by Kym Byrnes

When Do Parents Have to Think about Braces.

When I was a kid, I dreaded getting braces but I knew I was going to need them. I had buck teeth (my nickname was Buck Toothed Beaver, thank you siblings) up until I got braces in eighth grade. By then I had all my adult teeth and I wore those silver metal braces, and accompanying head gear at night, for the better part of three years. Getting those braces off my junior year of high school was as exciting as getting asked to prom or making a varsity sports team.

I now have two 10-year-olds starting fifth grade and they have both already had their first “phase” of braces. They each wore braces, to correct different problems, for about 10 months between third and fourth grade. Our orthodontist has said they will possibly need another phase when all of their permanent teeth have come in, sometime in middle school.

So what’s different today that children are getting braces at a younger age?

According to Westminster orthodontist Ed Goldman, a generation ago, orthodontists didn’t see children until most of their baby teeth had been lost.

“But we now realize that moderate to severe problems can benefit from early treatment,” Goldman said. “These problems are best treated at ages 7-10.”

When more teeth have erupted, a second phase of treatment is usually necessary to complete treatment. But Goldman notes that not all children need to be treated early.

“Many malocclusions (misalignment of the teeth) can be successfully treated when a child is older and they don’t need two phases of treatment,” Goldman said.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children consult with an orthodontist around age 7 or 8. According to – the website of Carroll County orthodontics practice Scott, Pitrone, Sorkin & Jarvis – the goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems such as underbite. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of extractions in the future.

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits, according to Scott, Pitrone, Sorkin & Jarvis.

Dr. Goldman said that depending on the type of work needed, orthodontics can cost anywhere from under $1,000 to more than $5,000. He added that some insurance plans cover some of the costs of treatment.

One difference between me getting braces in eighth grade (a self-conscious pre-teen who did not want to go from being the Buck Toothed Beaver to a Brace Face) and children getting braces in elementary school is that my kids were actually excited to get braces. Apparently in elementary school, it’s cool to have braces. Perhaps that’s because by the time the novelty wore off, phase one was about over and the braces were ready to come off. I also found it took them less time to adjust to the braces and they didn’t seem to hurt as much when they had adjustments.

Experts recommend doing your homework to choose an orthodontist. Many orthodontists will offer a free consultation. During the consultation, get a feel for the personality of the doctor, find out how easy it is to schedule an appointment, consider the price and the convenience of the location.

“Orthodontic treatment creates a better bite and wonderful smile for a lifetime,” Dr. Goldman said. “It’s an investment that lasts forever.”