The American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children get a check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. If your child is older than 7, it's certainly not too late!
Traditional braces consist of metal brackets that are placed on the teeth with an adhesive and joined together with metal wires. They straighten teeth using periodic tightening that puts a steady pressure on the teeth to reposition them. Ceramic braces operate the same way, but the brackets are made of ceramic, porcelain, or even plastic, making them less noticeable in the mouth. Clear aligners are becoming a more popular option for teeth straightening because they are almost invisible and removable. Your dentist or orthodontist can discuss these options with you and recommend the best one for you depending on your needs and goals.
Braces can straighten teeth in both adults and children, but because the bone structure is more flexible in children, treatment is a little easier for younger patients. In addition to this, straight teeth do not wear down as quickly as misaligned teeth, and are easier to clean, so it’s generally more beneficial in the long run to get teeth straightened at a younger age.
You may have heard about how uncomfortable it is to wear braces, but there have been many advances made in modern orthodontics to make treatment more comfortable. Smaller, smoother brackets and gentler wires create a continuous small force over a longer period of time as opposed to a strong force for only a short period. There can be some discomfort for the two to three days after each adjustment, as well as at the very beginning of treatment, but this is fairly easily managed with wax and over-the-counter pain relievers.
You should be able to continue all your normal activities, including sports, when wearing braces. The only adjustment necessary is to be extra diligent about always wearing a mouth guard.
Treatment times vary depending on the severity of the case and type of malocclusion being treated, but average between 18 and 30 months. Being diligent in maintaining the braces can help you stay on track with the treatment plan and even shorten it.
Once treatment is complete and the braces have come off, the teeth can shift back to their original positions. Retainers do exactly that – help retain the new position so that you can keep your new straight smile.
In addition to some discomfort, including jaw joint clicking/pain, there is a potential for being injured by the appliance. Gum disease and tooth decay/stains can happen if the braces and teeth are not properly maintained. There is also the possibility of root resorption (shortening of the tooth roots). Loose or poor quality fillings, crowns, or bridges may become dislodged when the braces are removed, but this can easily be resolved by your dentist.