An Old Problem
Dental braces have been in existence since ancient times as is evident from the discovery of ancient mummified remains with crude metal bands wrapped around individual teeth.
Dental braces, also known as orthodontic braces, are used to correct misaligned and crooked teeth by applying continuous pressure. Over time, with the pressure of the braces, the teeth straighten or get aligned. Metal or wire braces use metal brackets, bonding material, arch wire, and an 'O-ring' to help align the teeth. Apart from steel braces, ceramic or plastic braces can be bonded to the front of each tooth and connected with wires and bands.

Straightening of teeth using braces is a long and costly process. Most parents pay anywhere from USD 3,000 for a basic set to upwards of USD 10,000 for newer "invisible" braces. Considering the cost involved, there are many parents who are unsure about the necessity of braces for their child. Just because every child around is wearing braces does not mean you too have to invest in a teeth-straightening process. Before agreeing with the orthodontist and investing in braces, understand the reason for it and then make the right decision.

When Does Your Child Require Braces?

There is no cut-and-dry schedule for when your child might need braces. Usually, orthodontist recommend a checkup at age 7. Since permanent teeth start popping out by age 6, the orthodontist can detect subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth. This will help the orthodontist start active treatment by the time the child is 9 to 14 years of age. Early detection and treatment prevents further problems, and provides a better environment for permanent teeth to emerge and grow.

Why Do Children Need Braces?

There are certain signs that will help your orthodontist decide whether your child needs braces or not. These include

Severe tooth crowding in which the teeth are bunched together without adequate room for adult teeth to grow in.
Jaw misalignment and underbite where the top and bottom jaw is too narrow, small, or underdeveloped. The jaw shifts and makes sounds.
Misaligned teeth where the teeth grow or emerge at odd angles and displace other teeth. The teeth meet abnormally or not at all.
An overbite where the upper teeth cover lower teeth.
A crossbite where the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth
Early or irregular loss of baby teeth.
Problems while chewing or biting.
Breathing through the mouth.

Although they are a fact of life for many children, the primary reason for most children to wear braces is cosmetic. It improves the child's smile, and gives him/her beautiful, straight teeth. However, there are instances where kids have severely crooked teeth which can cause problems while eating. These need to be fixed with braces.

How Long Do Children Need to Wear Braces?

Most children need to wear braces for an average of two years, after which they may be required to wear a specially molded retainer. This is a small, hard piece of plastic with metal wires or a thin piece of plastic, shaped like a mouthguard, that prevents the teeth from growing off their intended path.

Caring for braces can be a tough job. This is the reason why braces are not recommended for very young children. Food can get stuck in the braces, and children need to work hard to clean their teeth. Moreover, kids with braces need to avoid certain hard foods, sticky candy, popcorn, and gum. These can get stuck in the braces and damage them.

If you are wondering whether your child needs braces or not, then consult an orthodontist and take a second opinion if needed. Do pick a specialized orthodontist for the job. Weigh the benefits and cost before making your decision. Understand how the treatment will affect your child's face and smile. Do not feel pressurized to go for immediate treatment. Ask the doctor if it is possible to delay the treatment.