Why do some kids have braces twice?
This is one of the most common questions I hear at new exam appointments. Understandably, it can be confusing to see kids in elementary school, who still have most of their baby teeth, with braces. To be clear, I am not a huge fan of putting braces on twice when it isn’t needed. However, I am a strong believer in kids having two rounds of orthodontic treatment – when it’s necessary.
Reasons your child may need braces early
1. An Underbite or Cross-bite: If the top jaw is not developed enough or the lower jaw is growing too much, the upper teeth will tuck inside or behind the lower teeth. In the dental world, this is referred to as a crossbite. In younger kids, the jaws are still developing and it’s much easier to fix these problems with growth modification including palatal expanders and special types of headgear. If treatment is delayed for too long, sometimes the crossbite can only be fixed with jaw surgery.
2. A thumb or finger sucking habit: Thumb/finger sucking habits can restrict proper growth of the upper jaw causing it to be narrow or constricted. It can also prevent the front teeth from properly overlapping which will lead to speech problems and difficulty biting into food. Treating with an appliance or expander at a young age to break the habit will help to prevent future airway issues and jaw imbalance.
3. Protruding or “buck teeth”: A recent study found that “severely protruded upper front teeth, commonly called ‘buck teeth,’ are at an increased risk for dental trauma and may benefit from an orthodontic correction.” The study pointed out that just over 33% of children who were treated for protrusive teeth were less likely to have trauma to their front teeth.
4. Severely crowded teeth: If the mouth is so small that even the baby teeth are crowded together, sometimes the permanent teeth are not able to emerge into the mouth on their own. This can lead to impacted teeth which become much harder to treat when the child is older. An orthodontist can move the teeth into a better position to allow the adult teeth to come in naturally or refer back to the dentist for removal of baby teeth at the appropriate time to allow the adult teeth to erupt.
5. Airway issues: If your child snores, is a mouth breather, or was diagnosed with sleep apnea, expansion of the palate (roof of the mouth) can help increase the volume of the airway and decrease breathing issues before there is permanent skeletal change. In some cases, we’ll work closely with an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist to determine if any other treatment may be needed to help increase airway/breathing capabilities.
6. Social concerns: If your young child is self-conscious or having trouble with bullies at school due to the way their teeth look, we’re happy to get the front teeth straight. This should ease some social problems – being a kid is tough enough!
It’s important to note when your child gets braces early, he or she still may need braces when they're older based on how the remainder of the adult teeth erupt. However, if Phase II is needed, it’s normally much shorter and less involved than it would have been had no prior treatment been done.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first orthodontic examination at the age of 7 years old. Don't worry, most kids this age won't need active orthodontic treatment. This initial visit gives me the chance to evaluate your child’s skeletal growth, dental condition, as well as bite concerns. We can then plan to monitor for future treatment as needed.
Contact us today at our Mount Lebanon location (412-343-5100) to schedule your child’s complimentary initial consultation!
Dr. Lisa Babb