If you had braces as a kid, you probably remember the exact day they went on and more importantly, the glorious day they came off. And while your kids will probably remember those milestones too, so much else has changed.
1. Treatment starts earlier
In previous generations, orthodontists couldn’t begin treatment until kids had all their “big” teeth—typically around age 12. Now they’re seen as early as age 7, says orthodontic specialist Dr. Dustin Burleson, author of Stop Hiding Your Smile! A Parent’s Guide to Confidently Choosing an Orthodontist.
“Today’s technology allows us to gently make room for teeth, as opposed to waiting for all of the crowded teeth to come in and then extracting four of them to make room for the old heavy appliances,” he says.
2. Orthodontists aren’t only interested in straightening
One of the reasons kids should be seen at 7, says Somers Point, NJ orthodontist Dr. Robert Bray, a past president of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), is so a professional can evaluate airway issues and check for things like sleep apnea and other conditions.
“In approximately 10 percent of young children this age, the orthodontist can also
impacted teeth, problems with tooth eruption or corrective treatment for problems like tongue thrusting or thumb sucking,” says Dr. Burleson.
3. You can ask for a preview
No more dreaming of what’s to come. “Today we can show patients—and their parents—what their smile looks like now and what it’s going to look like when it’s done,” says Dr. Bray. “It helps them understand what’s going on.” Seeing the final result before starting treatment also may help kids follow the rules, he explains. “If they can see how they’ll look when treatment is complete, it may help them comply with their responsibilities—maintaining good oral hygiene, avoiding certain foods and drinks and keeping orthodontist appointments.”
4. Braces are cooler
These days, braces are small and sleek, says Dr. Burleson. “Kids can get clear or invisible braces or they can opt for fun colors. It makes the experience a night-and-day difference from what their parents had as children.”
5. They don’t hurt as much
Did your braces make your teeth ache? Luckily, your kids won’t go through all that. “After the initial period of getting used to braces, adjustments only cause a mild level of discomfort—like a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1 to 10,” says Dr. Burleson. Any discomfort is only temporary, easily addressed with over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol or Advil.
“Back in the day, braces used to wrap around the teeth—they were uncomfortable,” Dr. Burleson says. “Today, we put them on and parents and patients walk out smiling. The level of pain and frustration with braces, although not completely gone, is a fraction of what it used to be.”
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