Braces for kids - needed or not: Expert insider tips

How to know if your kids need braces. Learn the most common causes, why they’re important, and the age from which they’re most commonly fitted.

If the thought of getting braces for your kids sends you - and your family budget - into a spin, then read on.

We talk to a leading orthodontist about when kids need braces, the most common causes, why they’re important in these instances, and the age from which they’re most commonly fitted.

Braces can be a major investment in your child’s health, and an expense you’ll need to take into account for several years as your child grows. So planning, from both a dental health and a financial perspective, is vital for many families.

Dr Robert Schwartz, a specialist orthodontist and a spokesperson for Orthodontics Australia, explains why braces can be important to your kids overall health and how to know if your child really needs them.

Why braces might be needed

In a nutshell, braces are a way of straightening or moving your teeth to improve how they look and how they work.

“Braces can also help you look after the long-term health of your teeth and gums,” Dr Schwartz says.

Braces work by putting pressure on the teeth to gradually move them in the right direction. As the pressure takes effect, the bone in the jaw changes to allow the teeth and their roots to move.

Orthodontic treatment is important for kids who have “bad bites”, which can lead to tooth wear and strain on the joints and muscles if left untreated.

Getting your kids’ teeth aligned correctly also makes brushing and flossing much easier – and that’s important for overall dental health

Different types of braces

“Traditional braces are now just one of many tools a registered specialist orthodontist has at their disposal”, Dr Schwartz says.

Some other popular options are ceramic or clear braces, and lingual or inside braces. Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are also becoming popular.

While there are a lot of different options available for straightening teeth, only a registered specialist orthodontist has the expertise to know the best course of treatment.

Be wary of any products that promise do-it-yourself teeth alignment because they can have safety risks, Dr Schwartz says.

“Always consult a specialist orthodontist before starting any treatment,” he says.

An orthodontist will be able to offer a range of options such as traditional metal braces, ceramic or clear braces, lingual braces that sit behind your teeth or specialist clear aligner treatment like Invisalign.

Signs that your child might need braces

There may be obvious signs that your child needs orthodontic treatment, such as crooked teeth or a noticeable underbite or overbite.

“While some signs are easy to spot, others can be more subtle,” Dr Schwartz says.

It might seem unrelated, but if your child snores or has a speech impediment such as a lisp, that can also be a sign that they need orthodontic treatment.

Check with your child’s orthodontist – they’ll be able to give you specialist advice

What age do kids get braces?

All kids should start regular visits to the dentist from the age of three, Dr Schwartz says.

The age a child might need braces varies depending on the underlying issue. For example, if your child has a severe bite problem, orthodontic treatment can start as early as seven years of age.

Your child’s dentist will know best if there are early bite problems and whether treatment is needed. Sometimes it’s clear to parents if your child’s teeth are obviously crowded or protrude, he says.

“When assessing whether someone may require early orthodontic treatment, we look for early signs of a bad bite. Most commonly, people will get braces between the ages of 10 and 15, when some permanent teeth have come through, but you can get braces at any age, even as an adult.”

How to find an orthodontist

You don’t need a referral to see a registered specialist orthodontist. Go to the Orthodontics Australia website and use the Finder Tool to find an orthodontist in your area.

Dr Robert Schwartz is a specialist orthodontist and spokesperson for Orthodontics Australia.

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