For many teens, braces are a rite of passage. They are one of the many changes teenagers go through during this time, along with growth in stature, edgier tastes in clothes and music and an increasing degree of self-awareness. Is there any particular reason why orthodontic appliances and teenagers seem to go together? In a word, yes.
There are several good reasons why adolescence is the optimal time for orthodontic treatment, though occasionally even earlier intervention is called for. One has to do with the development of the teeth. There is no set timetable, but generally by the ages of 11-13, the deciduous (baby) teeth have all been lost and the permanent ones have largely come in. This is the time when we can go to work correcting the problems that cause a bad bite (malocclusion), improper tooth spacing or poor alignment.
Orthodontic problems do not improve with age. In fact, they simply become harder to treat. It is easier to treat many orthodontic problems during adolescence because the body is still growing rapidly. Whether standard braces or appliances like palatal expanders are used, improved appearance and function can be created in a short period of time. In later years, when the bones of the face and jaw are fully developed, many conditions become more difficult (and costly) to treat.
There is even a social element to getting orthodontic treatment in adolescence. If you need braces, you are not alone! Chances are you will see some of your classmates in the dental office and you may even make new friends as you go through the process together. When it is done, you will have a smile that you can really be proud of and benefits that will last your whole life.
The Orthodontic Treatment Process
What can you expect when you have orthodontic treatment? It all depends on what kind of treatment you need. At your first appointment, pictures and radiographic (X-ray) images of your mouth are usually taken, along with impressions of your teeth, so that a model of your bite can be made. This information will be used to develop a treatment plan. It may involve regular braces, with or without elastics (rubber bands). A specialized appliance may also be recommended for a period of time. Here are some of the most used orthodontic appliances:
- Metal braces need no introduction, but you might be surprised to find they are smaller and lighter than ever. They may even offer some customized options, like colored elastic ties on the brackets.
- Clear braces feature brackets made of ceramic or composite materials, which blend in with your teeth, making them harder to notice. They are suitable in many situations, but they cost a little more.
- Clear aligners for teens are a series of removable clear plastic trays that gradually straighten teeth. Clear aligners were previously recommended only for adult patients, but now they come with special features, that make them appropriate for teens in some situations, such as compliance indicators to tell how often you have been wearing them. The biggest advantage is that they are practically invisible!
- Lingual braces offer the most unnoticeable form of orthodontic treatment because they are attached to the back (tongue side) of the teeth, where they cannot be seen at all.
- Other orthodontic appliances may be recommended in some cases where major tooth or jaw movement is needed. They can range from small devices that fit inside the mouth to external headgear. You will get used to them and they are only temporary. However, they provide a long-term benefit in a short time.
How Long Will I Wear Them?
There is no one answer that fits everyone. It all depends on what must be done in your individual situation. Generally, however, the active stage of orthodontic treatment lasts between 6-30 months. Afterward, you will wear a retainer for another period of months. When your orthodontic treatment is complete, a new smile will be yours for a lifetime.
Call Lockett Orthodontics today at 719-309-6823 to schedule an appointment with our orthodontist, Dr. Rhoda Lockett, and start on teen orthodontics in Colorado Springs, Colorado!