7 questions to help parents brace for orthodontia

bracesIf your child is starting elementary school, believe it or not, it's time to start thinking about braces.

There are plenty of questions when it comes to orthodontia, from "How do you know if your kid needs braces?" to "How much will it cost?" Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers from Dr. Chris Koterwas of Koterwas Orthodontics in Prince Frederick and Dr. Ora Reinheimer from Philbin and Reinheimer Orthodontics in Annapolis.

Commonly asked questions about braces

  1. At what age should a child be evaluated for orthodontics? The American Association of Orthodontics recommends children be evaluated by age of 7. By this time, several permanent teeth have usually erupted and the orthodontist is able to see any pattern that is beginning to emerge, according to Reinheimer. This does not mean a child is ready for braces, but allows the orthodontist to screen for subtle problems with jaw growth or emerging teeth, Koterwas says. One of the best times for treatment is during the child's growth years, because the teeth and jaws can be guided to move into the correct position during development, Reinheimer says.
  2. What if my child is already a teenager? It's never too late to correct poor tooth alignment, according to Reinheimer. It's easier and faster when a child is young, but can be successful even into the adult years, she says.
  3. What is Phase 1 and is it necessary? Also called Interceptive Orthodontia, Phase 1 intervenes in the early stages of a developing problem to lessen the severity of a malformation, according to Reinheimer. It can correct harmful oral habits and guide the growth of the jaw bones that support the teeth so teeth come in straight and the jaw grows in the correct alignment. Phase 1 is usually for children between the ages of 7 and 10 with significant problems, Koterwas says.
  4. What are the different types of treatment? The main options are traditional braces, with brackets and rubber bands; Damon braces, with a bracket that does not use rubber bands; and Invisalign, which uses custom-made aligner trays to straighten teeth.
  5. How much will treatment cost? Both orthodontists agree that each case is different, and both provide a free consultation to discuss treatment and payment options. Once the doctor has determined the length and complexity of the orthodontic case, then finances can be discussed. Costs very widely, the doctors agree, and some insurances contribute.
  6. What is the average length of treatment? Koterwas says the length of a case varies based on the complexity and type of braces chosen. The average length of treatment in his office is 18 months.
  7. Can kids with braces still play an instrument and sports? Yes! Special mouthguards protect an athlete's teeth, Koterwas says. And for those playing an instrument, braces may take some getting used to but should not interfere after an adjustment period, he says.

By Betsy Stein

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