Our Child's Addiction - a $7000 habit part 4, Treatment Time
Treatment Time Varies
While your dentist or orthodontist will provide an estimate of how long your child may need to wear blocks or braces, many factors can influence the overall treatment time. The time your child might need braces will primarily depend upon the severity of their overbite, overjet, or other malocclusions. For example, one of my sons had an overbite that responded relatively quickly to treatment using braces. However, for our youngest son, the issues are complex. It is expected that his treatment will take approximately two and a half years, assuming no other factors slow his progress. But what are the factors I refer to?
Treatment time is dependent on co-operation
- Your child will need to co-operate with the orthodontist’s instructions entirely. This includes not skipping scheduled appointments. After braces are fitted, you can expect regular appointments for adjustments. These might occur as often as every 4-6 weeks during the period of active treatment. Your child will also need to attend their regular general dental visits and receive any supplementary dental treatment as required. This is to ensure their optimal dental health is maintained.
- Added to this your child will need to be diligent with their tooth brushing. Excellent oral hygiene is essential during orthodontic treatment. 'White spots' (decalcification), decay, and gum disease will occur around the braces if the teeth are not brushed properly, or if sugary foods/drinks are consumed frequently.
- It is also important that your child wears their prescribed devise for the instructed length of time each day. This is something they may struggle with initially. Generally, the fitting of the braces is not a painful experience. However, when they are first placed your child will need time to adjust to wearing them. The mouth is very sensitive to changes and the introduction of braces may cause some discomfort. During this time the appliances might cause sore teeth and minor irritations to the tongue and gums. This can be eased with pain medication suitable for children.
Treatment time can be slowed due to food choices
Care must be taken when making food choices; hard, sticky, crunchy foods should be avoided or softened and eaten with extreme caution. Many of these foods, such as toffee or popcorn can damage the braces. Any damage will not only cause the braces to not work as effectively, but treatment time will also increase if there is a need to wait for replacements. Prompt reporting of any damage to the appliances is essential.
Treatment time can be lengthened by incorrect wearing of appliances
Some tooth or bite corrections are only achievable with the addition of elastic wear. Elastics are small removable bands that are worn between the upper and lower braces. Failure to wear elastics as instructed might not only extend the expected treatment time, it may also compromise the outcome of the treatment.
The same is true if your child does not wear their appliances or take care of them as directed. In fact, your orthodontist may elect to end treatment prematurely if there are persistent breakages to the appliances or your child’s tooth brushing technique is consistently lacking.
To prevent unwanted movement of the teeth after completion of active orthodontic treatment, some children will require retainers to be fitted. These may be removable retainer plates (usually just worn at night time) and/or wires fixed onto the back of the front teeth. These wires should remain in place indefinitely to minimize tooth movement long-term. It is important to note that completing the orthodontic treatment will not guarantee perfectly straight teeth for life. This is because teeth can naturally shift their position even in people who have never had orthodontic treatment.
Root shortening and gum recession
According to our orthodontist, some people are susceptible to root shortening during orthodontic treatment. Your orthodontist will not be able to identify whether you or your child will be affected by this in advance. Neither will they be able to predict how much root shortening is likely. In most cases, root shortening will not cause any significant consequence. However, in rare cases, root shortening may be severe enough to warrant changing or stopping treatment.
When moving teeth there is a chance that gum recession will cause further tooth exposure. Your orthodontist will monitor this and advise you if you or your child needs to see a periodontist (gum specialist) either during or after treatment.
Provided your child takes good care of their teeth and the dental appliances prescribed, the total treatment time required by your child should fall within the estimated time suggested by their orthodontist. While varying factors may reduce or extend treatment time, the average duration for active treatment of overbite and other similar issues is approximately 2 years.