By Dr Jade Sun, Dentist
The number one question I get asked by parents is: “Does my child need braces?” This is a far more complex question than many parents may realise, usually without a simple answer. Parents are frequently worried that their child may have crooked teeth, and want to prepare for the potential costs braces can incur.
Most people only think about the cosmetic results that braces can achieve, however there are many ways orthodontic treatment can improve the overall health of your child. The most common benefits of braces include:
* Improving breathing, especially if your child is a mouth breather;
* Making it easier to clean teeth;
* Improved speech;
* Improved chewing/eating;
* Improved self-confidence;
* Reduce the likelihood of having dental issues as an adult;
* Correcting an overbite or under bite and
* Correct jaw position.
A common misconception is that you must wait until your child has had all their adult teeth erupt (usually around 12 or 13 years of age) prior to starting orthodontic treatment. This isn’t the case, in fact some orthodontic plates may be used to treat patients from as young as 7 and can help fix jaw issues early, often avoiding the need for surgery and potentially the need for braces in the future.
Certainly, genetics play a role in the likelihood of your child requiring braces. As a parent there are some simple things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your child needing orthodontic treatment.
Paediatric dentists normally recommend limiting the use of a pacifier between 6 and 12 months, and completely eliminating its use by the time your child is 2.
Having recently had my first child, I understand that a pacifier can provide great comfort for children, and much-needed quiet for parents, but prolonged use after the age of 2 can cause your child’s top teeth to tip forwards resulting in breathing issues and associated dental problems.
The same can be said of children who habitually suck their fingers or thumbs.
I recommend weaning your child off this habit through providing positive reinforcement. This is best achieved through praising your child, and rewarding them when they don’t use their pacifier or suck their thumb, as opposed to punishing them or telling them off. My patients have had great success through the use of positive reinforcement, the use of a chart to help your child track their success is a great tool, giving them a sticker each day as a reward with a target towards a special incentive when they reach seven days, a fortnight and then a month without needing a pacifier.
Given the complex nature of orthodontic treatment for children, it is usually best to have treatment performed by a specialist orthodontist. Your dentist will be able to provide a referral for your child to an appropriate orthodontist. The orthodontist will take into account your child’s stage of growth and discuss treatment options to ensure the best possible results are achieved.
If you think your child may require braces, it’s never too early or too late to discuss your concerns with your dentist during your child’s next check up.