By: J. Shahangian, DDS, MS- San Diego Board Certified Pediatric Dentist
All About Braces
Although it is more commonly known for braces, the field of orthodontics is a special discipline of dentistry that focuses on improving your child’s smile, and oral health by re-aligning the teeth and jaw of your child.
With the fast advancement of technology, braces today are less conspicuous and than the old style of gun-metal wire straps. New braces are comfortable even though they still use wire straps. Old braces can now be replaced by newer braces that are either clear, or next to invisible because the new braces can even be placed on the back of the tooth.
The three main types of braces:
- Brackets, are bounded to the teeth and are usually made from ceramic, plastic, or metal
- Lingual braces are invisible to people because the braces are attached to the back of the teeth
- Bands are the typical kind of braces that wrap around the teeth and have metal straps
Around age seven, teeth are evaluated, and the orthodontist will determine whether your child needs braces.
Orthodontia is a thorough process that includes many stages. Before your child can wear braces, the orthodontist has to run many tests to confirm braces are needed. First, the orthodontist will look at your child’s past dental/medical records, and then the orthodontist will do a thorough clinical examination. Next, the orthodontist will make plaster molds of your child’s teeth, do X-rays, and take pictures of your child’s teeth and face.
The orthodontist will determine the best treatment plan for your child. For example, the orthodontist will determine whether your child needs space maintainers vs. braces to realign your child’s teeth.
The “active treatment” refers to the stage where the orthodontist actually puts in place the orthodontic appliances. From time to time, the orthodontist may adjust the appliances so that the teeth grow in straight. These visitations vary from person to person. Sometimes, two phases for the active treatment are needed for early orthodontic intervention. The overall success of the orthodontic treatment and length of time which your child wears braces is dependent upon how well your child follows the treatment.
Your child will typically wear retainers after the braces are taken off. This post treatment ensures that the teeth are aligned properly in their new position. In severe orthodontic cases, there may be need for surgery.
The technology for braces has greatly advanced which means that today’s braces are a lot less noticeable. The part of the braces that wires together, known as brackets, are usually bound to the front part of the teeth. There are many kinds of brackets including tooth-colored, clear, and metal brackets. Today, wires known as “space age” materials are more flexible and make the teeth straightening process more comfortable and faster. In fact, brackets can be placed on the back of teeth.
Although the length of time that patients wear braces varies, on averages patients wear braces for about two years. This variation depends of the how closely your child follows treatment instructions, the severity of the orthodontic problem, and the overall health of the supporting bones, gums, and teeth. Moreover, typically adult treatment will take a little longer.
Your child may experience temporary discomfort when your child’s braces are re-tightened. Sometimes, the wiring of the braces becomes loose and needs re-tightening. This process is necessary to ensure the teeth and jaw are re-aligned into the proper position, but it may cause pressure on the bands or brackets. For this reason, your child may experience mild pain and soreness on the teeth and jaw, but this discomfort is temporary.
There are several precautions that parents must take for children who wear braces. For example, avoid feeding your child junk food such as soda pop, chips, and sweets because the sugar causes plaque and acid. This type of alimentation also promotes gum disease and tooth decay. Moreover, avoid feeding your child sticky sugary food such as caramel because these foods can loosen or damage the brackets. You must also make sure to cut up food into smaller pieces, and avoid feeding your child hard crunchy foods such as hard candy and nuts because it can break the braces.
In order to have a successful orthodontic treatment of braces, you must help your child maintain good oral hygiene. Make sure your child cleans his/her braces and bands on a regular basis. There are many crevices on the braces where food can get trapped so it is important you help your child carefully brush and rinse after every meal. Make sure your child has a soft bristle brush and also uses fluoride toothpaste. Also, make sure to teach your child to look into a mirror to make sure no food particles are trapped on the teeth and braces. Making sure your child flosses between teeth, braces, and wires with floss threader is equally important. If this proper oral hygiene is not taken, your child’s teeth could become stained. Make sure you make an appointment with me every six months so I can check that your child’s teeth and gums are healthy.
 http://www.southernvillagepedo.com/ortho.php, accessed January 2, 2011
 http://www.sunnysidedentistryforchildren.com/library/2049/AllAboutBraces.html, accessed January 3, 2012
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