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Ben Wilcox
Ben is the practice principal at Shore Dental, Sydney. He graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery in 2004 and…

Do your teens need braces?

September 20, 2016 by Ben Wilcox

Whether your teen actually wants braces or not, there is no doubt that having braces will affect their life in both the short and long term. In the short term, they may feel either excited or nervous (depending upon their view of having braces), worried about what they will feel like or how much trouble they will be to care for, as well as happy that they will soon have an improved smile. In the long term, they will benefit from the aesthetic improvements of braces, but they will also benefit in so many other ways!

About braces and how they work

When a child’s permanent teeth grow through, sometimes they can pop out at a crooked angle, overlapping, slightly twisted or can end up being overcrowded in somebody with a small mouth. Children may also have an overbite or underbite. Some of these disorders – which are collectively known as malocclusions – are caused by genetics, whereas others are caused by injury, prolonged thumb or dummy sucking, dental disease, early loss of baby teeth or similar. The problem with malocclusions is that they interfere with the normal actions of the mouth, such as chewing and speaking, as well as proper cleaning of teeth. People – young or old – with visible malocclusions can also feel very self-conscious about how their teeth look.

Braces are designed to permanently correct all of these malocclusions, resulting in proper alignment and offering a wide range of physical and psychological benefits, like these:

Physical benefits of braces

Because braces realign all your teeth, they fix any teeth that are overlapping or crowded. This then makes it easier to keep your teeth and gums clean, as you can more easily clean between teeth and around gums when brushing and flossing. Obviously, this will reduce the overall incidence of gum and teeth health issues and other related periodontal diseases. Straight teeth also improve the way in which your teeth bite together (occlusion). This not only improves the way in which your teeth wear – so that they wear uniformly and slower than uneven teeth – but it also prevents jaw pain and TMJ in later life.

Psychological benefits of braces

There’s no doubt about it – a lovely smile not only looks great but makes the person smiling feel wonderful! This couldn’t be truer for young teens, who are often very self-conscious of their teeth if they feel they aren’t aesthetically pleasing to others. Sure, having braces may actually cause more embarrassment in the short term (although, attitudes to having braces are improving dramatically), but most teens realise very quickly how their teeth are improving and grow to love their braces. By the time braces are removed, most parents report that their teens are extremely happy with their new look and have an improved outlook on their lives because of it.

Braces are able to straighten teeth by exerting a constant pressure on the misaligned teeth for a long period of time – usually anywhere between six months and three years, depending upon your needs. This causes a slow but noticeable shift in the position of the teeth over the months or years that braces stay in place. During this time, your orthodontist will make adjustments to compensate for the gradual movement and to ensure comfort.

Alternatives to braces

In some cases, there are alternatives to braces. After an orthodontist determines that your teen’s teeth need realigning, he or she may decide to prescribe a removable retainer or plate instead of braces. These allow the teeth to be straightened but are less invasive and can be put in and removed at will. On the other end of the teeth-straightening scale, a severe case of over or underbite may require surgery; however, most moderate cases of malocclusion require braces.

If your teen is quite apprehensive when faced with the prospect of braces because they don’t like the way they look, there are actually alternatives that will do the same thing as braces, but without being so visibly evident. Firstly, you can opt for regular braces that are made from clear or tooth enamel-coloured ceramic materials that reduce their visibility. Mini braces – which are smaller and less visible than traditional braces – are also an option. For completely invisible braces, you can have braces applied to the inside surface of your teeth, or you can opt for an Invisalign treatment, which are tough plastic mouldings that simply fit over your teeth, offering a result that’s considered the cutting-edge in braceless orthodontic technology.

And Finally…

The day your teen finally has their braces removed is usually a day filled with relief, happiness and a sense of achievement; however, it’s important that any instructions given by your orthodontist are adhered to. Usually, follow-up examinations – which may include x-rays and impressions – are taken in order to ensure the braces have properly aligned everything. Depending upon the results of these, further work may be advised.

Also, many teens need to continue to wear a retainer after their braces are removed and this will ensure the teeth retain their lovely straight position. Not heeding this advice could cause all the work the braces have done to be lost, so it’s worth encouraging your teen to wear their retainer, even if it’s the last thing they want to do. They will certainly appreciate your effort whenever they see their winning smile in the mirror!

If you have questions or would like more information on braces please feel free to contact us here.