If you're like most parents, your world lights up when your child smiles. If you're like the millions of parents of kids with imperfect teeth, you might also cringe a little. Not because their smile isn't beautiful, but because you know the day is coming when braces will become necessary. Never fear, here you will learn everything you need to know about children and orthodontic treatment.
Aren't braces just cosmetic?
Some people think braces are purely cosmetic, but improvement of function and prevention of future dental issues are usually the biggest goals of orthodontic treatment. While improved appearance and self esteem are often side effects of braces, the real lifelong benefits include:
- Less uneven wear on the teeth, resulting in less enamel erosion.
- Fewer dental caries caused by being unable to properly brush.
- Lowered risk of dental health issues leading to gum disease and tooth loss.
- Lowered risk of dental health issues leading to serious chronic illnesses.
- Properly aligned teeth may result in fewer headaches caused by malalignment of the jaw.
Who can benefit from braces?
There are not many orthodontic issues braces cannot correct. With the right orthodontist, equipment and patient involvement, these conditions can often be treated with braces:
- Overbite, where the molars do not line up properly, causing the lower jaw to drop back.
- Underbite, which is the opposite of overbite, and causes the lower jaw to jut forward.
- Crowding, which can result when the jaw is smaller than normal, or the teeth are larger than normal.
- Misalignment, which is where only a few teeth are not in their proper positions, not crowded. This is often caused by baby teeth not coming out on time.
- Gaps, which is the opposite of crowding.
Some of these conditions, like crowding, overbite and misalignment, have more significant health risks than others. Gaps, for instance, often don't present any significant health effect, but can drastically affect the way children feel about themselves.
How can a parent tell if their child might need braces?
Your child should start seeing his or her dentist as soon as their first teeth erupt, or by 1 year of age, regardless of whether they have teeth. Family dentists are trained to keep an eye out for orthodontic problems developing in their young patients. If your child has not seen a dentist, make an appointment, because good oral health is important to their overall health. There are other warning signs of which you should be aware, including:
- Heredity. Did you or your child's other parent need braces?
- Clicking in the jaw.
- Teeth that look out of proportion to the rest of your child's face.
- Teeth that don't meet properly or at all.
- Frequently biting the cheek.
If your child complains of these symptoms, or if you have a family history of orthodontic problems, consider having your child evaluated by a family dentist, and referred to an orthodontist if necessary. Early treatment of orthodontic problems often produces faster, better, more lasting results, since children's jaw bones are more easily manipulated than adult jaw bones. Be on the lookout for warning signs.
Aren't braces expensive?
How much your child's orthodontic treatment costs varies widely depending on how extensive the treatment must be. No matter how big the price tag, more insurance plans are covering orthodontic treatment, and more providers are offering payment plans and discounts to families, which makes treatment accessible to nearly everyone.
Seeing a dentist regularly is important for everyone, especially people who need orthodontic treatment. Preventing dental problems or catching them early will help keep your child's mouth and whole body healthy. Take the time to talk to your child's dentist about his or her experience with children who need orthodontics, and ask whether they feel an orthodontic consult would benefit your child. For more information, go to this site.