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Braces FAQ's

You would be forgiven for thinking that almost every other child has orthodontic braces on at some stage during their teens. Find out all you need to know about braces – why they are recommended, what types, the likely duration of treatment and much more.

What are braces?

Braces are devices used to move and straighten teeth. 

What are the different braces options?

Fixed braces - These are the more traditional and common type of brace. Small brackets are bonded to the front of the teeth surface and then a wire is run through them and held with a small coloured elastic band. You can have either plastic or metal brackets. 
Damon self ligating braces - more sophisticated, these stainless steel braces are also bonded to the teeth. Even though the braces are smaller than conventional braces, they hold the wire more securely.
Lingual braces - Where the fixed braces are on the outside of the teeth, lingual braces are stainless steel brackets on the inside (tongue side) of the teeth. They are less visible but can interfere with speech and irritate the tongue. They are more difficult to clean and the cost is significantly higher. 
Invisalign® - Suitable for mild to minor problems, Invisalign is a series of clear thin aligners, a bit like a very thin mouthguard. Each aligner is worn for two weeks and then the next one in the series is used. Because they are removable, they can be taken out for eating, drinking and sport

When are braces recommended?

The most common reason is for unattractive crooked teeth. Straight teeth are beautiful! 

However there are important functional reasons for straightening teeth:
  • Crowded and crooked teeth are hard to clean which can in turn cause a range of problems; tooth decay, gum disease, abnormal wear of the tooth surface, inefficient chewing action and excessive strain on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth. 
  • Too much space between the teeth can be caused by the jaw being too big for the teeth or missing teeth. Other causes include thumb sucking, incorrect swallowing reflex and gum disease. Some causes may result in teeth becoming loose, pain and difficult biting or chewing. 
  • If the upper and lower jaws are misaligned or there is an underbite or overbite the same problems can occur plus you can develop jaw joint disorders and tooth fracture. 
You could also consult an orthodontist if you notice other problems such as difficulty chewing or biting, your child complains of a clicking jaw, tooth grinding or clenching, speech difficulties and breathing through the mouth (instead of the nose). 
Most untreated problems worsen over time.
Finally, the benefits to self-esteem from the improvement in the cosmetic appearance of the teeth cannot be underestimated. 

How do I know if my child needs braces?

For some parents it may be obvious braces will be required because of an easily identifiable problem such as extremely crooked or abnormal alignment of teeth. For others the problem however may be less visible. 
A no obligation visit to a specialist orthodontist or a Dentist with an extra interest in orthodontics will determine whether braces are recommended. 

What age does your child need braces?

Orthodontists usually recommend your child has their first visit at around age 7 or when the adult teeth start coming through. Your Orthodontist will assess your child and discuss with you the best treatment process. It may be that treatment should be delayed – the Orthodontist will guide you as to the likely timeframe and will offer check-ups. Some children with a range of issues may require early treatment, have a break and then restart treatment once more adult teeth are through or the jaw has grown more. An early assessment enables treatment to start at the optimum time for that child. 

How much does it cost?

The cost of braces depends on the type of braces and how long they are on for. Generally the cost relates to the complexity (and therefore the duration) of the treatment. Many practices offer payment terms, discounts for siblings and / or for early payment. The practice will advise you. 

Can any dentist fit braces for your child?

Orthodontists are dentists who have trained for 5 years in dentistry and then a further 2-3 years at university specialising in orthodontics. Only Registered Specialist Orthodontists have the post-graduate qualification to practice orthodontics. Some dentists have an extra interest in orthodontics and will undertake limited orthodontic training in addition to their dentistry training.  

How long will my child need braces?

The usual treatment time with braces for an adolescent is about 24 months. However the duration of treatment can vary from 3 months for a simple cosmetic correction through to several years split in to several stages. The duration depends of the growth of the mouth and face and the severity of the problem.

What does the treatment process for braces involve?

While the time period that your child may have their braces on for may vary, the general process remains more or less the same:
The very first step in the process is to visit your provider (usually an orthodontist or maybe a dentist who has an extra interest in orthodontics) for an initial consultation. There will be a thorough examination including x-rays and photographs followed by a discussion on possible treatment options. Moulds of the teeth may also be taken. Costs of treatment will be given and the period over which they are paid (usually over the treatment time).
Then, it's straight to the big day - the day the braces are actually glued on. This takes around 1 hour - and usually the child can choose which colour bands go on.
An important part of this appointment is finding out how to care for the braces and the teeth while the braces are on - this is crucial for a successful outcome. It is likely your child will be uncomfortable in the days ahead so finding out ways to reduce pain is also crucial. 
From there, every six to eight weeks there will be a 15 to 30 minute appointment where the wires are adjusted or changed to ensure the teeth are slowly moved in to the correct position. Bands from the upper to lower jaw may also be used. 
Once the teeth are in the correct day it's de-bond day - the braces will be removed! Usually a wire is glued to the back of the upper and lower front  teeth to help keep them in place. More moulds will be taken and a clear 'retainer' or removable plate will be made. The clear is like a very thin mouth guard and also helps keep the teeth in place. The retainer needs to be worn for many months after the braces are removed although mostly only part-time.