Knowing about braces

Kids need braces for any number of reasons, including crooked, overlapping, or overcrowded teeth, or a bad bite (known as malocclusion). Malocclusion is when there’s a difference in the sizes of the top and bottom jaws. When the upper jaw is bigger than the lower jaw, it’s called an overbite. When the lower jaw is bigger, it’s called an underbite. Sometimes tooth and jaw problems can be caused by losing baby teeth too soon, accidents, or habits like thumb sucking. But often they’re inherited, so if you or someone in your family needed braces, it’s likely that your kids will, too. Many orthodontists say kids should see an orthodontist once their permanent teeth start coming in, around age 7. At this age, issues such as uneven bite and overcrowding will become apparent.

Most kids just need braces with brackets, wires, and rubber bands. The brackets attach to the teeth and are connected by a wire and rubber bands. The wire is tightened bit by bit over time to slowly help line the teeth up properly. The rubber bands come in fun colors that kids can pick. Though metal braces are still used, so are clear or white ceramic braces, which are much less noticeable. Some even go behind the teeth (lingual braces).

Clear removable braces that move teeth with plastic trays called aligners (rather than wires and rubber bands) are also available, but these are only right for some people.

Some kids may need other devices, too, such as headgear (this is usually worn only at night). Headgear uses a horseshoe-shaped wire that attaches to the back teeth, providing stronger force to move the teeth. The orthodontist also might recommend that your child have one or more teeth removed to create more space in his or her mouth.

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