Orthodontics in Children: Everything You Need to Know

Solving bite problems at an early age is a good idea because the bone is still growing. That's why orthodontics in children will be more effective and faster. Keep reading to find out more!
Orthodontics in Children: Everything You Need to Know
Vanesa Evangelina Buffa

Written and verified by the dentist Vanesa Evangelina Buffa.

Last update: 08 October, 2022

Many times, during childhood, there are alterations in the development of the bones and in the position of the teeth that can lead to bite problems. Orthodontics in children is the treatment that allows us to correct these disorders from an early age.

To guide bone growth, correct the position of the jaws and teeth, or align the latter in the arch is what this therapy seeks to do. A correct relationship between the upper and lower teeth allows the child to exercise the functions of the mouth normally.

Acting from an early age makes it possible to treat problems from the beginning, preventing them from progressing and becoming worse. Treatments aren’t only more effective, but are also more comfortable, shorter, and even cheaper!

Read on and find out all about orthodontics in children.

When are orthodontics for children necessary?

There are many reasons why orthodontics may be necessary for children. At this age, we have the advantage that the bones are still growing and the teeth are adjusting.

This allows the use of appliances to solve many malocclusion situations, such as the following:

  • Ogival or narrow palates: The palate is narrower and has a domed area in the center.
  • Class II or retrognathia: The upper jaw is very advanced concerning the lower jaw.
  • Class III or prognathism: The jaw is far forward.
  • Open bite: The upper and lower teeth don’t come into contact when closing the mouth.
  • Crossbite: The lower teeth are located outside the upper teeth when biting.
  • Dental malpositions: Teeth are out of the dental arch, crowded, or crooked.

A dentist makes a diagnosis of malocclusion after an oral examination and complementary studies. In any case, there are some symptoms that parents may observe that suggest the need for orthodontics in children:

  • Premature loss of baby teeth.
  • Dysfunctional habits: Thumb sucking, nail-biting, bottle or pacifier use after 2 years of age, mouth breathing, atypical swallowing.
  • Difficulty in pronouncing some phonemes.
  • Crowded, gapped, crooked teeth, or a disharmonious face.
  • Pain, noises, or problems with biting or eating.

It’s important to observe the process of dental eruption and the way children chew, swallow, and speak to discover these situations that may attract attention. That way, you can let your dentist know as soon as possible, and they’ll be able to find the problems if there are any.

A child at the orthodontist.
A dental professional’s in charge of determining if there’s a need for orthodontics and, if so, what’s the best option.

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When should a child’s first visit to the dentist be?

The first visit to the pediatric dentist should take place before the child’s first birthday. Early and regular visits, every six months, allow the professional to detect and disorder.

In addition to examining the mouth and following the growth process of the child’s bones and teeth, the dentist advises parents on the care of the oral cavity. In the case of detecting any illness or disorder, they’ll carry out the appropriate treatment. And if there’s a bite problem that can’t be solved, the dentist will refer the child to an orthodontist.

When dental replacement begins, between 6 and 7 years of age, it’s best to consult with an orthodontist for an analysis of your child’s occlusion. The professional will thoroughly examine the teeth, mouth, and bite.

In addition, it may be necessary to take some x-rays, photographs, or make impressions of the mouth to make models and study the case. The orthodontist may inquire about the way the child eats and speaks, their habits, and any biting problems.

Bringing your child for early consultation doesn’t mean that orthodontics should be used immediately. Having an early diagnosis allows the professional to choose the best alternative and also the ideal time to use it.

Using orthodontics in children gives us the possibility of repositioning the teeth and molding the growing bones more easily than in an adult. In addition, it prevents the alteration from continuing and complicating the entire situation.

Types and options for orthodontics in children

Orthodontic treatment corrects occlusion and alignment problems through continuous pressure on certain areas of the bones or teeth. This causes the bone tissue to grow in a certain direction or the teeth to move into the correct position.

There are different orthodontic options for children. The choice of the appliance depends on the needs of the clinical case and the age of the patient.

Functional appliances

This type of orthodontics in children is useful during temporary or mixed dentition, which is when there are baby teeth and permanent teeth in the mouth. They are removable appliances whose design works on the position of the muscles responsible for mobilizing the jaw.

The direction and intensity of the muscular forces are guided, which, over time, also translates into structural changes in the mouth. For it’s the muscles that move the teeth and even modify the bone that supports the teeth.

Interceptive orthodontics

These are treatments with removable appliances that orthodontists use during childhood, while the skeleton is still developing. This type of orthodontics in children intercepts abnormal bone growth and guides the maxillofacial structure to develop correctly.

It uses removable appliances that the patient can put in and take out by themselves for eating and hygiene. However, the more you use it, the better the results.

