Many adolescents and teenagers are seen wearing braces or aligners. Orthodontic treatment is often recommended for teens and pre-teens to straighten the teeth and align bites. While it is common for teens to receive orthodontic treatment, not everyone knows why it is important for young people to undergo these procedures. Here is what you need to know about orthodontics for teenagers and why treatment is important for teens with misaligned teeth.
Why Are Orthodontics Needed?
Malocclusions or misalignment of the teeth occurs for many reasons. Genetics, lifestyle, injuries and other factors can cause the teeth to be crooked and bites to be misaligned. Orthodontic treatment is used to shift the teeth into the correct position to align the upper and lower sets of teeth. Not only does this improve the appearance of teeth, but it makes them easier to keep clean to prevent decay and serious issues like periodontal disease.
Teens Are Prime Candidates for Orthodontics
While plenty of adults receive orthodontic treatment, teens and adolescents are the ideal candidates for orthodontics. This is due to their stage of bone and teeth growth between the ages of 10-13. Young teens have received all their adult teeth except their wisdom teeth, but the teeth roots and jawbone are still growing. During this period, orthodontic treatment is easier and more comfortable to perform than after the growth cycle completes.
Dentists and orthodontists can monitor a child’s teeth growth and alignment to determine if and when orthodontic treatment is needed. Each young person is unique and has their own growth timeline and dental concerns. Performing orthodontic treatment during the early teen years can improve the experience for the individual and may shorten the treatment time. The teeth are easier to shift during this time and the teen can enjoy the benefits of straight teeth and bite alignment sooner.
Benefits of Teen Orthodontic Treatment
A straight, beautiful smile is the most noticeable benefit of orthodontics, but it is certainly not the only advantage. There are many reasons to straighten misaligned teeth beyond the aesthetics. Here are some of the reasons it is important for teens to get orthodontic treatment if they have crooked or misaligned teeth.
Improved Oral Health
Keeping the teeth clean and free of plaque, tartar and bacteria is the key to optimum oral health. Misaligned teeth are more difficult to keep clean – it can be hard to floss between overlapped or crooked teeth or brush all surfaces. Orthodontics can make the teeth easier to keep clean with home oral care, reducing risks of tooth decay and gum disease that can result in lost teeth.
Misaligned teeth can put pressure on the jaw joint or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Misaligned teeth can also result in bruxism, or teeth grinding, that can damage teeth and the jaw or increase risks of sleep apnea. Orthodontics can help prevent TMJ disorders, sleep apnea and bruxism in teens by aligning the bite and teeth.
Teeth are important for proper speech. When the teeth are misaligned, teens may not be able to enunciate clearly. Orthodontics can help eliminate speech clarity issues in some teenagers if their misaligned teeth are causing a lisp or slurring of certain words.
Eating crunchy vegetables, whole grains and tough protein requires healthy teeth for chewing. Misaligned teeth can make it difficult or painful to chew these nutritious foods that teens need to be healthy. Orthodontics help improve jaw and teeth function for chewing and eating the foods teens require for optimum health.
Orthodontic Options for Teens
Orthodontic treatment has been performed with braces in some form for centuries. Metal braces are the traditional option for repositioning the bite and teeth, but they are not the only orthodontic treatment. Braces use brackets bonded to the teeth and wires connecting the brackets to shift teeth into the desired position. While effective, braces are noticeable and can be uncomfortable in comparison to clear aligners.
Clear aligners are a fairly new option in orthodontics. Invisalign® clear aligners were released in the 1990s, first for adults and then for teens. There are other brands of clear aligners as well, that all use similar methods to straighten teeth. The clear plastic aligners are customized for the individual and worn about 22 hours or more a day. They are almost invisible, which teens love, and they are more comfortable to wear than braces. Unlike braces, aligners can be removed to eat and perform oral hygiene.
Orthodontic treatment for teenagers with misaligned bites or teeth can improve their oral and overall health and create a beautiful smile that can boost their confidence. Whether braces or clear aligners are used, treatment can be quicker and more effective when orthodontics are performed in the teen years. To learn more about the importance and benefits of orthodontics for your teenager, visit your local dentist for an orthodontic consultation.
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