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Braces are the key to a straighter smile for many children. For this reason, many parents have questions about orthodontic treatment.
This article answers your questions about children’s braces, including:
Here are the most common types of kids’ braces:
These braces are the most common type of orthodontic treatment and are usually the least expensive option. Metal braces are often made from stainless steel or titanium.
They apply pressure to the teeth with a series of metal brackets attached to an archwire. Metal braces use elastic bands called ligatures to secure each bracket to the archwire. These ligatures may be separate o-rings or come linked together as power chains.
Treatment time can vary from 6 months to over 2.5 years, depending on your child’s needs.
Self-ligating braces are similar to traditional braces but don’t require ligatures. This is because the brackets are designed to stay attached to the archwire by themselves.
Treatment length is similar to traditional braces. It may be shorter or longer depending on the teeth involved.
Lingual braces are placed behind the teeth rather than in front, making them less visible. Otherwise, they work the same way as conventional braces.
Treatment time for lingual braces is comparable to traditional braces, but it may take longer in some cases.
Ceramic braces, also called clear or invisible braces, feature brackets made of ceramic rather than metal. This material is generally transparent or colored to match the teeth.
Ceramic braces don’t move teeth as quickly as metal braces. They may also require replacement due to breakage. For these reasons, treatment time may take longer.
Clear aligners are thin plastic trays that fit over the teeth. They offer a less invasive alternative to metal and ceramic braces, though they vary in quality.
Invisalign is a popular clear aligner brand. They may be an alternative to braces if your child only needs minor corrections.
Treatment time is often between 1 year and 18 months. This makes clear aligners a potentially faster alternative to conventional braces. This is because clear aligners are only used to treat mild problems.
The cost of braces varies depending on the type and material and your child’s needs.
The following are general estimates of how much braces cost:10,11
|Traditional||$4,000 to $7,000|
|Self-Ligating||$4,000 to $7,000 (comparable to traditional; may be slightly more)|
|Lingual||$6,000 to $10,000|
|Ceramic||$4,500 to $8,000|
|Clear Aligners||$3,000 to $9,000 (varies widely by brand)|
Dental insurance may cover the cost of orthodontic treatment up to a certain amount. Policies differ, and there may be a yearly or lifetime maximum or an age requirement.
There are many ways to save money on your child’s braces or make paying for them less overwhelming. Ways to make braces more affordable include:
Most kids get braces between ages 10 and 14. This is when they’ve lost all their baby teeth and when most adult teeth have grown in. It’s also easier to create a healthy smile with braces before the jawbone finishes developing around age 12.
In some cases, children start wearing braces as young as 7 or 8. The best age to start depends on many factors, including your child’s oral health and how their adult teeth are coming in.
Orthodontists recommend that children have their first orthodontic checkup between 6 and 8.3,4
Depending on your child’s needs, the orthodontist may recommend a waiting period before they start treatment. Identifying the problem at a young age ensures the most effective treatment.
Your child may need braces if they suffer from malocclusion, which is a misalignment of the teeth, jaws, or both.
Signs your child may need to wear braces include:
A pediatric or general dentist may refer you to an orthodontist if they think your child needs braces. Ultimately, the orthodontist will determine whether your child needs treatment and what type.
Orthodontic treatment is easier for children and adolescents than for adults. This is because the pressure applied by braces works better when the jaw bone is still developing.1
It’s easier for braces to guide permanent teeth into proper alignment when the body is growing and the teeth are already shifting.4,6
Adults are more likely to have denser bone and age-related tooth problems, making treatment even more difficult.7
Orthodontic treatment times for children and adults don’t usually differ much, but children and adults may have different orthodontic needs that determine treatment length.8,9
During your first appointment, the orthodontist will examine your child’s teeth and jaws to determine whether braces are warranted. The exam may include:
If the orthodontist determines that braces (or clear aligners) are suitable for your child, they will take dental impressions.
Orthodontic braces are often recommended for kids either before or in early puberty. This is because teeth are generally easier to move into alignment before they’ve settled into their permanent positions.
Several kinds of braces are available. Schedule a consultation with an orthodontist to determine which option is best for your child.
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