Whether your little one is experiencing their first adult tooth, or they just lost their last baby tooth, it’s normal to ask yourself: does my child need braces? And if so, which type of braces is best for kids?
With so many options to choose from, it’s hard to make the right decision. Luckily, this is what orthodontists are trained to do: guide you in the right direction. It all starts with a first orthodontic consult, usually at the age of 6, to determine if your child’s will need braces in the future.
Your kid may need certain orthodontic appliances, or braces, or both. Some children go through two phases of treatment at different ages, while others only get braces in their teenage years. Read more about this in this article.
In the meantime, let’s jump into what to actually choose for your child’s teeth once it’s time to get those braces on:
Top 5 Braces For Kids Teeth
Choosing the right type of braces for your budget and lifestyle is never easy, even as an adult, so it’s even more challenging when it comes to our precious children. Will they be uncomfortable? Will they actually wear removable braces or rubber bands? What about eating and brushing?
We address it all in this top 5 list of our favorite braces for kids teeth, along with the pros and cons of each:
1. Traditional Metal Braces
- Most common and effective type: Traditional metal braces have a long history of success and continue to be a popular choice for many kids.
- Colorful elastics: Your child can personalize their braces with a variety of colored elastics, making it a fun experience.
- Relatively affordable: Compared to some of the more “invisible” options, traditional metal braces tend to be on the more affordable side.
- Visibility: Some kids may feel self-conscious about wearing metal braces, as they are quite noticeable.
- Oral hygiene can be tricky: Keeping teeth clean with braces can be more challenging than without, so be prepared to offer a helping hand when it’s time to brush.
2. Self-Ligating Metal Braces
- Faster treatment: Self-ligating braces use clips to hold the archwire instead of elastics, which can translate to quicker treatment times.
- Fewer adjustments needed: With fewer components, there can be fewer adjustments needed (every 8 weeks vs. every 4-6 weeks) which makes the more convenient for parents.
- Less discomfort: These braces can cause less friction and pressure on the teeth, making them more comfortable for your child.
- Price: Self-ligating metal braces can be more expensive than traditional metal braces.
- Still noticeable: While they might be a step up from traditional braces, they are still quite visible on the teeth.
- Smaller size: Mini-braces are smaller than traditional braces, making them less visible and more comfortable.
- Less irritation to cheeks and lips: The smaller brackets can cause less irritation to your child’s cheeks and lips.
- Easier to clean: Probably their biggest pros, their size allows better access for cleaning, which means they’re ideal for small teeth or patients who are prone to swollen gums.
- Cost: Mini-braces may be more expensive than their traditional counterparts, and also more rare to find as not all orthodontists carry them.
- Less efficient: Mini-braces might not be as effective in treating certain orthodontic conditions compared to traditional braces.
4. Invisalign Teen
- Nearly invisible: Invisalign uses clear plastic aligners, meaning they’re almost unnoticeable, which can be a big plus for self-conscious kids.
- Removable: Your child can remove the aligners for eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing, making it much easier to maintain proper oral hygiene. Plus, having no dietary restrictions is a huge advantage at this age.
- Price: Invisalign Teen can be more costly than other types of braces.
- Discipline required: Since the aligners are removable, it’s essential that your child wears them consistently—usually around 20 to 22 hours per day—for the treatment to be effective. Invisalign has developed a wear indicator (blue dots), but orthodontist can easily tell if there’s any progress and sufficient compliance.
5. Partial Braces
- Targeted treatment: If your child only requires minor adjustments or has issues with a few specific teeth, partial braces can target these areas effectively, usually the first 4 front teeth.
- Less noticeable: Depending on the specific tooth or teeth needing treatment, partial braces can sometimes be less visible than other options, since they don’t cover the entire arch.
- Limited use: Partial braces are only effective for specific orthodontic issues, minor crowding or spacing, and they’re usually a temporary solution before it’s time for full braces.
- Potential for uneven results: Depending on the specifics of your child’s case, partial braces could lead to uneven results if not managed properly.
What Braces To Avoid For Kids
Now that we’ve covered what you can reliably choose from, here are some arguments why the braces below don’t make a good choice for children and teen. I see a lot of young teens asking for esthetic braces in my practice, and I always kindly decline and explain why it can set them up for failure.
Ceramic braces might seem like an innocent choice, after all, they’re still braces, but their components are bulkier than traditional metal braces. Due to their size, ceramic braces are harder to clean and care for. They might also feel uncomfortable for children to wear and can cause issues with proper lip closure.
Sapphire braces are another aesthetic option that might be appealing initially. But, just like ceramic braces, they are bulkier and made of a more sensitive material that’s prone to breakage. You don’t want your child to experience constant brace repairs, so it’s wise to steer clear of sapphire braces for a more durable option.
Lingual braces sit behind the teeth, which is why they can be challenging for children to adapt to. The complexity of fitting and adjusting lingual braces makes them less ideal for kids who may already be apprehensive about the orthodontic experience. Also, maintaining proper oral hygiene with these braces can be more difficult, resulting in higher chances of gum issues or cavities for your child.
Aligners, like Invisalign, may seem like a dream come true for kids who want to avoid traditional braces. However, they require a high level of compliance in wearing and maintaining them. Kids need to wear the aligners for 20-22 hours a day, and the responsibility of taking care of them might be too much for some children. If you’re unsure about your child’s ability to follow all the guidelines, you might want to avoid aligners for their orthodontic treatment.
Mini / Partial (Simple Cases Only)
Mini or partial braces cater to specific issues rather than a comprehensive approach like full braces. While these braces can be less visible and appear less invasive, they might not adequately address more complex orthodontic problems.
Top Orthodontic Appliances For Kids Teeth
You might be surprised to discover that your kid not only needs braces, but also needs additional appliances that go with braces. This is nothing to worry about, growing patients have specific needs, and we can make a huge difference in their development at this stage.
Here are some of the most effective appliances that are typically used by orthodontists, but there are far more tools in our arsenal:
A palatal expander is a special appliance designed to correct a narrow upper jaw or palate. By gradually widening the upper jaw, it creates more space for teeth to fit properly and promotes a healthier bite. This orthodontic treatment is typically recommended for kids between the ages of 7 and 12, before the upper jaw has fully developed.
Here’s how a palatal expander works:
- It’s custom-made to fit your child’s upper jaw.
- The device consists of two parts connected by a screw.
- By turning the screw, it gently widens the upper jaw over a span of several weeks.
- Once the desired width is reached, the expander is worn for a few more months to maintain and stabilize the new bone formation.
You can find a full list of articles on palatal expanders in this blog section.
Class correctors, also known as functional appliances, are orthodontic devices used to correct issues with jaw alignment. These appliances are helpful in treating children with Class II or Class III malocclusions (overbite or underbite).
Here’s what you need to know about class correctors:
- They come in removable or fixed options, depending on the severity of the malocclusion and the orthodontist’s recommendation.
- Class correctors are most effective when used during the growth phase of the child’s development, typically between the ages of 9 and 14.
- The most popular class correctors among orthodontists are fixed appliances like Herbst or Forsus, worn in addition to braces. They don’t rely on the child’s compliance, which makes them faster and more effective.
In the end, it’s best to follow your orthodontist’s recommendations when it comes to the material and type of braces. Some teens are mature enough to handle removable clear aligners, while others need more guidance. Similarly, some children do a good job brushing their teeth after every meal, while for others (the vast majority, really), it’s a challenge.
Lastly, don’t ignore your child’s wishes and include them in your decision. Perhaps they don’t even want braces to begin with and it takes more convincing, or deferring to a later time. Best of luck!