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Braces for kids

It is not unusual for children to receive orthodontic care at a very young age because their growth can be taken advantage of in order to make the recommended treatment more successful.

Some problems are best dealt with earlier because if left untreated they can result in very complex, prolonged treatment or even corrective surgery.

Your orthodontist will design a unique treatment plan for each and every child which will be determined from a clinical, photographic and x-ray examination. Following the diagnosis of your child’s specific problems, a bespoke treatment plan will be designed which may include one of two approaches:

  1. Two-phase treatment
  2. Single-phase treatment

When two separate time periods are required to create a better environment for your child’s permanent teeth the approach is called two-phase treatment. The first phase is performed whilst your child has most of the primary or “baby” teeth. The second phase will occur when most or all of the permanent or “adult” teeth have grown into the mouth. Typical appliances used during two-phase treatment include removable braces, expansion devices to widen the jaws, retaining or holding appliances and fixed braces to manipulate the positions of the teeth.

The aims of the first phase would be to avoid predictable problems and to solve any diagnosed conditions at an early age. Some of the devices used in the first-phase help guide the eruption of teeth or influence growth of the jaw bones. Your child is therefore able to bite or chew more efficiently and the teeth will more readily stay where the orthodontist has moved them. On completion of the first-phase there is a period of maintenance or retention which allows the teeth to settle. During this time your child will still be required to attend some appointments to monitor progress.

When your child’s permanent teeth have all appeared, your orthodontist will judge whether they have grown into the correct positions and if not, a second phase of treatment will be recommended. It is likely that your orthodontist will recommend this second-phase of orthodontic appliances or braces to refine the results of the first-phase.

Single-phase treatment is recommended when your orthodontist has determined that there are enough permanent teeth present for your child to have comprehensive orthodontic treatment performed over a single time period. This will usually involve wearing braces or ancillary appliances, followed by retention devices. Retainers have to be worn for a long period of time to keep the teeth in the corrected positions.

The length of treatment of either two or single-phase treatment will depend on several factors, including the severity of the problems and the age of the patient. No matter which format is followed, treatment success is influenced significantly by cooperation between the parent, child and the orthodontist.

Below is advice on how to ensure your child’s treatment is successful:

  • Follow the instructions given to you for the specific appliance being worn
  • Keep the appliance, teeth and gums clean, by brushing and flossing as prescribed
  • Avoid foods and drinks that may damage the appliance and your teeth
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Keep all your scheduled appointments with the orthodontist
  • Visit your dentist at least every six months to maintain your child’s dental health

Sourced from:
‘Two-phase orthodontic treatment: the appropriate treatment at the appropriate time’, The American Association of Orthodontists

Here is a list of typical braces that might be used in the treatment of children:

Removable appliances

These can be used to push individual teeth into correct positions or to widen/expand the jaws.

Fixed braces

When glued to the teeth each bracket can correct the positions of individual or groups of teeth. Special fixed appliances, called rapid palatal expanders, can be used to expand or widen the roof of the mouth to create space for crowded teeth or to improve the bite.

Retainers

These can be removable or fixed, and their main purpose is to hold the teeth in place to prevent any movement.

Functional appliances

These are special braces which can help control and manipulate the growth of the jaws. Certain types of functional braces can be fixed into the mouth.

Headgear

These are used to move the upper teeth backwards and can sometimes be useful to slow down the growth of the upper jaw. A variation, called a facemask, can be used to pull the upper jaw and teeth forward.

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