If your child has crooked teeth or a misaligned jaw, it may be time to pay a visit to an orthodontist.
An orthodontist specializes in perfecting smiles using orthodontic appliances, such as:
- rubber bands
Types of Braces and Other Appliances
There are a number of dental appliances used today. But braces are still the primary means for straightening teeth and correcting misaligned bites. Braces work by applying pressure to the teeth and jaws to move them into a desired position.
Braces are not the shiny mouthful of metal of years past. Many more options are now available.
Teeth used to be fully banded. But today, brackets are bonded directly to each tooth’s surface. In some people they’re placed behind the teeth, making them less noticeable.
Braces are made of materials such as:
- stainless steel
- combination of materials
This can give a clear or tooth-colored appearance to the braces. When appropriate, the wires can be made of materials such as nickel-titanium or copper-titanium. These materials may be longer lasting and require fewer adjustments than stainless steel wires.
Clear, invisible “trays” are now available. These can straighten teeth without using traditional braces and wires.
Invisible trays may be an option for people who require simple orthodontic work. This method uses custom-made, clear, removable trays that put pressure on the teeth, moving them gradually into their correct position. This treatment is not right for people requiring more extensive orthodontic work. It often costs more than traditional braces.
Other appliances used in orthodontics include:
TADs: Temporary anchorage devices (TADs) are mini-screws ranging from 6 to 12 millimeters in length and 1.2 to 2 millimeters in diameter. When needed they may be temporarily fixed to bone in the mouth to provide a fixed point from which to apply force to move teeth. TADs allow for more predictable tooth control. They are becoming more common in orthodontic treatment.
Rubber bands: Rubber bands are also called elastics. They are used when more force is needed to move the teeth and jaws into the desired position. You can choose your favorite color. Many kids choose their school colors or decorate their mouth during holidays (for example, orange and black for Halloween).
Headgear: Some people can benefit from using headgear. The appliance is attached to the braces from the back of the head and can be removed. As with rubber bands, headgear are used when extra force is needed to move the teeth and jaws. If a headgear is needed, it usually only has to be worn at night while sleeping or at home.
Retainers: Retainers are used to keep teeth in place once braces are removed. It takes time for your teeth to settle into their new position. By wearing a retainer, you can prevent your teeth from shifting. Some retainers may be removable. Others are fixed — bonded behind your teeth. Some retainers are made of clear plastic and metal wires. Others are made of rubber. And like braces, retainers can make a statement if you choose. There are glow-in-the-dark retainers or retainers customized with a picture.
When should my child see an orthodontist?
Your dentist can tell you when to seek evaluation from an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists and the American Dental Association recommend all kids be evaluated for orthodontics by age 7.
By this age, the orthodontist can detect subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth. Most kids begin active treatment between the ages of 9 and 14.
Orthodontists recommend you correct dental problems while your child is still growing. Once they stop growing, treatment may take longer and require more extensive work.
What’s the youngest a child can get braces?
There is no set age when children require orthodontics. The treatment plan will depend on individual needs. For example, kids with cleft palates get orthodontic appliances before their first teeth erupt.
Other kids may benefit from starting treatment as early as age 6 or 7, even if they have not lost all of their baby teeth. The goal of early treatment is to prevent further problems from developing. It will create a better environment for the permanent teeth to erupt, or grow, into.
Most kids who require early orthodontics will still need braces or additional work later to complete the tooth and jaw alignment process.
Do braces hurt?
“Hurt” may be too strong of a word. But your child may have some discomfort when braces are first put on, when they are adjusted, or when you start using a new appliance, such as rubber bands or a headgear.
Any pain or discomfort can be relieved by taking ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen(Tylenol). Also, if the wire, brackets, or bands irritate your child’s mouth, your orthodontist can provide special wax to cover the sharp areas on the braces.
Is it possible to be allergic to braces?
Yes. Some people are allergic to stainless steel. When this happens, other appliances can be used instead. People can also be allergic to the latex gloves used by the orthodontist and the assistants. If your child has a latex allergy, tell your dentist so that non-latex gloves can be used.
What foods are off-limits for kids who wear braces?
Braces are delicate. Breaking part of the appliance can result in the teeth moving in the wrong direction and in longer treatment. Anything that is hard, sticky, or chewy should not be eaten, including:
- hard candy
- chewing gum
- chewy candy, like caramel