28 Oct Does my child really need braces?
Sometimes it’s very clear that a child’s teeth will not straighten out properly by themselves, and orthodontic treatment is an obvious solution. However, it is not always easy for parents to see the development of their child’s bite, or how their teeth are aligning at the back of their little mouths.
When should you first bring your child to the dentist? Regular six-monthly visits should be a part of everyone’s overall health regime. Good habits begin at a young age – as young as when teeth first erupt. It doesn’t need to be a big appointment. Even something as little and fun as a ride in the chair is the best place to start. Watching Mum or Dad or an older sibling in the chair also makes the whole experience a lot less daunting for young children and reinforces that looking after their teeth is a normal part of their daily lives.
What age do most kids need to start braces? This is different for every child and depends on their dental development. Although everyone’s teeth come out at similar ages, there is a range in which we all develop our permanent teeth. Braces should usually only go on permanent teeth, but that does not mean we can’t start orthodontic treatment before all of the big teeth are out. In fact, I often do some sort of treatment in the 12 months before all permanent teeth come through.
This ‘phase 1’ treatment is a great way to fix cross bites, or to expand the jaw to make sure there is enough space for all of the big teeth to come through. Phase 1 treatment will not straighten individual teeth but it will create the right space so that all of the teeth can fit into the jaw. This also means that extracting teeth is often not necessary for most of my patients. Leaving all of the teeth in place and creating wider, bigger smiles will always give a much nicer result.
How do I know if my child needs braces? Here are five signs that your child may need braces:
1. Early or late loss of baby teeth
Losing teeth too early can cause baby teeth to move into the empty spaces while the adult teeth are still growing. Losing baby teeth too late can also cause teeth alignment issues.
2. Misalignment of jaw position
Having jaws that don’t match up correctly can cause overbites, underbites, and crossbites. When your child’s teeth don’t line up properly, it can make it difficult to chew and can cause frequent cheek or tongue biting. It can also cause teeth to wear down abnormally in the future due to the incorrect positions of the upper and lower teeth against each other.
3. Crowded teeth
Straightening teeth isn’t just about making a smile look better – it is also a lot about the health of your gums and teeth. When your child’s teeth overlap or are too close together, it is known as crowding. Crowding can cause many problems such as uncomfortable chewing or biting, lisps, mouth breathing and irregular teeth alignment. It can even prevent your child from brushing and flossing properly, leading to an excess of plaque in your child’s mouth and a higher risk of tooth decay. Braces can fix this problem by straightening out the teeth and putting them in the proper position.
4. Prolonged thumb-sucking
Thumb-sucking can cause your child’s front teeth to protrude outward. It can also cause a narrowing of the upper jaw, breathing issues and crowding on the bottom teeth. Most children stop the habit of thumb-sucking by the time they’re four years old. However, if your child continues to suck his or her thumb while permanent teeth are coming in, they may end up needing braces.
5. Mouth breathing
Children who breathe through their mouth will have their mouth open often, which affects the appearance of their face and the growth of their teeth. Because their tongue is not able to sit on the roof of their mouth, your child can develop a longer face with narrow jaws. This creates a smaller amount of space for adult teeth to grow, resulting in a need for braces.
The best place to start is a consultation with a general dentist. If you have any questions, call Dr Nidhi Berera on 1300 26 77 26.