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Everything You Need to Know to Prep for Braces

We all dread the news that our kids will need braces (a bit hit to the pocketbook), but with so many options out there, here's how to decide what's right for their pearly whites.


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Think your kid may never need braces? With about four million kids 17 and under getting their teeth straightened, there’s a good chance yours will too.

But before you head to that first ortho appointment, know what’s out there. Getting braces has “changed immensely in the last 10 years because of the materials we’re using and the different options,” says American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) President Dr. Morris N. Poole.

There are four basic types of braces available, depending on how much work your child’s teeth need.

1. TRADITIONAL METAL BRACES

The basics: Classic stainless steel braces we knew when we were teens.

The pros: They look familiar, but today’s version is new-and-improved, with smaller, more discreet brackets and wires that move teeth into place with less pain. They also tend to be the most affordable.

The cons: Traditional braces are still the most visible kind, and once you have them on, they stay on until the problem is corrected—often for a year or longer.

2. CERAMIC BRACES

The basics: Similar to metal in terms of how they work, the ceramic variety has brackets that are clear or white and sometimes even come with tooth-colored wires, too.

The pros: Because they’re the same shade as teeth, they’re less conspicuous than silver braces. They also may cost less and get the job done a little faster than plastic aligners like Invisalign.

The cons: Ceramic braces are typically more expensive than metal braces, though the difference in price is narrowing. And certain foods like orange chips, soda or dark-colored berries can stain the brackets. (So if your kid is a lazy brusher or eats certain colorful snacks, they might not bethe best choice.)

3. LINGUAL BRACES

The basics: Traditional braces applied to the inside of the teeth, rather than the outside.

The pros: Lingual braces are almost completely hidden from view.

The cons: They’re pricier than any other kind, and can be more difficult to get used to and clean. They can also irritate the tongue and affect speech initially.

4. INVISALIGN

The basics: A pair of custom-made, clear plastic aligners for the upper and lower teeth that you can pop in and out of your mouth.

The pros: They’re practically invisible and totally removable, so you won’t have trouble eating or getting food caught in them.

The cons: They don’t solve every problem, can get lost and may be expensive to replace. They also take some serious self-discipline (which not all kids have mastered) and tend to be less budget-friendly than other options.

WHAT TO KNOW:

“Generally, the orthodontist will present a 'best treatment' option,” says Dr. Thomas J. Cangialosi, chairman of the department of orthodontics at Rutgers University School of Dental Medicine. “But in many cases, there will also be an acceptable alternative.” Consider your kid’s nature when assessing the options, experts say, since treatments like Invisalign rely heavily on his compliance. “You’re going to have to be on that child to make sure they’re in the mouth,” Dr. Poole says. Traditional metal braces, on the other hand, give the orthodontist full control.

“Parents know their child best,” says Dr. Cangialosi. “If there is an option, they should select one that is best suited to the child’s personality.” 

Amy Reiter is a New York-based writer who covers parenting, lifestyle and health.

More Like This:

Too Young for Braces?

What You Need to Know About Modern Braces

The Dangers of DIY Braces

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