Twelve year old Brittney Bland was scared to think about braces when she was younger. She's not anymore.
"I got a little excited and stuff, because it seemed like everybody else had braces on," Bland said as she recently got her braces fitted at the University of Washington School of Dentistry.
Half the insured kids in Washington State end up with some orthodontic treatment said Dr. Greg Huang. He's Chair and Professor of Orthodontics at the University of Washington. He said he's heard it all from tweens and teens.
"Doctor do I have to wear braces? Can I use clear braces? Can I use invisible braces? Could I use the clear shells, which are called Invisalign?" Dr. Huang recalled.
He said parents can expect different answers, because orthodontists don't all agree. Here are his tips to help parents sort it out.
First, plan ahead. Kids should be evaluated by an orthodontist at around age seven said Dr. Huang. A few of them might need early treatment, but most kids who get braces are fitted between ages eleven and thirteen.
"The reason is, that coincides with a period when typically kids get most of their permanent teeth in," he said.
Second, ask friends whose kids already have braces who they would recommend. Then compare orthodontists.
"If you went someplace and you're absolutely thrilled with that orthodontist, you really feel a good rapport with that orthodontist, that's wonderful. Maybe you start right into treatment. But if you feel a little uncomfortable, I think the smartest thing you could do is to get another opinion," Huang said.
Third, talk about your expectations with your orthodontist. Learn more about the timeline for treatment.
Fourth, ask questions. If an orthodontist uses 3-D imaging you should ask why it might be needed for your child. It gives more complete pictures, but exposes kids to more radiation than standard X-rays.
"If they had an impacted tooth, if they had unusual jaw discrepancies, I think it's absolutely indicated. But if my child comes with what I hope will be maybe just a minor malocclusion for me to correct, I probably would avoid exposing them to additional radiation if I didn't feel there was extra information to be gained."
Most important of all, make sure your child is willing to put in the time and effort. Braces can stay on for two years, and maintaining them takes lots of extra care. Brittney has committed to that care, because of her goal.
"I want to see a straight white smile," she said flashing a smile.
Dr. Huang said kids should realize that once braces come off they'll need to wear a retainer for a long time. Consider it insurance that their new smile will stay beautiful.
Fees for braces usually range from $5,000 to $7,000. The University of Washington School of Dentistry sees young patients for less, and the program takes children who are covered by DSHS.