Braces for Children and Teens

Many children and teenagers are ambivalent about getting braces.  On one hand, they like the idea of perfect teeth, but on the other hand, they are nervous about whether the braces will cause pain and discomfort.  The good news is that today's braces are much smaller and more comfortable than before, it is not painful to put them on and the end result will be a beautiful straight smile.

Although patients of any age can benefit from orthodontic braces, they can work quicker on pre-teens and teenagers since they are still experiencing jaw growth.  The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children should first see an orthodontist around the age of seven years-old.  

What Causes misalignment of teeth?

Poorly aligned teeth often cause problems speaking, biting and chewing.  Most irregularities are genetic or occur as a result of developmental issues.  Conversely, some irregularities are acquired or greatly exacerbated by certain habits and behaviors such as:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Thumb or finger sucking
  • Prolonged pacifier use
  • Poor oral hygiene

How long will I have to wear braces?

The amount of time it takes to treat your smile with braces depends on three key factors:

  • Early treatment — Early treatment allows orthodontists to monitor the growth of the jaw and recommend further orthodontic treatment if it becomes necessary. Not everybody receives early orthodontic treatment; in some cases it may be recommended that a patient wait to receive treatment.
  • What needs correction — The amount of treatment needed to correct a problem will determine how long the process takes. Some patients may need less than two years while others may need more.  Treatment times can vary, depending on how quickly your body responds and how much work is needed to give you the show-stopping smile you desire.
  • YOU! — Your willingness to use the appliances your orthodontist gives you plays a major role in the length of time it takes to complete your treatment. Always remember to take care of your braces and appliances; this truly will help make your treatment shorter!

What’s involved when a child/teen gets braces?

After the initial examination, we will take orthodontic records, which consist of x-rays, photos and molds/ scans of your teeth, before you start treatment.  Dr. Liu will then do a  do a thorough evaluation of your teeth and plan for the most effective treatment. 

In many cases, Dr. Liu will recommend “fixed” orthodontic braces.  Fixed braces cannot be lost, forgotten or removed at will, which means that treatment can be completed more expediently.  Removable appliances may also be utilized, which are less intrusive and are generally used to treat various types of defects.

Here are some of the orthodontic appliances we use in our office:

  • Fixed braces – Braces are comprised of brackets and bands that are affixed to each individual tooth and an archwire that connects the brackets.  The brackets are usually made of metal, ceramic, or a clear synthetic material which is less noticeable to the naked eye. 
  • Elastics -(rubber bands)- Orthodontic elastic bands are often added to the braces to help improve the fit of your upper and lower teeth.  Remember that rubber bands work far more efficiently if they are worn as prescribed. 
  • Palatal expander - The palatal expander “expands” (or widens) your upper jaw by putting gentle pressure on your upper molars each time an adjustment is made. Dr. Liu will instruct you about when and how to adjust your expander. When you achieve the desired expansion, you will wear the appliance for several months to solidify the expansion and to prevent regression.
  • Headgear or Facemask – This type of appliance is most useful to treat jaw discrepancies.  They are removable and attach to the wire or band around the molars.   They need to be worn 12-14 hours each day or as recommended to achieve the intended result.
  • Retainers – Retainers are typically utilized at the end of all orthodontic treatments.  When the original malocclusion has been treated with braces, it is essential that the teeth do not regress back to the original misalignment.  Wearing a retainer ensures that teeth maintain their proper alignment and gives the jawbone around the teeth a chance to stabilize.  It is important for patients to wear their retainers nightly for life to prevent future relapse.

If you have questions about braces for children, please contact our office.


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