Just when you think you have everything down as a parent, you find out it's time to take your child to his first orthodontist visit. Dr. Jay Oltjen says, "It's best to see children by age 7 to advise if orthodontic treatment is required and the best time for that patient to be treated." Basically, the earlier any orthodontic treatment is started, the easier it will be to correct problems in the long run.

There are many different reasons for kids to need orthodontic care, including overbite, underbite and crowded or overlapping teeth. Some of these problems can be caused by things like thumb sucking, accidents or tooth decay and some can even be inherited. Benefits of having straight teeth include making maintenance easier, which can prevent cavities; preventing wear on the surfaces of teeth; reducing stress on supportive teeth bones and gum tissue and alleviating jaw joint problems that can cause headaches.

Your child's first trip to the orthodontist (who has two to three years more education than your family dentist) is nothing to be feared. A local orthodontist says, "At your child's first orthodontic visit (about 45 minutes in length), the pain-free examination will include digital photos, an X-ray and evaluation. Any questions you have will be explained thoroughly." A mold of your child's teeth may need to be taken. Your child may end up needing no orthodontic care for a few years, if at all.

These days there are many different options for orthodontic care. Eva Gavin, mom of four boys, says her 9-year-old son wears a "retainer that I can adjust at home myself weekly, which saves a lot of time going to the orthodontist. The goal is to get some teeth moved before he needs braces and might even prevent the need for braces." Her 7-year-old son wears a permanent spacer.

Braces are, of course, a possibility, and they have come a long way. Your child can get clear, gold or tooth-colored braces instead of just silver metal. Many local orthodontists allow you to choose the color of ties that hold the wire brackets. You could even decide to choose Invisalign, which is like a set of clear retainers (changed about every two weeks) that can be removed for eating, drinking, brushing and flossing.

If your child does end up needing braces or some other device, she need not be limited. She can still play sports and musical instruments (may take a little practice at first) and can even have an occasional soda (brush afterward!).

While kids used to dread the prospect of braces, now many of them actually look forward to it. It's completely worthwhile in the end when they see their beautiful new smiles.

Foods to avoid when you have braces:

  • Chewy foods like bagels, hard rolls, licorice
  • Crunchy foods like popcorn, ice, chips
  • Sticky foods like caramels and gum
  • Hard foods like nuts and candy
  • Foods you need to bite into like corn on the cob, apples, carrots

Related Articles

How to Prepare Your Child for a Visit to the Dentist
How to Prepare Your Child for the Dentist


Kerrie McLoughlin (TheKerrieShow.com) makes regular trips to the orthodontist with three of her five kids in braces.