Over four million kids get braces every year, says the American Association of Orthodontics. Many more need them, but opt not to. One study among dentists reveals that 3 out of 4 kids are considered ‘candidates’ for braces, due to typical problems like crossbite, overbite, underbite, crowded teeth, or irregular spaces between teeth.
Dentists urge parents to correct these dental problems since any irregularities will cause teeth to wear down unevenly, and eventually lead to periodontal disease. However, lots of kids are afraid to get braces—and even parents have their qualms. Here are some common concerns, plus the facts that will help assure both of you.
1. Will braces hurt?
Today’s braces are far less painful. Dentists now use modern materials that are very light and actually quite comfortable, so you don’t feel like you’ve got a mouth full of scratchy, heavy metal. However, braces will be tightened every so often, and the mouth will feel a little sore for a few days after the appointment. The pain is quite easy to manage, though. Just keep over-the-counter pain medication, and serve soft food (yay, license to eat spaghetti and ice cream for days!). Some kids complain that the new brackets chafe the inside of their lips, but that’s also easily solved. Ask the orthodontist for a special wax that you can rub on the brackets.
2. Do I have to stop eating my favorite food?
Well, there are some really hard and sticky foods (like ooey-gooey caramel) that you’d probably want to avoid. These can pull off or dislodge the brackets, and while the problem’s easy to fix—your dentist just needs to wire things back into place—you’d really like to spare yourself the inconvenience of making an appointment.
Your orthodontist will give you a list of food no-no’s. Don’t worry, it’s only for a little while, and a small price to pay for the perfect smile.
3. Will I look funny?
Lots of kids wear braces, so don’t worry about looking like an idiot. In fact, whoever laughs at you is the one being stupid—he must’ve lived under a rock for several decades, if he’s never seen braces before. If you’re really bothered about the way braces look, though, you can ask the orthodontist for clear or tooth-colored ceramic braces, or a special product called Invisalign that uses inconspicuous plastic molds.
In some cases, the orthodontist may recommend using special headgear to wear at night, or a mouth guard for sports. After you were braces, you may also wear retainers. All professional athletes wear mouth guards so that’s actually kind of cool. Nobody will see you when you wear your headgear, and retainers are just a thin band that you’ll never notice. Just take care of these things, because they’re expensive.
4. Will it take up a lot of time?
Not really. Your first few appointments will take longer than usual, because the orthodontist needs to check your teeth and then make a plaster cast or do x-rays. Sometimes you may need a tooth extraction. However, once the braces are in place, you’ll only need to see your othodontist every four to six weeks, and each appointment will take less than 20 minutes. It won’t cramp your social life that much!
5. How expensive will braces be?
Well, the average cost of braces is $5000 to $6,000 dollars. Yes, that’s a lot of money. However, many orthodontists offer flexible payment options. You get a hefty discount if you pay the full amount up-front, but you can also ask for monthly payments that are even free of any interest.
Ideally your dental insurance plan will cover at least some of the cost of braces (a really good plan will contribute almost 50%). Usually the insurance payments are made over several months, so ask your orthodontist for a similar scheme.
Some companies also provide tax-free spending accounts for health care as part of their employee benefits. Use this to pay for braces, especially if you have a separate health insurance policy that can give you coverage for your other health concerns.
6. How long do I have to wear the braces
It differs from case to case, but definitely a lot depends on whether or not you follow your orthodontist’s instructions! If you skip appointments, or forget to wear your headgear or retainer, then the treatment will stretch out far longer than necessary.
7. Will the braces make me talk/kiss/smile funny?
You may feel uncomfortable and awkward in the beginning, but you’ll adjust in about one to two weeks, and act like you’ve had braces all your life! You’ll still talk the same, and your smile will even look better as your teeth improve. AS for kissing—no, the braces don’t interfere at all.