October 26, 2018 3 min read

- Dr. Ellis here for Oral Care Club, answering a question I get asked a lot by parents, and that is, does my child need braces? The answer to that question typically is no, because they put the word need in the sentence.

You only really need orthodontia or braces for two reasons. Number one is loss of function. When I say loss of function, let's say you can only chew in one or two spots. Your teeth only touch in one or two spots. Well then, that becomes very difficult for the child to chew their food completely and can lead to easily choking.

If you only touch on one side or a couple spots, then that can lead to your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ as it's commonly known, having a lot of pain and dysfunction there. Another one is development of speech patterns. If your child is unable to form words clearly, and you've taken them to tutors in speech and they still can't get them to speak clearly, maybe the teeth are misaligned.

The teeth and or jaws are misaligned such that the tongue and the lips, cheeks, can't help the child to form the words correctly because the teeth are so out of alignment. So, number one would be dysfunction. Dysfunction in the speech, dysfunction in the chewing, dysfunction in the joints associated with the jaws. Number two would be, kind of, just a social inhibition.

If your child can't really interact well socially due to the nature of their teeth being so misaligned, teeth and/or jaws being so misaligned that they don't feel confident interacting socially. And if it inhibits them getting a job when they turn to teenagers, and usual teenage jobs are customer service, sales, that kind of thing.

Nobody should be discriminated against, but it's the first thing people see. And so, if it really keeps them from being able to get employment and to interact socially with their peers, then that might be another reason that you wanna do that. So just the two main reasons that you would absolutely need braces is the dysfunction and the social problems that come along with the teeth that are misaligned.

After that, if you have a, after that, it's pretty much up to you. You have a scale, one to 1-0. 10 being perfectly straight teeth and zero being teeth that are completely, ultimately crooked and misaligned. If your child is an eight on that scale, well, what do you do? Well, it's completely up to you. I have had patients that are a six on that scale, and they and their children choose not to do any orthodontia at all. I've had patients on that scale that are a nine, and the parents and the children have decided to go ahead and do the orthodontia. So, it's really up to you.

There are other small cosmetic concerns, straighter teeth are a little bit easier to clean. You can clean teeth that are not perfectly straight. So there's just a few other concerns. But really it's a cosmetic issue, up to you. I have put all of my children through braces, I went through braces myself, my wife did as well. So it's definitely something that can help make you feel more confident in your smile, but to absolutely need braces, the pool of those people is very small. So decide with yourself, relatives, family, whatever the case may be, whether orthodontia is right for you.