Does My Child Need Braces?

Dr. Miller was featured in the June 2015 issue of Parent Express, answering questions around Orthodontic Treatment.

Does My Child Need Braces?

An Orthodontist Answers Common Questions

By Lance Miller, DDS, MS
One of the most enjoyable parts of what I do at Keene Orthodontic Specialists is taking time to explain to patients and their families the “ins and outs” of orthodontics. Some patients come to our office armed with the accumulated wisdom of parents and older siblings. Others are completely new to the world of braces, wires, elastics and retainers. The following are a few common questions I receive:

What Is an Orthodontist? Do I Need a Referral?

Most people know and trust their family dentist and some wonder why they need to see a specialist for braces. An orthodontist is a dentist who has completed two to three years of additional training beyond dental school to better understand dental growth and development, diagnosis and treatment planning of orthodontic problems and biomechanics to safely and effectively move teeth and jaws.

In our community we are lucky to have an excellent group of general, family and pediatric dentists, along with licensed dental hygienists who often make timely referrals when they notice an orthodontic issue. However, a referral is not needed to make an appointment with an orthodontist. A parent can schedule the initial evaluation, and many do so if they suspect an orthodontic problem exists.

Does My Child Need Braces?

Often a child will have an orthodontic problem that is very noticeable to the parents and peers. Overcrowded teeth, spaced teeth with gaps between them and protruding teeth with overbites are easily identified. Other problems are more subtle and require the diagnosis of a professional.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children see an orthodontist around age 7. The good news is that very few of these younger kids need any orthodontic intervention. However, there is a small percentage of the population who can benefit greatly from early treatment.

In this age group I screen for crossbites, underbites, missing or stuck teeth, severe crowding, cysts and tumors.

More typically, it is tweens and teens getting braces in the middle and high school years.

At this age, all of the baby teeth have been lost and an orthodontist can fix bite problems and alignment issues with the permanent teeth present.

This is usually the ideal time for braces as the patient is still growing, which aids greatly in the speed and ease of treatment. However, the window for orthodontics never really closes and we meet many parents and older patients who are thrilled to learn they are candidates for braces or Invisalign.

What Will be Done at the First Visit?

At Keene Orthodontic Specialists, your first visit includes meeting the doctor and treatment coordinator so we can get to know you and your family.

Since orthodontic treatment often takes several years to complete and requires the cooperation of everyone involved, we want to establish a relationship of trust.

Frequently, photographs and radiographs are taken to aid the doctor in the diagnostic process. You should expect to leave your first visit with a clear understanding of the orthodontic problem, if one exists, and any recommended treatment.

In most offices, including ours, there is no charge for this initial visit.

What Can I Expect If My Child Needs Braces?

The good news here is that braces have come a long way in the past few decades. Advances in materials and techniques have made orthodontic treatment less painful and more comfortable. While some children are understandably nervous about the prospect of braces, most find the experience to be much easier than they expect. Some discomfort is normal, especially in the first few days following the placement of the braces, but kids usually return to their normal routine very rapidly.

When treatment begins you will received detailed instructions on what foods to avoid (sticky, chewy or hard) and on how to clean and maintain the braces. Regular adjustment visits are typically scheduled every six weeks. During these 20-minute visits we adjust and “tighten” the braces in order to keep things moving in the right direction. Kids also enjoy getting new colors on their braces, participating in office contests and getting rewarded for good brushing and cooperation.

Why Should I Consider Orthodontics for My Child?

Far from being just an “esthetic” treatment, braces help to correct a multitude of dental problems. Straight teeth function better and are easier to clean and maintain for a lifetime. A beautiful smile also yields greater self-confidence, leading to increased social and career success.

When the time is right, I encourage you to schedule a consultation for your child with an orthodontist in your community.