Bracing kids for braces

Bracing kids for braces

They say that 7 is the age of reason for children. Perhaps not coincidentally, that’s also the age when the American Association of Orthodontists recommends your child’s teeth be evaluated for braces. But whether your child actually needs braces may be a completely different story. And if they need to get them at an early age, will they be up to the challenge of taking care of them properly?

First, there is no magic age when a child should start braces, cautions Dr. Gregory Kubik, an orthodontist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital with offices in Crystal Lake, Ill. “The better question is: When is the best time to evaluate a child for orthodontic treatment?”

“Early evaluation allows me to determine if intervention is needed now,” he says. But the best time to see the orthodontist is whenever a parent or dentist becomes concerned that a child may have an orthodontic problem.

Most orthodontic treatment occurs after most or all of a child’s adult teeth have developed. But some children need treatment before this happens, Dr. Kubik says, and he offers these warning signs:

  • When it appears a child may require corrective jaw surgery later in life
  • When a dentist notices a potentially dangerous bite problem
  • When orthodontics would give a child a psychological lift
  • When braces now can lessen or eliminate the need for corrective treatment in the future

In consultation with their doctors, parents should weigh the risks and benefits of treating a child, along with the risks of doing nothing. Dr. Kubik says the risks to your child should be minimal, and the benefits significant, before you decide to go forward with early treatment.

Little patients are good patients

Some parents worry that a young child may not be able to handle the responsibilities of braces and their money will be wasted. Dr. Kubik says not to worry.

“Many of my best patients are second- and third-graders,” he says. “They follow directions and are motivated to please their parents and their doctor. They get excited by seeing the positive changes to their teeth and are just plain fun to treat.”

Teenagers can be a little tougher, he admits. They have more demands on their time, and greater distractions, and they can be more interested in pleasing their peers than their parents or doctor. But, he says, most teens do very well with the responsibilities that come with braces.

The key is to explain to any patient—child, adolescent or adult—what’s expected of them, and win their commitment. Dr. Kubik tells his patients that before he can even begin a diagnosis and treatment plan, they must be brushing at least twice a day. They must also agree to brushing effectively three times daily once they’re wearing braces.

He also warns them of the dangers of certain types of drinks. “We reinforce that they should avoid acidic beverages — such as soda pop, juice boxes, energy drinks and most canned drinks — during treatment to minimize the formation of white spots adjacent to their braces,” he says.

When children are accurately diagnosed, and you explain that they will be doing most of the work, “they perform wonderfully.”

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  1. Katie Renz

    I got braces when I was in 6th grade. Although I missed chewing gum and eating chewy candies for most of middle school, I was thankful that they were off before I went to high school.

  2. Angela Hacke

    My 7-year-old son, just had a palate expander put in. I was surprised he needed intervention that early, but I am glad we are doing it now. He has a bad cross bite that can lead to problems later in life. I was so nervous for him, but he was such a trooper. It took him a day or two to get used to the expander and the key that I have to use to turn it every night, but he has never complained. I know we have a lot of ortho work for us in the future, but I am glad we are starting early.

  3. I had braces when I was a freshman in high school. My dentist said I had a big overbite and needed it. I missed drinking soda, junk food/candy, and at the time bitting my nails. The braces cured that habit and because I took the care instructions seriously I only had to wear them for less than 2 years and had retainers. Plus it was fun to change the colored bands for the brackets.

  4. Not only will young patients be more willing to listen and follow their orthodontist’s care instructions, they’ll also start developing more confidence and self esteem. A study form Manchester University in 2006 found that 8 year olds whom had corrective treatment on their teeth were happier, less anxious and were no longer prone to teasing.

  5. Manjitsingh Bhalla October 31, 2014 at 12:00 am · Reply

    Yes, a child found with a need to have the dental braces at age of 7 will certainly go with an actual dental procedure some other time; not at this age. Evaluation of child if they have any dental irregularities is quite a must; procedures sought then after will certainly go with dentist’s advice; deciding upon exact time for treatment thereby;

    Yes, an extent of their orthodontic problems may also count much defining the sort of treatment and suitable time though. A risk of doing procedure should certainly be seriously thought with the risks with doing nothing, well showing us what exactly we should go for a child!

  6. As a braces-wearer for more than 7 years due to a bike accident in the first grade, I can attest to the fear of wearing braces in children. I see the benefit in seeing an orthodontist early-on if you think your child may need braces in their future.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.