Braces: Why, When and How?


  1. How do I know if my child needs braces? 
  2. What age should my child get braces? 
  3. How much do braces cost?


Any adult that ever had braces will know what a pain they can be, and not just physically. Aside from the agonising tightening sessions and dreaded orthodontist appointments, braces are also often a cause of bullying and embarrassment. 

While braces can help you achieve a beautiful smile and improve your overall oral care, they can also end up causing your child a lot of distress and discomfort.. 

So how do you know if your child needs orthodontic treatment? How much does it cost and how can you make the process less painful for your child? Keep on reading to find out.fear-of-the-dentist (1)

How do you know if your child needs braces? 


According to the NHS, around a third of UK children require orthodontic treatment such as braces. Braces are prescribed to children for a number of different reasons:

  • For cosmetic purposes, to correct the alignment of overlapping or crooked teeth or closing gaps between the teeth
  • In cases of malocclusion, i.e. when the lower teeth are out of line with the upper teeth and prevent the jaw from closing properly
  • If a child’s baby teeth are crooked, they must be straightened to allow the permanent teeth to grow straight
  • Straightening the teeth so your child is able to care for their teeth and gums more easily, and improving their bite so they can eat more comfortably

In general, any dental deformity may require orthodontic treatment.

Other signs that your child might need braces include:

  • Your child sucks on their thumb or a dummy after the age of 6
  • Overcrowded teeth
  • Your child is losing baby teeth too early or too late
  • They often bite their cheek or lip
  • Their mouth doesn’t close properly
  • Teeth are coming through in the wrong position

So, when should you take your child to an orthodontist?

You should be taking your child for regular check ups at the dentist anyway, usually every six months or so. Your usual dentist will be able to spot any problems early on and will refer your child for orthodontic treatment if they feel it is necessary. 

If your child is very young, their dentist will be able to explain the usefulness of the braces and why they’re important. It’s a good idea to reassure them from the get-go and warn them that they may encounter chewing difficulties or speech problems during the first few days after having their braces fitted. (a godsend if your child talks too much 😉). 


What age should my child get braces? 


Some dentists advise that children with serious dental problems should have braces from as young as 5 years old. However, braces usually start to appear in the playground at the age of around 11. Braces are typically fitted once most of your child’s adult teeth have come through. In fact, fitting braces too early may require your child to go through multiple rounds of orthodontic treatment in the future.

How old your child is when they require braces is dependent on the type of dental problem they have. If there’s a medical reason to do so, some children can have braces fitted from a very young age. 

The NHS defines the ideal age to get braces as 12 years old. At this age, a child’s mouth and jaw are still growing which means that the treatment shouldn’t last too long. Unfortunately, your poor teenager is now probably feeling more self conscious than ever due to the demands of puberty and raging hormones. Now seems like the worst possible time to attach unsightly metal tracks to their teeth. Check out our GoStudent guide on helping your teen to love their body so they don’t let their braces get them down. 


How much do children's braces cost?


Thank goodness for the NHS right? Children under the age of 18 are usually entitled to orthodontic and dental treatment free of charge. That’s not to say that the NHS braces are the most glamourous. Only metal braces are available on the NHS. 

Having said that, not everyone is entitled to totally free orthodontic treatment on the NHS. The NHS state on their website that two thirds of children in the UK do not require orthodontic treatment

To define who is entitled to what, the NHS follows a set of criteria known as the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need (IOTN). There are a series of grades that define whether a child is eligible for free braces on the NHS. The grades are as follows:

  • Grade 1: Your child already has perfect teeth and doesn’t need orthodontic treatment.
  • Grade 2: Your child’s teeth have some minor irregularities like slightly protruding front teeth.
  • Grade 3: Your child’s teeth are more irregular but still don’t require medical treatment. Examples include open bites of less than 4 mm and deep bites with no functional problems.
  • Grade 4: Your child’s teeth have more severe problems which require treatment. These problems include having less than the normal number of teeth (missing teeth) where gaps need to be closed.
  • Grade 5: Refers to severe dental problems like the teeth not being able to come into the mouth normally because of obstruction by crowding, additional teeth or any other cause. Naturally, these very severe problems require treatment. 

For a full outline of the IOTN click here

Some parents choose to opt for private orthodontic treatment, which offers more choice, such as transparent braces and retainers. Maybe a better option for your self conscious teen

Private dental treatment is widely available and very popular. It’s pricey though. Paying for braces privately will cost you around £2,500. Ouch!

We hope this article helped you feel more informed about your child’s oral health. When in doubt, talk to your dentist. They’ll be happy to discuss any concerns and explore your child’s options with you. If your child’s braces are getting them down, remind them that they’re only temporary. They can already start looking forward to the feeling of having them removed and enjoying their wonderful new smile. Ding!

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