How to Tell if A Child Needs Braces


The late Dr. Edward Banfield of Harvard University conducted 50 years of research to determine what the single most important factor in determining social and economic success was. He discovered that it was not education, intelligence or connections. The strongest predictor of such success was ‘long-term perspective’; the ability to clearly understand the long-term scope of their lives and the goals. Such clarity granted these people the ability to make better decisions in the present for the sake of their long term interests.


What does that have to do with a child needing braces? Excellent question. More than almost any other dental treatment, braces and other orthodontic appliances require a ‘long-term perspective’ for both parents and children alike. Many worry that the aesthetics of metal wires and brackets that make up braces are too large of a sacrifice to make in the short-term for better long-term oral health and a beautiful and healthy smile. The tricky thing with braces is that the time in life when they are most commonly needed and recommended is also the time when people almost always lack a long-term perspective – 8 to 13 years old. Often, people (yours truly included) who neglect such treatment for whatever short-sighted reasons realize later in life (teenage life and young adulthood) that the decision never gets any easier.


How to Tell if Braces are Needed?


The most common indicator of a need for braces are crooked teeth. There are many other signs that your child may benefit from orthodontic treatment. Such signs include;


  • The early, late or irregular loss of baby teeth

  • Issues and difficulty with chewing and biting

  • Teeth that are misplaced, crowded or even blocking one another out

  • Jaw issues such as shifting or clicking

  • Constant and accidental biting of the cheek or roof of the mouth

  • Large or uneven gaps between teeth

  • Large and disproportional teeth relative to one another or the rest of the face (including peg laterals)


Many of the above issues are genetic in nature. If parents required or had orthodontic treatments, their children are more likely to have braces to fix spacing or bite issues. Other issues or behaviours that can lead to the need for braces include thumb sucking, mouth breathing, poor oral hygiene habits resulting in decay, poor nutrition and accidents or trauma.


What are the Benefits of Braces?


This is where that long-term perspective comes into play. For a short period of time there will some discomfort in adjusting to the braces. What this period eventually leads to is a healthy, straight and beautiful smile worth the investment in time, money and foresight. The period of benefit is exponentially longer than the period with braces in. Orthodontic treatment is recommended and used to resolve issues leading to improper bites, meaning they resolve issues including the following are easily treated;


  • Crooked, crowded, missing or extra teeth – all such issues can create areas that are vulnerable to plaque buildup that is hard to reach or treat.

  • Jaw issues – including over or under bites, incorrect jaw positioning that lead to pain (including headaches) and discomfort that worsen over time.


Crowded teeth before and after braces.

Crowded teeth before and after braces.


As with all oral health issues and treatments, early diagnosis and action are incredibly beneficial for those requiring braces. Problems including spacing and irregular bites can be identified and diagnosed during regular dental visits creating a proactive treatment plan rather than a reactive one. Early action is both easier on your child’s mouth and your wallet. Age is also a factor as a jaw that is younger and still growing is easier to plan with than one that is mature. Be sure to establish a regular dental schedule and ask questions about things that may concern you if you feel your child needs braces. Although your dentist may not provide orthodontic work, they will be able to diagnose issues early and recommend a qualified colleague.


Sources: Delta Dental, Eat That Frog – Brian Tracy

Photos: Dr. George E. BardawilCoquitlam Orthodontist

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