While most kids look forward to resolving dental issues that may leave them feeling less than happy with their smile, no kid looks forward to having metal wires fitted into their mouth—or the long wait to have those wires removed.
Like it or not, however, there are situations where braces are necessary. Today we’ll explore common signs that your child may need braces and the causes behind those signs.
Why Do Kids Need Braces?
The misconception is that braces are only needed to straighten teeth and not for other problems. While that may be true, the need for braces may come from various other reasons that don’t necessarily revolve around crooked teeth. The top three signs your child may need braces will further explain this.
Both crowding of teeth and crossbite occur naturally. When teeth develop and grow in a mouth that is too small, they become crowded, and the teeth can’t grow in properly.
If this occurs, you may find that teeth start to grow from awkward positions in your child’s mouth. If not treated, this can lead to an impacted tooth, or even teeth, which often requires surgery.
The treatment for a crowded mouth depends on when you seek the treatment. If done at an early stage when the crowding starts, then an orthodontist may just have a baby tooth taken out. If crowding occurs later, when adult teeth have grown in, they may recommend braces for a short period of time, between 6-8 months.
A crossbite occurs when your child’s jaw deviates on its own, and there is a misalignment of the lower and upper jaws. This causes teeth to likewise misalign and can lead to other issues such as jaw pain and chipped teeth.
The easiest way to tell if your child has a crossbite is to see whether their chin aligns with their nose. If it doesn’t, it’s usually due to crossbite. If the issue goes untreated, there is a chance that with time it won’t be treatable at all. Given this, if you suspect your child may have a crossbite, it’s important to see your dentist for a referral to an orthodontist right away.
The treatment for crossbite at an early age usually requires the use of expanders for a few months. Depending on the severity of the crossbite, braces may also be recommended.
Protruding or “buck” teeth don’t just impact the self-esteem of a child but can also lead to health problems. Children with protruding teeth tend to have trouble biting which leads to possible tooth damage and gum recession. Both can make them more prone to oral health problems.
The recommended treatment for protruding teeth varies on the severity of the problem. Braces are usually the best solution but require more time to rectify than crossbites and crowded teeth.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to stop your child from sucking their thumb or using a pacifier once they start, but if it is a habit that continues beyond their 5th birthday or longer, it can become a problem for teeth formation and may also lead to an increased risk of dental decay.
You may find applying a bitter-tasting liquid on your child’s thumb or binky effective to break the habit. Many parents also find distraction, reward systems, or, at least in the case of pacifiers, plain old lack of access works well.
Continued thumb sucking or pacifier use usually leads to irregular tooth alignment, in which case a retainer or braces are recommended for repair—just remember the longer your child has had either habit, the worse damage can become.
This is a valid question that most parents ask. Many don’t feel it makes much sense to go to a dentist or orthodontist before their child’s permanent teeth come in. After all, baby teeth do fall out eventually.
However, a dentist can assess your child’s mouth and give you tips to ensure teeth come in properly, treat any existing issues in baby teeth, and offer suggestions to maintaining good oral health. Dental conditions in baby teeth, such as severe decay, can actually affect adult teeth as they develop in the jaw. Their care shouldn’t be ignored simply because they fall out.
When it comes to braces though, it is true that their application only makes sense after permanent teeth have grown in around the age of 7 or 8. This is because obviously there’s no reason to work to slowly straighten teeth that will fall out soon after treatment. If your child’s baby teeth were misaligned, protruded, or were crooked, this also doesn’t necessarily mean their adult teeth will have the same issues. This opposite of this is also true—even if your child’s baby teeth were problem free, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t need braces later on.
Regular visits to a dentist will allow issues to be caught early and treated right away. So, while braces can’t be put until permanent teeth are in, regular checkups and cleanings are still recommended.
How long will my child need to wear braces?
How long braces need to be worn depends on the severity of the issue, but typical regimes only involve a year to two. However, even after the braces are removed, your child may need to wear a retainer for at least a few months afterward to prevent the teeth from moving back to their prior positions.
Your orthodontist will go over the timeline of your child’s treatment before the placement of braces so that you—and your child—know what to expect.
Proper dental care, cleanings, and exams from an early age are great first steps to detecting the need for braces early on. None the less, most issues that lead to the need for braces (excluding thumb sucking or pacifier use) are unavoidable and of no fault of yours or your child’s.