Selecting the Right Dental Braces for Your Child

Crooked or crowded teeth and misaligned bites are dental problems for which your family dentist may recommend braces to correct and improve your child's appearance. While there are several different kinds of braces available, a dentist or orthodontist can explain what kind of appliance is most appropriate for positioning your child's teeth.

Bracket Types

Traditional orthodontic treatment involves bonding brackets to the teeth. Arch wires are threaded through the brackets to guide each tooth into position. Although metal (stainless steel) brackets are the most common, tooth-colored ceramic and clear plastic brackets, and lingual brackets are available if your child is highly self-conscious about his or her appearance. While more expensive, plastic aligners are another possible option for an older teen who doesn't have a bite problem.

Metal Brackets

Metal braces generally are a more affordable option than other types of braces. They are stronger than ceramic braces, take less time to install, and can correct most orthodontic problems. Although they are noticeable, metal brackets are available in a variety of fun shapes to make them more appealing to youngsters.

If your child needs more serious orthodontic correction for crowded teeth, a jaw problem, or misaligned bite, metal braces may be necessary. On the plus side, the tracks are smaller and made of lighter-weight wire than those of earlier versions of traditional metal braces. Newer models also are more comfortable to wear and work more quickly.

Along with applying pressure to the brackets and teeth, heat-activated arch wires respond to the heat in your child's mouth. Body heat makes the flexible wires stiff, which then creates a force that helps to move and straighten teeth.

Ceramic Brackets

Because they are translucent, ceramic braces blend in with the natural color of your child's teeth. Although the brackets are made of composite materials that won't stain, the elastic wires that hold the brackets in place can discolor. The good news is the wires are changed each time your child sees the dentist or orthodontist for an adjustment.

Ceramic brackets are more expensive than metal brackets and often require more visits. This type of bracket also can chip or break, potentially increasing the overall cost of treatment. But for some patients, the cosmetic appeal of ceramic braces outweighs the higher cost.

If your child tends to bite down hard, his or her orthodontist may advise against putting ceramic brackets on their lower teeth. As an alternative, the orthodontist may suggest putting ceramic braces only on the top teeth and stainless steel braces on the bottom teeth.

Clear Brackets

Except for the arch wires, the design of clear braces makes them basically unnoticeable. The ties used to attach the arch wires to the brackets are clear elastic or made of white metal. Although they are less noticeable, the metal brace wires can eventually lose their white coating.

Hidden Brackets

Lingual, or hidden, braces attach to the back of the teeth, hiding the metal brackets from view. Like metal and ceramic braces, this type of appliance uses wires to move the teeth into the correct position. Lingual braces generally are used to correct only minor orthodontic problems.

Orthodontists often don't recommend lingual braces for children as they can hurt their tongue and make it hard to talk. In addition, not all orthodontists have the expertise to install lingual braces.

Custom-Fitted Aligners

Aligners are a clear, removable type of braces that normally are an option for adults who don't have a serious alignment problem. Although there are no brackets or wires, dentists don't recommend this type of appliance for children or adolescents who don't yet have all their permanent teeth. Invisible aligners are designed to fit the teeth tightly; therefore, they aren't a practical choice for children who are still growing. Also, if your child has a more serious orthodontic problem, it may take a fixed appliance to straighten teeth or move them into the correct position. For more information, talk to a professional like Cazes Family Dentistry LLC.