Children get braces for a number of reasons, including gaps between the teeth, teeth that are overlapping each other, or those that are placed in a position that's not esthetically pleasing. There may also be a difference in the size of the upper jaw as compared to the lower jaw. A child may have had habits like thumb sucking, the prolonged use of a pacifier beyond six years of age, or tongue thrusting, which again lead to misaligned teeth — but don’t worry, with the right type of braces the perfect smile is within reach for the vast majority of patients.
The right age for the first orthodontic visit may be as early as seven years of age, or as late as 45 or 50 years of age, depending on the problem the patient is suffering from. Age does impact the type of braces suitable for the patient. A seven-year old may be prescribed the use of a Headgear or a Forsus Appliance, which is used before actual braces to allow the permanent teeth to erupt in a better position which can later be further corrected with some type of braces.
1. Traditional metal braces
These are made of stainless steel with brackets fixed onto all the teeth, through which a metallic archwire passes. Each bracket has a colorful rubber band around it, which is changed during each orthodontic visit. These are the most commonly used type of braces all over the world.
2. Ceramic braces
These are similar to metal braces in the way work, but are better looking as the metal bracket on each tooth is replaced by clear ceramic brackets. The advantage of using ceramic braces is that they look less obtrusive. However, the wire running through them is still made of metal. Ceramic braces are more expensive than metal braces and may discolor over time due to the rubber bands and the individual’s diet.
3. Self-ligating braces
These are available with both metal and ceramic brackets, and don't make use of elastics or rubber bands. The wire is joined to the brackets with the help of clips. This is a newer technology than the previous two, so it's also more expensive. The advantage of self-ligating braces is that it is easier for the child to maintain good oral hygiene while they have the braces on, as they are easier to brush around. The rubber bands in the traditional braces tend to trap food on the tooth's surface. They are also more aesthetic as compared to the traditional metal and ceramic alternatives. Again, though, the wire running through them is still metal. They allow the same treatment to be completed faster as compared to traditional braces.
Damon braces are a type of clear self-ligating braces in which the wire is attached to the brackets with a slide mechanism. They move naturally as the teeth realign. The biggest advantage is that this requires fewer visits to the dental office as they gradually tighten on their own. They exert less pressure on the teeth than all the previous types of braces, and are less obtrusive than metal braces. However, the wire running through them is still metal and they are an expensive option too.
4. Lingual braces
Lingual braces are highly specialized braces that are placed on the inside of the tooth. The brackets for these braces are customized for the shape of the inner side of each tooth. They have a wire running through them, and also feature rubber bands around the brackets. These braces are not suitable for all cases, and the orthodontist decides who is a candidate. The biggest advantage of these braces is that they are not visible on the outside at all. The disadvantage is that the tongue may rub against them for a while before the wearer gets accustomed. Lingual braces are an expensive option fitted by specialized orthodontists trained in their use only. They are more of a treatment option for adults.
5. Clear aligners
Clear aligners are removable transparent or invisible braces. They are custom-made "trays" that snugly fit on the upper and lower teeth and gently move them like braces. They can be worn throughout the day and are removed only when eating, drinking, and brushing. The patient is given multiple sets of trays for upper and lower teeth, which are changed every two to three weeks after wearing one set for 20 hours per day. The most popular brand of clear aligners is Invisalign.
The advantage is that the dentist will be able to show you the final outcome of the treatment before you even begin, by way of a computerized analysis. This is also more favored for young adults or adults who will follow the discipline of wearing the aligners for the required number of hours. They are not recommended for all kinds of cases, but can be used most of the time. They are an expensive option as well.
A final word
Most braces are followed by a period during which retainers are used. Retainers are removable appliances that stabilize and maintain the result of the treatment. Sometimes, braces need to be accompanied by other appliances like a palatal expander, or by minor surgical procedures like a frenectomy. The extraction of two to four teeth may also be required to create space. Modern orthodontics is highly evolved and will be able to give predictable results through any one of these options.