Orthodontics/Braces for Children
What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the dental specialty that focuses on the development, prevention,
and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite, and jaws. Orthodontists also
have specialized training in facial abnormalities and disorders of the jaw. Your dentist
may refer your child to an orthodontist. The American Dental Association advises that
every child have an orthodontic evaluation by 7 years of age.
Why choose orthodontic treatment?
Any orthodontic problem may be classified as a malocclusion, or "bad bite." The following
problems may be helped or minimized with correct orthodontic treatment:
Misaligned, crooked, or crowded teeth
An open bite
Misaligned or incorrect jaw position
A disorder of the jaw joint
What age should my child get braces?
In most cases, the ideal age for braces and other orthodontic treatments is between
10 and 14 years of age. Moving and correcting the alignment of the teeth follows the
same process regardless of age. However, an adult mouth must overcome already-positioned
facial bones and jaw structure. So overcoming most types of malocclusions may require
more than one type of orthodontic treatment for adults and can sometimes include jaw
What are the different types of braces available?
Braces generally come in 3 varieties:
Brackets, metal or plastic, clear or tooth-colored, that are bonded to teeth
Lingual-type brackets that attach to the back of teeth, hidden from view
Bands that cover most of the teeth with metal bands that wrap around the teeth.
Invisible, clear aligners that can be removed from the mouth
The first 3 types use wires to move the teeth to the desired position. Clear, removable
aligners don't use wires and may also be an option. Aligners are custom-formed plastic
guides that fit over the teeth and are used in a series to move the teeth into their
desired positions. Ask your orthodontist if they are right for you.
Oral healthcare and braces
The following tips will help eliminate, or reduce, any oral health problems while
your child's teeth are in braces:
Make certain that your child is brushing his or her teeth carefully after every meal
with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush, as food becomes easily lodged
in the braces. A new toothbrush may be needed every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if bristles
are broken or frayed. A worn toothbrush doesn't do a good job of cleaning the teeth.
Make certain that your child is flossing daily between the teeth and the braces. A
floss threader may be useful to carry the floss under the arch wire.
A proxabrush may be a good tool to remove food or debris from between the teeth.
A dental water jet or oral irrigator can be used to remove food and debris from between
the teeth, brackets, and wires.
Be sure your child has his or her teeth cleaned every 6 months, or as often as advised
by your dentist.
Limit your child's sugar and starch intake, as debris left behind from these types
of foods may turn into damaging acids. These promote tooth decay and cause white spots
around the braces.
Don't eat hard or sticky snacks that may be hard to remove from the orthodontic equipment
in your child's mouth. This includes hard foods, such as popcorn, pretzels, hard candy,
nuts, and sticky foods, like chewing gum, caramel, and other chewy candy. Don't chew
Ask your dentist about prescription fluoride toothpaste or the application of a fluoride
varnish around the braces. This is done to minimize white spots on the teeth after
the braces come off.