How to Alleviate Fear of Braces

Dispel myths about braces and consider all of your child's options

Should You Fear Orthodontic Braces?
Braces are a rapidly changing topic. Getty Images

Orthodontic braces can be a daunting subject. Many kids are afraid when they’re told they need braces.

Luckily, there is a big shift in the way orthodontics is being applied by the dental profession. You may think that braces are your only option, but there are many others. One of the big advances is early treatment and prevention of crooked teeth altogether. This is an important part of childhood development that parents should be aware of.

Either way, braces aren’t the only option for a child nor are they as scary as many think. In fact, I've seen kids who actually want to have braces because of the newer options available.

Kids and Braces: Quick Facts

In short:

  • Up to 4 million kids in the U.S. have braces—they're fairly common these days.
  • Straightening teeth isn’t the only goal of orthodontics. Guiding jaw and airway development should now be the goal of orthodontic treatment.
  • Traditional metal braces aren’t the only way to straighten teeth.

How to Ease the Fears of Braces

For the most part, orthodontics can be a little bit uncomfortable. But your dentist and orthodontist have many options to help suit every child’s need.

Parents should understand that early intervention will prevent the need for more invasive treatment. 

For kids, some quick reassurance techniques can help:

  • No shots or needles are necessary for orthodontic treatment
  • For the most part, there are no twisting or wrenching teeth into place. It's a gentle, gradual process. 
  • Younger kids can have parents present for treatment. But in younger kids, treatment is gentle and growth guiding, not painful.
  • If kids are embarrassed, remember that cosmetic, clear, and braces that fit on the inside of the mouth are an option. Your orthodontist will speak to you about these options.

    Additionally, understanding the treatment process can dispel any prominent myths you or your child have.

    Other Options

    Options aside from metal braces are now available. Kid’s braces come in many styles. Your kids may not have to undergo traditional metal braces. Some are very discreet, and they are improving all the time.

    A really popular style of braces is clear aligners or clear braces. These are a removable plastic teeth brace or guard. They straighten the teeth while being hard to detect to the plain eye.

    Clear aligners are only suitable for certain situations. Typically, they can be used when there is minor alignment required. Your kid can take the clear braces out for up to four hours a day. This is helpful when they want to eat difficult foods. They can also take them out to brush their teeth normally, but they must wear their clear aligners brace for at least 20 hours per day.

    This option is discreet and effective. That said, the system does cost more than traditional metal braces. Many types of insurance will not cover clear aligners, so it's best to explore all the options.

    What Problems Can Braces Treat?

    We have seen an expanding role of the dentist and orthodontist in childhood growth and development.

    An orthodontist will correct any misalignment in your child's teeth and jaw. If these problems are left unchecked, they can have negative effects on breathing, sleep health, speech impediments, oral hygiene, and chewing food.

    These are some of the most common problems that an orthodontist can treat:

    • Over-crowded teeth – If your kid’s teeth are over-crowded, this can prevent their adult teeth from coming in properly. An orthodontist can realign your child's teeth. The main reason for crowded teeth is an underdeveloped jaw. It’s important that this is addressed.
    • Bite and jaw alignment – This complicated term refers simply to overbites, cross bites, or underbites. These deviations can cause chewing and speaking problems. It is key that they are diagnosed at a young age.
    • Traumatic bite – A child’s bite can affect the overall look and feel of your child’s face. If their teeth are misaligned, it can cause a bite that causes damage to teeth. The orthodontist aligns teeth and removes a traumatic bite. More importantly, they should correct jaw growth factors.
    • Missing and incorrectly erupting teeth – If your child has congenitally missing teeth, an orthodontist can help. They can also help to correct teeth that are not erupting in the correct way.
    • Ankylosed teeth – In this condition, your child’s tooth does not erupt. It is hidden under the gum and bone. These cases can cause permanent tooth displacement. This needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

    The orthodontist will take a full examination. These include x-rays and models (bite impressions) to determine the best options for treatment. Once they have assessed the problem, they can create a treatment plan.

    The Benefits of Healthy and Straight Teeth

    When it comes to correcting some orthodontic issues, the earlier the better. Taking your child to see an orthodontist will help assess the health of their teeth and jaws. Effective treatment will prevent further problems as they grow up.

    An orthodontist is able to control where permanent teeth come in. They can address and change the structure of the jaw and teeth in a beneficial way. By the age of seven, your child’s jaw has developed enough for the orthodontist to assess it. This is a good time to make an initial appointment since the new direction of orthodontics is to treat early before problems become fixed in the adult dentition.

    For parents, getting your child to the dentist earlier means many of the problems associated with orthodontics may be avoided. These are just a few of the benefits of having your child seen by an orthodontist:

    • The permanent teeth will develop in a sound way.
    • Bad habits (such as tongue pushing, teeth grinding, and thumb sucking) can be corrected.
    • Bite problems (like an open bite, deep bite, or crossbite) can be addressed.
    • The growth of the jaw can be guided to accommodate all teeth.
    • You can help improve your child’s appearance.
    • Lower the risk of problems or damage to protruding teeth.
    • Increase the function of the teeth, lips, and face.
    • Prevent more invasive treatments later in life.
    • Improve their oral hygiene and prevent cavities.
    • Improve your child’s self-esteem and confidence.

    Even if you don’t think that your kid needs any orthodontic treatment or braces, it is a good idea to make an appointment. Some alignment problems may be difficult to see. It also allows your child to become comfortable with the office and process. If future treatment is needed, they will be familiar and relaxed.

    Children’s Orthodontics: Two-Phase Treatment

    If your kid’s orthodontist recommends braces, it can be a two-phase treatment. The first phase will occur when your child still has their baby teeth. The second phase can happen when your child is a little bit older. Today we are seeing that children should always be assessed as early as possible for dental growth problems.

    The first phase of treatment will ideally:

    • Correct poor oral habits that have already formed.
    • Correct breathing, sleep, and tongue function.
    • Help with correct biting and chewing.
    • Support and guide jawbone growth. These bones support the teeth. They enable the teeth to grow in a straight and healthy manner.
    • Prevent damage to any protruding front teeth.
    • Align teeth into their correct position.
    • Help with creating a developed face.
    • Help provide a foundation for healthy adulthood.

    The second phase will be traditional braces. These braces are generally designed to:

    • Align the adult teeth into their permanent locations.
    • Further, improve appearance and tooth function.

    Sources:

    Guimarães CH, Henriques J, Janson G, Moura WS. Stability of interceptive/corrective orthodontic treatment for tooth ankylosis and Class II mandibular deficiency: A case report with 10 years follow-up. Indian J Dent Res. 2015;26(3):315-9.

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