Don’t Wait to Get Braces or an Orthodontic Consult for Your Kid
I wish I had started my kids’ braces/orthodontic treatments much sooner.
When I became a parent I had no idea how important caring for teeth would be. As I raised six kids I was constantly wondering, “are they clean? Loose? Is it a Tooth Fairy night again? How many cavities can one child have in his baby teeth exactly?”
There is more to dental care than brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist. I was so ignorant about helping my kids grow a permanent, healthy smile through braces until we began the journey.
I didn’t know that you could start orthodontia so young.
My opinion of orthodontics has changed drastically since having children. Before that, I believed that braces were only for teenagers from wealthy families.
Now that my kids have run the gamut of dental issues, from crowding to strange teeth placements to jaw issues, I’ve learned that braces help all kids, of many ages.
My kids all have healthy, beautiful smiles now; hopefully my experience can help other parents understand the importance of getting kids in braces before they’re teenagers.
CHOOSING AN ORTHODONTIST
I’ve Been Going to Orthodontists for Over a Decade. Here’s How to Choose the Best One
Sooner or later many parents hit the milestone of paying for a kid to get braces. And with it comes the tricky task of finding the best orthodontist for your family.
After walking three of my kids through braces treatment (and am about to start with a fourth), I know a thing or two about what makes a good orthodontist.
When you’re investing in something as major as orthodonticsit’s important to figure out what makes a good orthodontist. If you’re going to be trusting your child’s teeth (and face) to someone, you want someone reliable, experienced, and knowledgeable.
Look for These 5 things When You Choose an Orthodontist
I checked in with Dr. Kevin Knapp of Knapp Orthodontists in Byron Center, and he shared these insightful tips with me.
Dr. Knapp says this is the best way to filter out who should do your treatment.
“Don’t just go to a dentist for orthodontic treatment,” advises Knapp.
“There are dentists that market themselves that they do orthodontics. Don’t go to a dentist that will perform their own orthodontics.”
2) Pick Someone Who Works Well with Your Family
There should be good communication directly between the orthodontist and the parent. A child should never be expected to relay information to the parent.
“We always communicate what was done at each appointment and what is planned for the next appointment, even if it is as simple as changing a wire and talking about rubber bands. That brief interaction is important.”
A likeable, professional presence throughout your child’s treatment makes having braces much more pleasant.
3) Location is Important, to a Point
Finding an office with a convenient location is important since you will be traveling there every four to six weeks.
However, the closest orthodontist won’t necessarily be the best fit for you, so decide how important close proximity is before choosing an orthodontist.
4) Look for a Clean, Modern Office With a Practical View of Technology
Think twice before using an orthodontist who is an early technology adopter. You don’t want to be the patient getting everything new tried out on you.
Look for an orthodontist with a good balance of using proven methods while also looking forward to the newest technology.
“You don’t want anyone stuck in the Stone Age still doing mouth impressions on patients, of course, but also, not someone who is implementing every new thing right away,” advises Dr. Knapp. “Let the technology work some of the kinks out.”
5) Look for an Orthodontist Who Cares About Giving You a Good Experience
Dr. Knapp has a unique way of looking at his role as an orthodontist and orthodontics in general. The patient’s experience as well as the final outcome are tantamount to what he does.
“Orthodontics is like a story, and it’s almost like a little book review each time. Each experience creates value for you being here.
AGES KIDS GET BRACES
Kids are Getting Braces by Age 8 or 9, and It’s Completely Normal
Do you remember the days when braces were a teenager’s right of passage? When we were growing up, we got our metal mouths in high school.
Why all the grade school kids in braces these days?
Dr. Knapp says that age 8 is the sweet spot because it’s between the time when children lose their baby teeth and get their permanent teeth. Tooth and jaw problems are also more easily assessed at this time.
If your dentist encouraged you to get an orthodontist consultation for your 8 year old, the message is getting out. This smart move could save you money and help you avoid more extensive orthodontic treatment later.
Yes, an 8 Year Old Really Does Need an Orthodontic Consultation
Typically referred to as “Phase 1” orthodontic treatment, a child’s jaw is expanded to allow permanent teeth to erupt in optimal positions. This process can often shorten their braces treatment and it’s less intrusive.
Dr. Knapp uses the term “interceptive” treatment rather than “Phase 1.” The word “phase” implies there will be multiple phases. That is not always the case.
“I’m not a huge two-phase orthodontist. I would rather start early and not need later treatment, if possible,” says Dr. Knapp.
Seeing an Orthodontist Early Makes for Shorter, Easier Treatment
Dr. Knapp says treating a child at age 8 or 9 lets an orthodontist prevent problems before they appear outwardly.
“Of course, we are interested in where the teeth end up, but we are also interested in measuring jaw growth and development over these critical ages to make sure the child doesn’t end up with a big underbite or a really big overbite.
Knapp Orthodontics Wants Every Patient to Have Confidence and a Healthy Smile
Dr. Knapp says orthodontics is good for our overall health and happiness. He says adolescents who go through orthodontic treatment have higher confidence and self esteem.
“They are more likely to participate in choir, theater, sports, band, any of these activities where you get up in front of people.” Dr. Knapp says.
