How early should you consider braces for your child?
Braces are an interesting concept. A patient agrees to have a strange-looking set of teeth for a year or two in exchange for a lifetime of beautiful smiles. In the past, they made wearers the target of teasing and unpleasantry, but these days, even adults wear braces.
The concept behind braces is that they will straighten your teeth and brighten your smile. They are attached to your teeth with bonding glue and elastic bands. They are used to correct issues like overbites, crowded teeth, excessive gaps, or crooked alignment.
Human beings don’t often notice their own smiles. They notice other people’s mouths and dental formulae, but they’re unlikely to pay attention to themselves until someone makes a comment. It’s an interesting point, because people will generally focus on all other facial features. The shape of their nose, the size of their ears, the position of their zits … but they will rarely think about their smile.
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That’s probably because when people are scrutinising their appearance in the mirror, they’re rarely smiling. And when they do look at their teeth, for example when they’re brushing or flossing, they focus on individual teeth rather than their overall alignment or the features of their smile.
For this reason, a child is unlikely to even consider braces until an unfriendly peer or an eager adult brings it up. A well-meaning aunt may talk about their crooked teeth, or a school bully may give them a name like buck-wheat or rabbit-teeth. In the latter case, braces may be a good solution, but they may also lead to even more relentless teasing.
From a medical perspective, the best time for braces is while the patient’s teeth are still growing and their head and facial features are still developing. The reason behind this is growing jaw structures and dental formulae will respond more readily to re-alignment and shaping.
At age six or seven, the child is still shedding milk teeth and growing new ones, so braces are not ideal. It’s best to wait until all the permanent teeth have come in, but before the jaw is set, so age 10 to 14 is a good bet.
That said, braces have a bigger impact that just the physical. They will affect the child’s esteem, making them more self-conscious. This focus will be strengthened as they take extra care to protect their braces, which includes avoiding foods their friends enjoy. The braces – and attendant issues – will attract the attention of their peers, probably more attention than their misaligned teeth.
If you’re basing your decision on a purely anatomical perspective, then get your child braces in their late tweens and early teens. But from a psychological, personal perspective, let your child make the decision.
Plus, modern technology has come a long way in braces for adults, so if your teen isn’t ready for braces, they can always get their teeth fixed when they’re older. Either way, get in touch with us on 02 80040055 and we can talk through your options.