Many children experience some tooth alignment problems between the ages of 10 and 13. Orthodontic work of some kind is the norm when permanent teeth appear, and millions begin treatment each year to correct oral problems from mild to severe. The most common form of treatment is temporary — in the form of braces — and they have changed dramatically from when you were a kid. In fact, great strides have been made in the last decade which assure that modern braces are stronger, lighter, more comfortable and more effective than ever before.They also perform better, assuring your teen that the result — straighter teeth and a beautiful smile — is worth the time, effort, angst and the expense. There are other benefits as well: Braces may not make food taste better, but they will help your son or daughter bite and chew more effectively. They can also help a child speak more clearly. And once the corrective work closes those gaps, straightens misaligned teeth and corrects bite problems, you and your teen will have every reason to smile.
1. Traditional Wires
The most common braces are still made of stainless steel, sometimes combined with titanium. But today’s versions have been pared down and are slimmer, lighter and less inhibiting.
While a first trip to an orthodontist can be scheduled as early as age seven or eight, your family dentist will advise you about the proper timing in your child's case. Teeth don't always arrive in the mouth "on schedule," and every child's dental situation is individual. Preteen and early teen years are the most common times to get braces, and most will stay on for about a year. Actual timing, and the active phase of wearing those braces, depends on the extent of correction needed.
A second phase, termed retention, follows and typically involves some sort of dental retainer to help maintain the alignment.
2. Invisible Braces
Newer braces can be almost invisible, ranging from clear plastic or tooth colored wires to another form of fitted retainers. Invisalign custom-fitted clear plastic aligners gently help move teeth into new positions, with the ability to shift teeth both vertically and horizontally over time, and even to rotate a tooth in the jaw to fit correctly with others.
They are usually replaced weekly and, when properly fitted, are comfortable to wear in addition to being all but unnoticeable. They may be less disruptive to normal life because they can be removed and replaced at will. Eating, sports activities and smiling can come more naturally to those who wear invisible braces, but they are still less common among teens than traditional wires. They do, however, enjoy a popularity surge among older teens and young adults.
Invisible braces are also said to correct alignment problems up to 50 percent faster.
3. Regular Dental Visits
While orthodontic appointments will overshadow normal checkups for a while, regular cleanings and dental exams are still important. It's your job as parent to reinforce the reasons for maintaining a lifelong regimen of regular dental care. Just as the majority of teens will wear braces, many adults suffer from oral health problems and gum disease that can be avoided with regular care.
4. Brushing and Flossing
Braces can be a pain; there's no doubt about it! And while they represent less of a physical pain these days than they once did, upkeep of the braces themselves takes time. Twice-daily brushing and flossing are even more vital to prevent cavities. Encourage your teens to "step up their game" in terms of routine; food particles that are trapped in the braces can lead to tooth staining as well as decay.
Don't encourage them to use whitening products, however, unless your dentist and orthodontist suggest whitening toothpaste. Some over-the-counter products can damage gums and tooth nerves. This is the time to instill good food habits and to discourage drinking tea, coffee and colas that will discolor teeth.
5. Praise the Smile
As a parent, you want to see your child smile. So, as you help your child navigate through those tempestuous teen years, encourage those smiles, especially when they're sporting braces. Don't be afraid to compliment their beautiful smile, and keep telling them that it will only become more attractive when the braces are removed.
It's all true, you know!