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Kids and braces…do they really need them?

Approximately 25 to 50 percent of kids need orthodontics, according to Dr. Timothy Stuhlmiller, DDS, CAGS, of Millersburg. Children should see an orthodontist by age 7 for an evaluation of their teeth and jaw, to determine whether braces will be necessary.

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Many kids have fairly straight teeth. They may not be perfect… but they’re OK. So why do most kids end up needing braces? Are they always necessary or are there cases when your child could get by without them? The cost is one thing to consider, but on the flip side, braces are necessary in most circumstances and even desired by most teens concerned with their smile.

A local orthodontist, Dr. Timothy Stuhlmiller, DDS, CAGS, of Millersburg, said that more kids than you may think actually do need orthodontic care.

“Everyone wants to have a perfect smile,” Stuhlmiller said. “Unfortunately many kids, and adults too, must turn to an orthodontist for help to achieve that goal. Approximately 25 to 50 percent of children do require orthodontics.”

If you are thinking that 50 percent sounds high, it isn’t. Some orthodontic statistics show that while 45 percent of kids need braces to fix obvious problems, up to 75 percent of kids need orthodontic care for not so obvious problems such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problems.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, a child should have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7 to determine what if any problems exist. A visit to an orthodontist can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. A regular checkup may reveal that your child’s bite is fine or allow an opportunity to identify a developing problem. Early treatment may prevent more serious problems from developing and could make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated.

“It is recommended that a child have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7,” Stuhlmiller said. “Patients are then typically placed on a recall schedule until growth and development is complete. If a patient reaches the teenage years without a significant malocclusion, generally no treatment will be required. But sometimes fixing a bad bite at an early age can actually prevent more serious problems from occurring, such as a child’s teeth prematurely wearing or a child’s face developing in a crooked manner.”

When it comes to teeth there are more advantages to having a straight smile than merely cosmetic. In addition to improving your smile, orthodontic treatment is also responsible for improving dental function. Having good dental function means the teeth and jaws are aligned and coordinated in such a way that optimizes chewing, talking or moving your teeth from side to side. Proper function also creates balanced forces on your teeth when you use them, which promotes better long-term health of the teeth, gums, and surrounding bone. Having healthy, properly placed teeth and a healthy bite can also reduce the incidence of habits such as grinding or clenching, the formation of abnormal wear patterns on your teeth, or the development of headaches and facial pain.

“While straight teeth do not lessen the rate of decay, they do make cleaning the teeth easier and can prevent gum disease,” Stuhlmiller added. “Flossing is much less a chore with straight teeth than crooked teeth as well.”

“In addition to the cosmetic benefits and other health advantages that result from having braces, it can also boost self-confidence and help to create better self-esteem,” Stuhlmiller added.

Believe it or not, orthodontic treatment has also been shown to enhance social and career success in adults. Parents can ask for input from their family dentist and also schedule a routine exam with a local orthodontist when trying to decide whether or not braces are necessary. There are even some cases where early intervention can fix issues more quickly and be less expensive than traditional treatment methods.

And while teasing and taunting with names like ‘tin grin’ and ‘metal mouth’ at one time ruled the middle schools of America, today, with so many kids needing and getting braces, there is no longer a negative stigma associated with orthodontic treatment. Everyone wants a nice smile and no one wants to be self-conscious when they laugh. So address the question of braces early on and make sure your child has a healthy smile and mouth for a lifetime.

Published: July 19, 2011
New Article ID: 2011707199967