Brace Yourself! Does My Child Need Braces?

For some children, getting braces is something they actually look forward to. For other children, there is a lot of fear and concern.

Making the decision to get braces for your child can be especially difficult.  You may be concerned about whether your child really needs them, if they are ready for braces, and how to afford them. Hopefully this article will shed some light on your concerns.

Why Get Braces For Your Child

There are several reasons why your child may need braces. Their teeth could be crooked, overcrowded, overlapping or have a malocclusion (when the upper and lower jaws are different sizes, resulting in an overbite or underbite).  These jaw and tooth issues can be a result of an accident, early tooth loss, decay or even habits like thumb sucking.

Your dentist may recommend that you take your child to see an orthodontist at one of their regular dental visits.  The orthodontist can then decide a treatment plan. The age that this may happen can vary from 6 up to adulthood. Once permanent teeth come in, your dentist will be able to determine if there is a need for braces.

Going to the Orthodontist

The orthodontist will conduct exams that will asses the child’s bite and teeth. He or she may ask questions about popping jaws or problems with chewing and swallowing.  Impressions and x-rays may also be taken at this time. The orthodontist will then come up with a treatment plan that is right for your child.


Braces work by applying pressure on the teeth and moving them into a straighter position. You have choices when it comes to the type of braces used: metal braces, clear or white ceramic braces, and lingual braces that are attached behind the teeth. There are also clear removable braces that use plastic trays, but these are usually only used when there is no malocclusion present. Headgear may also need to be worn at night to push teeth back to make more room.

After the braces are applied, your child will need to go back often for adjustments and to monitor the progress. Only your orthodontist will be able to tell how long your child will need to wear their braces, but 2 years is the average. After the braces are removed, your child may need to wear a retainer.

How to Care For Braces

Your child will be given a special flosser to help keep the braces free of food that can easily get stuck in them. Flossing should be conducted daily if not several times a day. Regular dental visits should also be made for cleanings and to check for cavities. Foods that are hard and sticky should be avoided because they could damage the braces. If a bracket does become loose or a wire pops out of place, you should call your orthodontist immediately.

Can I Afford Braces

The average cost of braces is $5,000. It is possible that insurance will not cover this amount.  There are some ways to reduce the cost. Your dentist may be able to work with you to set up a payment plan. There are also state insurance companies that may be able to help you with the cost. Smiles Change Lives is a program that can get your child in braces for a drastically reduced amount. Your child must be between the ages of 11 and 18. Income and the condition of your child’s teeth will also determine eligibility.pediatric-dentistry-logo

Medical or Cosmetic: Are Braces Really Necessary?

Anywhere between 50% and 80% of kids in the US are flashing metal-filled, rite-of-passage-to-teenagerdom smiles. But how many of those kids absolutely needed braces for medical reasons?

It’s hard to say.  A thought-provoking article by Marc Ackerman, the Director of Orthodontics at the Boston Children’s Hospital, explained, “In simple terms, we orthodontists are able to straighten your teeth, but we really have little idea how or why they went crooked in the first place.  In fact, many of the dental traits that have been labeled orthodontic problems are merely examples of normal human variation.”

Human variation? Like how some people have bright red hair and some have blonde? Or how some people hit the gym for two hours a day to no avail and others just seem to shed pounds in their sleep?

Turns out, some people’s teeth are overcrowded simply because it’s written in their genetics. What’s more? Orthodontists haven’t been able to determine exactly what makes a “healthy bite” and who has, unfortunately, been handed down genes that require a little stainless steel intervention.

Ackerman goes on to explain that an imperfect bite cannot actually determine whether a person needs braces.  Instead, it’s the symptoms, or what results from that imperfect bite, that ultimately plays the deciding factor.

Are your child’s teeth so crowded that they can’t brush them thoroughly, and end up dealing with cavity after cavity?  Did their teeth erupt in such a way that they’re causing a speech impediment?  That’s when it’s time to step in with braces.


But what about the other kids who are walking around with a mouth full of metal?  The ones who could eat, breathe, and talk normally without braces?

Our society has become more image-centric than ever before.  Many times, parents opt for braces for their kids solely for cosmetic improvements – although this might be as good a reason as any.  A good smile goes much further than we think.  Children who grow up with crooked or buck teeth often face ridicule that leads to insecurities.

Unfortunately, the bias doesn’t seem to disappear with adolescence.  A top social scientist claims that our standing in society “is becoming increasingly dependent not on our education or our upbringing – but on the state of our gnashers.”  Malcolm Gladwell, famed author, agrees that “teeth are becoming the new benchmark of inequality.”

According to these two, people with bad teeth have less of a chance at success because they are denied certain entry-level jobs. Interestingly, a survey showed that people with whiter teeth were thought to earn over $16,000 more than they actually do. Hence, nicer smiles imply greater success.

Bottom line – it’s more difficult than you think to classify who needs braces and who doesn’t. Instead, parents have to consider a multitude of factors: their preference, their child’s preference, their child’s medical history, the long-term effects of NOT fixing their smile, timing, and cost.  Either way – whether braces are medically necessary or cosmetically necessary – both are good reasons to give your child braces.

Ackerman offers his decision-making guidelines: “When a parent thinks their kid needs braces then they probably do, and when a parent doesn’t think their kid needs braces then they probably don’t, it’s as simple as that.”

So where do you stand? Are you willing to shell out a few thousand dollars for your child’s perfect smile? Or are braces an unnecessary expense that’s become a quick and easy way for orthodontist’s to keep their practice up and running?