by Kym Byrnes
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 adult teeth have come in, sometime in middle school.
So what’s different today that children are getting braces at a younger age?
According to Hanover orthodontist David Ross, there’s always been different philosophies about treating children, and that includes treating early and in phases.
Ross, who said about 75 percent of his patients are kids and teens, said that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children are taken for an orthodontist consultation around age 7.
“That’s when you’ll see the beginning of permanent tooth eruption so if that’s not occurring or there are issues going on, you’ll start to see that around age 7,” Ross said.
Orthodontists help straighten teeth and improve your bite by correcting how your teeth fit together and how your jaws line up. WebMd.com reports that an orthodontist is a dentist who has an additional two to three years of specialized study in orthodontics.
Orthodontist Jason Shoe, who has been practicing in Hanover for three years, said there has been an ongoing discussion for decades about when to begin treatment for children and teens.
“Our philosophy for earlier treatment is based on the fact that [jaw development] and tooth development occur independently and at different times during childhood,” Shoe said.
Shoe said that recent advancements with 3D dental x-rays have helped doctors understand that some procedures are easier and more stable if done by a certain age, like expanding the width of the upper jaw by age 10.
“Basically, the move to younger treatment is based on more in-depth understanding of the importance of establishing a good foundation for the permanent teeth, often before they are grown into the mouth and when baby teeth are still present,” Shoe said.
According to kidshealth.org, the average cost for braces in the U.S. is around $5,000. That varies greatly depending on your geographic location and the specific treatment being prescribed, but it’s certainly not an inexpensive venture.
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.
Hanover Area Orthodontists:
Dr. David Ross: 135 E. Elm Avenue, www.davidrossorthodontics.com
F&S Orthodontics and Periodontics, Dr. Jason Shoe: 141 Wilson Avenue, www.fsorthoperio.com
Singer Orthodontics: 50 York Street, www.singerorthodontics.com