Does My Child Really Need Braces?

If you are the parent of an elementary-aged child or young teenager, odds are your dentist has probably recommended braces at some point. Perhaps you have even had a consultation with an orthodontist and they provided you a general treatment plan and cost. At this point, several concerns may have come over you: the cost involved, the idea of putting your child through several years of wearing braces, and perhaps even the fact that your child’s teeth seem pretty straight to you. Do they really need braces then? This is a very common question that has some simple answers. 

The questions surrounding the necessity of braces most frequently come when the patient in question has relatively straight teeth. It is easy to wonder why someone would need a tooth-straightening treatment if his or her teeth already appear to be aligned well.

While this is certainly a valid question, it is based on a false assumption. The assumption being that the reason for straightening teeth is cosmetic. Although improved aesthetics are a nice by-product of orthodontic treatment, it is far from the overall objective. 

Thanks to decades of research and experimentation, orthodontists now know that all human teeth have a certain alignment that allows teeth to come together (bite) in the most effective manner possible. In fact, human teeth have evolved to have the morphology they do because they are all meant to fit together in a very particular, repeatable way. This is true for everyone. 

Therefore, the purpose of orthodontic treatment is not for improved aesthetics, but improved dental health. Aside from being more attractive, straight teeth are less prone to decay because they are easier to keep clean, chew and break up food with the least amount of effort, thereby reducing jaw pain and TMJ, are less likely to chip or break due to incorrect bite patterns, and more. The bottom line is that straight teeth are healthy teeth. The fact that straight teeth are also considered more attractive is just icing on the cake. 

Consider this: essentially all major dental insurance carriers cover some portion of orthodontic treatment. Would they do so if orthodontics were merely a cosmetic treatment? Not a chance. They cover it because it is known that orthodontics is a health issue, and that it will result in fewer dental problems later in life. So, to answer the question, “does my child really need braces,” the answer is certain: absolutely!

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Ivan is a Dental School student on his way to become a Prosthodontist. Originally from Bulgaria, Ivan speaks 3 languages.

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