of how long your child will be in treatment. Some parents want their children to get braces earlier than their teenage years, when they aren’t so self conscious about them. But some disorders, such as an overbite, can’t be treated early.
While kids might like braces that are not noticeable, cost usually plays a big part in what kind of brackets are used. Treatment makes a difference, too. For example, ceramic brackets are more expensive, and also are more fragile. If a child needs aggressive treatment the ceramic brackets may not be strong enough to handle the pressure. Generally, stainless steel braces are used. The brackets are attached to their teeth and a wire strings them all in place. Ligatures, commonly known as rubber bands, hold the wire in place and exert the pressure needed for treatment.
A note to you kids reading this: The rubber bands come in a variety of colors and kids can pick out different colors each time. Going to a dance? Get purple rubber bands to match your purple dress? 4th of July? Ask for red, white, and blue to show your patriotism. Use football game? Get your school colors!
Kids need to take extra special care of their teeth while wearing braces. Food can get trapped, and trapped food means cavities. Make sure they brush and floss regularly. Some food, like popcorn and nuts, can get trapped and won’t come out, so they are off limits. When they are eating some types of food, such as corn on the cob or apples, they can knock the brackets off. Then you’ll have an unexpected visit to the orthodontist. Cut the skin off the apple and the corn off the cob in order to be safe.
If you’re worried that braces will cause pain for your child, it’s really not that bad. The first day or so after a visit for tightening, it might be sore, but over the counter pain reliever will do the trick. Sometimes the metal may rub the inside of their mouth. Your orthodontist will have given you dental wax to put on the metal until your mouth becomes accustomed to it.
Last but not least, you are probably wondering how much those braces are going to cost you. It’s hard to give you a number, but costs usually start at about $2,000 and go up from there. Average costs are between $3,000 - $7,000. Most orthodontists provide a payment plan over the expected treatment time. Some dental insurance providers cover at least some of the treatment. There are other companies who provide insurance specifically for braces.