La Habra/Chino Hills, CA – If you have children, chances are you’ve visited or will soon visit an orthodontist. You probably have questions about your child’s orthodontic treatment. Dr. Robert Gire of Gire Orthodontics has compiled a list of some of the most commonly asked questions.
What causes crooked teeth?
There are a few factors that can play a role in whether your child’s teeth are straight or not. The first is genetics – in some cases our genetic make-up simply leads to crooked teeth, meaning there is nothing we can do about it. The most common reason is that one or both jaws may be too small or deficient to accommodate all of the teeth. Other children, however, may have bad habits that can lead to a crooked smile. If your child had a digit sucking habit or used a pacifier for an extended period of time, they could have caused damage to the smile. Tongue thrusting is also a common habit that can cause issues with a smile. Other children may experience deformities over time in how their jaws grow leading to the need for orthodontic intervention. Other reasons include early loss of a baby tooth, missing or lost restorations, musical instruments, and trauma.
At what age should a child see an orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children have their first orthodontic consultation around the age of seven. This is the ideal time for a few reasons.
- Your child will have a mix of baby and adult teeth, so we can get an idea of how the smile is taking shape.
- Your child’s jaw is still growing, which means it is an ideal time to help guide jaw growth, if necessary.
- We can non-invasively intercept issues with jaw growth that might otherwise negatively impact your child’s bite.
- Future treatment will be easier and more effective.
What are common issues to look for?
Orthodontists treat malocclusions, which means “bad bite.” There are several types of malocclusions, and their severities can vary from child to child. Issues Dr. Gire looks for include:
- Overbite – when the upper front teeth come too far down over the bottom teeth
- Overjet – when the upper front teeth stick out too far from the bottom teeth
- Underbite – when the bottom teeth overlap the top teeth
- Openbite – when the front teeth do not meet, even though the back teeth do
- Crossbite – when a tooth or teeth are too near the tongue or cheek instead of coming together evenly
- Overcrowding – when there isn’t enough room for all of the permanent teeth
- Crooked teeth – when teeth are not positioned properly
- Impacted teeth – when teeth do not have the space to erupt
Does my child need to see an orthodontist, or can we just see our family dentist?
Your child should be seeing a pediatric or family dentist every six months for regular checkups. While this dentist may be the first to recognize an issue with your child’s smile, an orthodontist is the best person to see for treatment.
An orthodontist is a dentist who, after graduating from dental school, spent additional years in training in the field of orthodontics. That means he or she spent this time studying how the bite functions as well as getting hands on experience in treating malocclusions. An orthodontist has the knowledge and experience to handle even the most complicated smile issues.
But not only that, an orthodontist does this day in and day out, and will have all of the resources available to correct any smile. An orthodontist will have a variety of treatment options available and will typically be able to offer more affordable and effective treatment.
What are the benefits to orthodontic treatment?
Many people assume orthodontics is only about creating a pretty smile. While that is a part of it, there is much more to it than that. Orthodontic treatment can
- Reduce the risk of tooth decay and cavities. Straight teeth are easier to keep clean so you can minimize the risk of decay.
- Lessen the risk of gum disease and/or tooth loss. Not being able to properly clean crooked or misaligned teeth can increase your risk of gum disease, which in turn increases your risk for tooth loss.
- Reduce damage caused by tooth wear. An improper bite can result in breaking, chipping or cracking teeth. Teeth are designed to come together a certain way and when they don’t, there is a chance of shortening the life span of those teeth due to uneven wear and tear.
- Relieve jaw pain. An improper bite can also cause pain in the jaw, head, neck, and ears.
- Reduce speech issues. A bad bite can cause speech issues because the tongue may not be able to find the proper place to rest when making certain sounds.
If I bring my seven year old in for a consultation, does that mean he or she will end up in braces right away?
Many children won’t need orthodontic treatment right away. An orthodontist can monitor your child’s smile as it develops and then begin treatment at the time it will have the most impact. But some children may benefit from early interceptive treatment to ensure an ideal smile and bite.
Some children may benefit from growth modification before traditional braces treatment begins. An orthodontic appliance can be used guide the growth of the jaw. This can create better facial symmetry, help alleviate certain malocclusions, and most importantly, avoid the need for more invasive treatment, such as jaw surgery or tooth extractions.
For children who can benefit from this treatment, treatment will be divided into two phases. Phase I treatment is to ensure the jaw is in proper position and the bite is ideally aligned. Then, Phase II will focus on straightening the teeth to create a beautiful smile.
What treatment options will be available to my child?
Today, there are more treatment options than ever before. Metal braces have come a long way and today they are sleeker and more efficient than ever. They offer the highest degree of efficiency and colored elastics allow your child to personalize their orthodontic experience.
If you like the reliability of metal braces but your child would like a more discrete look, clear and ceramic braces are a great option. The brackets are designed to blend in better with the teeth.
Self-ligating braces work similar to metal braces but without the need for elastic ties, resulting in more comfort and increased efficiency.
Lingual braces are fit along the tongue side of the teeth making them invisible to others. Some younger patients may not be ideal candidates for lingual braces, however.
Clear Aligner Therapy (CAT), such as Clear Correct or Invisalign, is a great option that allows patients to comfortably and discretely straighten their teeth. CAT consists of a series of clear aligners that fit over the teeth and are used to guide the teeth to their new locations. CAT can work on a variety of malocclusions, but it does require a high level of patient cooperation – the aligners are removable, but must be worn a minimum of 22 hours a day to be effective.
What happens during orthodontic treatment?
No matter what age your child undergoes orthodontic treatment, there will be the same series of events. The first step will be to create proper alignment. This is when you will see the biggest change in your child’s smile. Next, the orthodontist focuses on correcting the bite and closing any spaces. This is what takes the longest amount of time. Then, the orthodontist will focus on the fine movements of the teeth to ensure they are properly positioned. Once the ideal bite and smile are achieved the braces will come off and your child will enter the retention phase. This phase is very important because if the retainer is not worn as directed, the smile can drift back to its original location.
How much will orthodontic treatment for my child cost?
The cost of orthodontic treatment varies and depends on several factors. First, where you are located will make a difference. Braces in New York City will be more expensive than in Omaha for example. Second, the severity of your child’s malocclusion may also play a factor in cost. Additionally, the type of treatment chosen will influence the cost as well. Traditional metal braces are often the most cost effective, with an average cost between $3,000 and $7,000. Invisible and removable options will be slightly more expensive with costs usually ranging from $4,000 to $8,000.
Many dental plans cover braces and orthodontists typically offer excellent payment plans and financing options to make braces as affordable as possible.
How long will my child need to wear braces?
This is a question asked by every orthodontic patient – how long will braces be on? Unfortunately, no orthodontist can give an exact amount of time. They will likely volunteer a time-frame. Your orthodontist won’t know how the teeth will respond to treatment until treatment actually begins. Some patients have mouths that respond quickly while others take a bit more time. Other factors include compliance with instructions of elastic wear, diet, broken brackets, missed appointments, etc. On average, treatment takes between one and three years to complete.
My child is well past the age of seven. Is it too late to correct their smile?
While the age of seven is the recommended age for a first consultation, it is never too late to perfect a smile. Orthodontists treat patients of all ages, however, to ensure treatment can be efficient as possible try to schedule a consultation with an orthodontist as soon as possible. This can lessen the need for more invasive treatment in the future.
Gire Orthodontics offers free initial consultations to patients of all ages. If you or your child are in need of orthodontic treatment, schedule an appointment today by calling 562-690-1199 (La Habra) or 909-393-9911 (Chino Hills).