Will your child benefit from braces?
Posted on 30 August 2017
Some kids can’t wait to get braces, as they see it as a sign of growing up. Others are horrified at the idea. Here’s what parents need to know.
There are obvious drawbacks to having braces fitted: they’re not always aesthetically pleasing, they are fairly expensive, and they cause mild discomfort with every adjustment and potential damage to the enamel if good oral hygiene is not followed. But the benefits far outweigh the minor disadvantages.
‘Correcting dental issues goes further than creating a winning smile,’ says Dr Marthinus Groenewald, a Mediclinic consulting orthodontist in Cape Town. ‘Crooked, misplaced or crowded teeth lead to plaque accumulation and tooth decay. In addition, jaw misalignments such as an overbite or under bite may lead to significant complications in later life.’
He adds that although some patients will benefit from treatment at a younger age, the ideal time for braces is between 12 and 14 years, when the head and mouth are still growing and teeth still respond quickly to straightening.
‘There have been great strides in modern materials and improved techniques, with the result that braces are no longer the bulky “train tracks” of the past,’ Dr Groenewald assures. ‘Other orthodontic interventions, including palatal expanders, implants known as TADs (temporary anchorage devices) and orthodontic spacers, are designed to maximise results, reduce treatment times and work with the body’s natural growth processes.’
Braces are made up of metal or ceramic brackets that are bonded directly to the teeth. (Occasionally lingual brackets are cemented to the back of the teeth to hide them from view, but this is not an option for everyone.) The main archwire, which is pre-shaped to reflect the ideal bite, threads horizontally through the brackets. This wire applies a gentle but continuous pressure, guiding the movement of the teeth towards a perfect arch shape.
‘In most cases, your child will have to wear elastic bands to correct the fit of the upper to the lower jaw,’ Dr Groenewald says. ‘Good compliance and good oral hygiene (regular flossing and brushing) is essential to get a good result in the estimated time and to avoid potential damage to the enamel.’
Dr Groenewald adds that in spite of the hype around ‘quick’ fixes, good quality, stable orthodontic treatment takes an average of two years to treat. After braces are removed, your child might need to wear a fixed or removable retainer and will need to be monitored by their practitioner.