Of course, the goal of anyone’s orthodontic treatment is a healthy smile. Dr. Knapp says a confident smile goes a long way toward being successful in life because smiling is one of the principle forms of communication.
“People who go through orthodontic treatment – they smile more. You want to be able to communicate, smile, and laugh.”
HOW BRACES WORK
Your Kid’s Braces Experience Will Be Very Different From Yours
If the last time you had to think about braces was when you had your own set, and you celebrated getting them off with bubble gum and hard candy, please note: the goal is the same, but methods are pretty different.
What Happens at an Orthodontic Consultation?
At the consultation your orthodontist will take x-rays and a series of photos. They will also perform an oral evaluation.
It is now standard to use digital x-ray machines, which use less than half the radiation of non-digital and give much better detail and more information than older machines.
Also, 3D oral scanning takes the place of impressions. (That gooey mess that used to make a model of your mouth is now GONE!)
Dr. Knapp recommends families go to consultations with different orthodontists to understand different options. He says it is important to educate yourself on the current orthodontic methods as well as the different styles of orthodontists.
“I love it when someone comes in here and we are the second or third consult, because I know they are serious about their orthodontic treatment, and they’ve taken the time to look into it.”
Don’t Freak Out When They Expand Your Child’s Jaw
Sometimes nothing needs to be done after the consultation. However, an orthodontist may recommend your child wear a rapid palatal expander.
An expander is the most common orthodontic appliance used during the interceptive phase. It literally creates more space in the mouth for the adult teeth to erupt. The expander helps prevent the need for any teeth pulling or corrective surgery.
Attached to the roof of the child’s mouth, it daily widens the jaw in small increments. The device works rather quickly, and is only used for about a month.
At this time, depending on the treatment plan, the mouth is usually given a time to grow before braces are added.
Kids Have Many Choices for Braces
Braces wearers today have it a lot easier than we did. Metal braces now are smaller, smoother and milled from a single piece of polished stainless steel.
Dr. Knapp also offers clear braces, making them practically unnoticeable. While many orthodontists charge the patient more for the clear braces, Dr. Knapp does not.
Upper braces are put on firstfor comfort, as suddenly having a full mouth of braces can be disconcerting. He also says that kids tend to bite the lower braces off while getting used to them.
Bottom braces go on usually 2 to 3 months into the treatment, and all the braces will come off at the same time.
There are Even New Options for Retainers
So, treatment will continue… forever … because your child will wear a retainer. Teeth shift constantly, so to hold the position that you’ve worked so hard for, the teeth will need to regularly be held in place.
“We think of the bone as this strong, stable object, but it is actually continuously regenerating,” explains Dr. Knapp.
“When the bone regenerates, that tooth is going to shift a little. We recommend for every patient, no matter how old they are, to have and use their retainer.”
Most orthodontists now use clear retainers, which can easily be replaced if lost or destroyed because of the 3D technology from which it was created. Clear retainers offer 360 degrees of coverage as opposed to the “old-fashioned” metal bar retainer which allowed some shifting.
How do Other Families Pay for Braces? Knapp Orthodontics Says You Have Options
Paying for Braces Should Feel Like an Investment, not a Barrier
While it is true that orthodontics is an expense that most of us would rather avoid, the necessity of it makes choosing wisely very important.
A Good Orthodontist Will Work With You on a Plan
Melissa Dekker, office manager at Knapp Orthodontics, says their office understands that paying for braces can feel overwhelming.
“Braces are a huge commitment, and we understand this. It can be daunting thinking about the investment and the time commitment,” she says.
When you attend an orthodontic consultation, make sure you clearly understand that office’s procedures and requirements for payment. There will be a down payment and monthly payments that will span your child’s treatment.
Knapp Orthodontics has Flexible Financing Plans for Every Situation
“Our consultations are free, and we would love to have anyone come in so they can better understand the whole process, and we can go over our affordable financing options,” says Melissa.
Families who go to Knapp Orthodontics get to choose their down payment and their monthly payments. The down payment can be as low as $250.
Double the Kids in Orthodontia Doesn’t Mean Double the Payments at Knapp
Often families have more than one child in orthodontics at the same time. How do families pay for more than one set of braces at once?
Dekker says at Knapp Orthodontics for these families, payments can be made even more affordable in order to have the convenience of having both kids in treatment.
“We understand that it is a big financial commitment, so we work hard to have as little barriers as possible for them to get started,” she says.
My Life Lesson for You: Go to Several Consultations
Consultations are, or at least should be, free. Find someone you like who will work well with your family. Orthodontists are not all the same.
Dr. Knapp agrees that it is very important to work with families and have incredibly flexible payment plans.
“If it is coming down to finances, let us see what someone else gave as an estimate, and we can work with that. What I would hate is for someone to walk out of the office and want to work with us, but go somewhere else because of the price.”
2465 Byron Station Dr SW Suite D Byron Center, MI 49315
Michelle Smith and her husband live in Lowell where they have been homeschooling their children for many years. They are currently educating three of them and have three graduates. Michelle enjoys classical ballet and live theater, especially musicals, both being in the audience and working backstage.