There are many different dental appliances used with pediatric patients today. Braces are still the #1 method used for straightening teeth and correcting misalignment in children’s teeth. They work by putting pressure on the teeth or jaws to move them into a preferred position.
Today’s braces are not the “mouthful of metal” we know from years past. Teeth used to be fully bracketed and banded but today, brackets are bonded directly onto the surface of each tooth.
Braces are made of materials such as stainless steel, ceramics, plastic, or a combination of materials. They can now give either a clear or tooth-colored appearance.
Where possible, the wires can be made of materials such as nickel-titanium or copper-titanium. These materials can last longer and require fewer adjustments than stainless steel wires.
Invisible trays may be an option for some people who require orthodontic work. This method uses custom-made, clear, removable trays that put pressure on the teeth, moving them gradually into their correct position.
Other appliances used in children’s orthodontics include:
TADs: Temporary anchorage devices (TADs) are mini screws. When needed they may be temporarily fixed to bone in the mouth to provide a fixed point from which to apply force to move teeth.
Rubber bands: Rubber bands, or “elastics.” They are used when more force is needed to shift the teeth or jaw into the desired position. You can choose your favorite color.
Headgear: Some people can benefit from using headgear. The appliance is attached to the braces from the back of the head and can be removed to provide pressure to move teeth or jaws.
Retainers: Retainers are used to keep teeth in place once braces are removed. It takes time for your teeth to settle into their new position. By wearing a retainer, you can prevent your teeth from shifting.
Can a dentist provide orthodontic treatment as well?
Yes. Many general dentists have training in orthodontics. However, if more extensive orthodontic work is needed, it is likely best to see an orthodontist. An orthodontist has two to three years of advanced orthodontic education and training beyond dental school. They specialize in straightening teeth, aligning bites, and correcting jaw problems.
When should my child see an orthodontist?
Your dentist can tell you when to seek evaluation from an orthodontist. The American Dental Association recommends all kids be evaluated by age 7. By this age, subtle problems with jaw growth and teeth can be detected. Kids can begin a treatment plan between ages 9 and 14 if needed.