In general, they consist of acrylic plates with other attachments, such as arches, springs, or screws. This way, the appliance applies active mechanical force to the structures that need modification, either to guide bone growth and expand the bone or to produce specific dental movements.

This category also includes masks for external use that are useful in treating class III malocclusions, for example. The child uses them during the night while they sleep.

Fixed appliances

Fixed orthodontics in children consists of the placement of brackets on the tooth surfaces, which are joined by a metal arch. As the name implies, the braces are attached to the teeth, and the patient can’t remove them.

This orthodontic system for children is capable of moving every tooth individually, in any desired direction. It’s placed in the mouth during adolescence when tooth replacement is complete, but the bone is still growing.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to complement the treatment with tooth extractions, especially if there’s a lack of space to rearrange the teeth. This approach is effective in cases of diastemas, crowding, rotated teeth, and other dental malpositions.

Although we associate fixed orthodontics with the classic use of brackets and metal wires, the truth is that there are many variations to make patients feel comfortable with their braces. There are more aesthetic options that use ceramic brackets, sapphire brackets, and even some that go on the inside of the teeth so that they’re not visible.

The bracket bands come in various colors so that the child can change and combine them as they wish.

Invisalign-type invisible orthodontics

This orthodontic option for children uses clear aligners that the patient can put in and take out on their own. The action of these appliances is similar to that of braces but may be more comfortable and easier to use.

The dentist makes a series of special clear plastic trays for the mouth. These are periodically replaced to apply the necessary forces to mobilize the teeth.

The patient must remove them to eat, clean them, and sanitize their mouth. However, they must be worn most of the day, at least 22 hours a day, for the treatment to be effective.

Care and recommendations for children with braces

The use of orthodontics in children implies paying attention to a series of details that will make the treatment successful and the rest of the mouth healthy. The following are some of the measures parents should consider their children use orthodontic appliances.

Dental hygiene

It’s essential to pay special attention to the cleanliness of the mouth. These appliances favor the accumulation of bacterial plaque, increasing the risk of suffering problems such as caries and gingivitis.
Toothbrushing should take place every day, after every meal, taking care to clean all tooth surfaces. This should involve a soft bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. What’s more, the child should use dental floss once a day and mouth rinses if their dentist recommends them.

Patients who wear removable appliances should remove them to sanitize them and brush their teeth as usual. The clear trays should be cleaned with effervescent tablets to remove impurities once a week.

In the case of children who wear braces, cleaning’s more difficult, but they must take the time to do it correctly. The use of special orthodontic brushes, whether interdental or electric, can be of great help to carry out this task and access all areas. Oral irrigators are also very useful.

Taking care of your diet

When removable braces are used, they’re removed at mealtime, and the patient eats normally. But for children with braces, care with certain foods is necessary.

Very hard or sticky foods that can break or detach the appliance should be avoided. Candy, nuts, chocolates, apples, and very chewy foods are some examples.

Teeth with braces with colorful bands.
Orthodontic appliances can be fixed or removable, although the latter requires 22 hours of daily use.

Managing discomfort

The beginning of orthodontic treatment in children can be uncomfortable. Not only is there a foreign object in the child’s mouth that they have to adapt to, but the forces the appliance exerts can also cause pain.

In general, these sensations are temporary, and the child gets used to them. In any case, the dentist may prescribe medication for these critical moments.

The use of fluoride toothpaste is important to avoid associated dental sensitivity. Injuries to the mucosa of the mouth due to friction or trauma with appliances are also frequent. They tend to disappear on their own, but the placement of orthodontic wax in the sharp areas can prevent them.

Attending check-ups

It’s vital to keep the scheduled appointments with the dentist and comply with their instructions. The dentist will monitor and readjust the treatment to advance. Consulting the professional when there’s a concern, accident, or breakage of the appliances is key.

Removable appliances and elastic bands should be worn as long as suggested, and care should be taken not to lose them. The retention period in which special appliances are placed in the mouth to hold the teeth in place must be respected. This prevents them from returning to their initial position.

You may also be interested in reading: Dental Bridge: Types, Benefits, and Disadvantages

How long will they be necessary?

The duration of orthodontic treatments in children depends on the problem that needs to be solved and the appliances used. In general, the time of use ranges from 18 to 36 months, also subject to the patient’s cooperation.

During the treatment, the child should visit the orthodontist regularly, once every month. During these check-ups, adjustments are made, and progress is monitored.

Orthodontics in children help prevent future complications

Performing orthodontic treatment in children helps solve the current problems in the child’s mouth. Treatment options will allow them to bite, eat, and speak normally, and even their smile will look more beautiful.

However, it’s important to remember that acting early prevents many problems in the future. That’s because, during childhood, treatments are faster, more comfortable, effective, and cheaper. Solving bite disorders during childhood helps kids have a healthy mouth in adulthood.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.