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  • Writer's pictureLisa Lee Freeman

Get a healthy new smile for your child: 4 things all parents need to know

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

As I mentioned in my last blog, I recently partnered with a company called Ormco, which makes orthodontic products, to help educate people about how to make the smartest choice when investing in a teeth-straightening treatment. In this blog, I’m going to tell you four things you need to know if you’re thinking about a teeth-straightening treatment for your child.

In honor of National Orthodontic Health Month, Ormco conducted a national survey and found that nine in 10 parents ranked teeth straightening as the No. 1 investment to ensure their kid’s long-term success and happiness, beating out tutors, sports programs, music lessons, and weight loss or acne/skin treatments. But most parents spend little time doing their research. According to the survey, 65 percent of parents do less than a few hours of research and 20 percent do less than an hour or none at all.

With pandemic-related safety concerns, you might be tempted to skip the homework and just pick an at-home kit. But there are many new treatment choices and not all treatments give you the same results. It’s important to consult with an orthodontist so you understand the pros and cons of each. Bottom line: Your child’s future smile depends on the research you do and the choices you make now. Here’s how to shop smart when you’re investing in an orthodontic treatment:

1. Start young! The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children be evaluated by an orthodontist by the age of seven. One major reason is orthodontists can now prevent problems like crowding early on. Don’t wait for a referral from your dentist; find a qualified orthodontist who is trained to spot issues that other doctors might miss.

2. Know your treatment options. Thanks to advancements in orthodontic technology, your child can have a beautiful smile in less time and with fewer appointments than you might think. They might also be able to skip extractions, rubber bands, and clunky headgear. (If you had braces as a child, sorry to bring back all those bad memories!) The best treatment may depend on your child’s teeth, health, and smile goals. One of the latest advancements is passive self-ligation (or PSL) braces, which use light forces and low friction and can broaden the arc of your child's teeth, creating a bigger, wider smile and an improved facial profile. PSL braces, such as the Damon System, are also discreet, with thin wires. Seven out of 10 parents who saw a Damon System smile after their child received another treatment said they preferred the results of Damon braces. Other less visible options include lingual braces, which fit behind the teeth, and ceramic braces, which are tooth colored, as well as clear aligners. Keep in mind that clear aligners are not always the best choice for children. For starters, they’re removable and for the best results they need to be worn at least 22 hours a day. For more information on treatment options and to find an orthodontist, go to

3. Pick the right doctor. Orthodontists are smile specialists. In addition to dental school, they complete two to three more years of schooling plus thousands of hours of additional training and education. To find an orthodontist, get referrals from friends, family, and trusted dentists. Then schedule free consultations and ask about treatments recommended and offered—not all doctors offer all treatments. Be sure to request before-and-after pictures. Orthodontics is an art as well as a science, so the doctor you choose can make all the difference.

4. Don’t DIY it. In the Ormco survey, 72 percent of parents said they would consider an aligner treatment sold directly by a manufacturer that did not involve any orthodontist or dentist visits. The problem is your child may have underlying problems that need to be addressed by a doctor. What's more, orthodontists do more than straighten teeth. Among other things, they contour gum tissue and reshape jawlines to create healthy smiles. In addition to a child’s appearance, orthodontic treatments can improve biting, chewing, and may even help with breathing and speaking. Moving teeth and roots is serious business and should be done under the supervision of an orthodontist. So don’t count on quick fixes!

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