Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Is The Right Age For Braces? by Nick Messe

For a parent whose child does not have perfectly aligned teeth, which unfortunately is many of us, the question of whether to get braces can be a difficult one. Deciding on when to get them is the next question. Once the decision has been made, the options can be overwhelming. There are some guidelines that will help you to make these choices.

The American Academy of Orthodontics recommends that children receive an orthodontics screening somewhere between the ages of two and seven. However, this age is too early to install braces. The screening is only so the orthodontist can assess how your child's teeth and jaw are developing, and identify potential problems. Based on the results, the orthodontist will be able to make an informed recommendation on whether your child will need braces in the future.

Most children who need braces will receive them between the ages of nine and thirteen. This is the ideal age, since the jaw is strong enough to support braces, but still developing, so the braces can do their work as the child grows. After fourteen, the pace of development slows and it becomes more difficult to make significant changes in alignment through braces. However there are still options available.

Before deciding how to proceed, the orthodontist will study your child's teeth in a variety of ways, including direct examination, taking photos and X-rays, and making models from impressions of your child's teeth. He will also use computer simulations to project the outcomes of various courses of treatment. Installation of braces consists of bonding a bracket to each tooth and connecting the brackets with arch wire. Some models of braces also require elastic or metal ties to connect the wire to the brackets.

Traditionally, braces are made of stainless steel or ceramics, but it's also now possible to make the brackets and elastics out of clear or colored plastic, including colors that match your teeth. These are a good option for those who don't want the shiny smile look while wearing braces. However, that must be balanced against the fact that metal braces work faster, and in the case of severe bite problems, may be the only option.

Another option for those who want less visible braces are lingual braces, which are installed on the inside of the teeth, nearer the tongue, hence the name. Lingual braces do require more care in watching what you eat, and so are more appropriate for older patients. Lingual braces are also more expensive, and more work for the orthodontist to install.

Invisalign braces are a special type that do not require brackets. Instead, they are clear plastic trays that are fitted on the ends of the teeth. Their transparency and the lack of an arch wire means that they are nearly invisible. However, they are also suitable only for relatively minor problems.