A referral or recommendation for orthodontic treatment from a family dentist can be a major concern for some parents, especially if they have no previous experience of their own in this area. Orthodontic treatment improves the look and overall health of teeth by correcting crooked and crowded teeth. This article will explain when orthodontic work is needed, the types of braces available and how to help your child care for them.

Why orthodontic work is needed

Quite simply, orthodontic treatment helps teeth work and look better. The position of teeth not only affects the overall aesthetic but also bite, which is how your top and bottom teeth come together. Missing, crowded and misaligned teeth can all contribute to a bad bite, causing pain and making it difficult to eat certain foods. Crowded and crooked teeth are harder to clean and may be more likely to develop tooth decay and gum disease.

Many factors can contribute to teeth and jaw problems such as injury/accidents, thumb sucking, and tooth decay, losing baby teeth too early or hereditary factors. Uneven bite and overcrowding can become apparent when a child’s permanent teeth start to come in, around the age of seven or eight. The most common time for treatment is around the ages of nine and fourteen, but is based on each patient’s individual needs.

Your family dentist will tell you when an evaluation from an orthodontist is required. An orthodontist specializes in correcting teeth and/or jaw alignment issues and has completed a specialty program in orthodontics.. It could be that your dentist also practices orthodontics, so a referral may not be necessary.

Types of  Orthodontic treatment

There are many treatment options within orthodontics, but braces are still the primary means for correcting bite issues and straightening teeth. Braces are used to move teeth with gentle pressure into a desired position over a number of months or years. If you have had braces before, you may be surprised to learn that some varieties look quite different to those in years past.

Brackets for the traditional style of braces are now bonded directly to each tooth’s surface and require less adjustment. Braces can be made from a number of different materials, including stainless steel, ceramic, plastic or a composite. The ceramic material offers a clear or tooth-cleared appearance, making them less noticeable but also more expensive. They are not usually recommended for children. More extensive work may require headgear to be worn at night and/or the removal of teeth.

The length of treatment is decided on an individual basis, but the average is around two years. A custom made retainer (usually plastic) is often recommended to be worn overnight to prevent the teeth moving back to their original position.

Caring for braces

Regular flossing and brushing is even more important for people with braces as food can get stuck easily and plaque can build up around the edges of the metal. Make sure your child follows the cleaning advice from your orthodontist (supervise if necessary) and avoids foods such as popcorn, nuts, ice, gum and hard candies. These foods can cause damage to braces and extend treatment time.

Even with the advances in brace technology over the last decade, your child may feel discomfort once in a while. Mild painkillers can help with this. If your child has a loose wire or bracket, you should return to the orthodontist can soon as you can. Help your child focus on the long-term benefits of braces; it may be uncomfortable now, but it will have a positive change to bite function and appearance of their teeth. Successful orthodontic treatment at a young age helps avoid less complicated treatments later.

The aim of orthodontic treatment is to straighten teeth and correct a misaligned bite. The variety of treatment options can be intimidating at first, but your child’s orthodontist will make a recommendation and help you come to a decision. For some children, getting braces can seem like the end of the world. Help your child to care for their braces and provide reassurance that orthodontic treatment results in many long-term benefits. They may thank you one day!