20 July 2012

Children and braces

It's almost a given these days that our kids will, at some point, wear braces on their teeth, so their teeth will look nice and more importantly function properly with no overbite, underbite or other dental problems.

Thing is, kids wearing braces are getting younger and younger.

We used to be in our teens in secondary or middle school before the metal went in. But I read that kids as young as 7 or 8 are fitted with expanders, spacers, maintainers and/ or braces. Of course, it's a live debate and the jury is still out.

Some parents are advised that the earlier the child gets the braces, the less pain, inconvenience and shorter the duration will be. But the Wall Street Journal reported that since 1990, three randomized clinical trials—at the University of Florida involving 261 children, at the University of North Carolina involving 166 children and at the University of Manchester, England, involving 174 children—found early treatment of Class II Malocclusions (the most common problem of overbite or buck teeth) was less efficient than treatment that began in adolescence. And sometimes a second round of braces is needed when the child becomes a teenager - double dose of pain!

I can't speak for dental practitioners overseas, but here in Malaysia (well namely KL, Selangor and Ipoh I know for sure), many GP dentists offer orthodontics treatments along with a whole list of specialised treatments. Dental professionals who go on to specialize spend extra years (and sweat and $$) to learn in-depth extra knowledge and skills for their chosen speciality. While the GP dentists "learn on the job".

It just doesn't seem right that GP dentists intrude into their fellow colleagues' fields.

I write this out of concern that some parents, rightly anxious over the state of their children's teeth, jump the gun at the single advice of a dentist and proceed with orthodontics treatment while their child's baby teeth still outnumber the permanent teeth! I found the information on Pediatric Dentistry informative.

And there are dentists who take the easy and fast way by suggesting multiple extractions to make space, rather than slowly working their way through the maze of teeth. A friend of mine who lives abroad (you know who you are!) had a short discussion with me about her teenage daughter who is just commencing her orthodontics treatment. Before going ahead with the treatment, my friend had wisely sought advice from other friends and also a second opinion from a different dentist, whose advice vastly differed from the first one she consulted.

Here in Ipoh, we had visited Kwan Dental Surgery in Ipoh Garden South. For a regular check and cleaning, as well as for orthodontics assessment.

The first job was a standard procedure, which I found was done rather crudely (check out my post on Hunting for a Dentist in Ipoh). The second job was done by the Surgery's regular visiting orthodontist. Maybe it was just a busy day, and not her best. First, there appeared to be no queue system and I had to inform the reception that we had been "jumped over" several times. When it was our turn, the orthodontist took one look at the set of teeth in question ( my domestic helper's, actually) and said "It can't be done. There will be no perceptible improvement after the braces. This needs a whole TEAM including a dental surgeon, jaw specialist etc. etc." I was shocked at her assessment. (We have dentists in the family.)

Undaunted, I took my helper for a second opinion. The other dental professional undertook the task, dismissing the Kwan Dental Surgery's specialist opinion. It is now one year later, and my helper looks so different and is so happy with her teeth. Before, it really  bothered her how she looked. She is almost 30 (I know, she's not a kid, but I wanted to highlight the huge difference in professional opinion and action).

Which goes to show that you need to go for a second opinion. Don't be shy. Ask friends, acquaintances, family. It's your teeth, your smile. Your choice.

(pictures from majordentalchicago.com, balesortho.blogspot.com, dentistry.about.com)


  1. Alwys seek opinion when what you hear does not sit well. The expense is high and you want to get it right the 1st time.

  2. Thanks Charmaine, you're absolutely right :)

  3. Hi, may i know where did u bring ur helper for braces treatment?

  4. Oh that sounds really fantastic, while wearing braces it is important to keep clean if not then the plague can easily accumulates.. Thanks you so much for sharing the information with us...

    Orthodontist in Mulund

  5. I think that early braces are good. I just went to my dentist Manhattan Beach and got braces for my son. He is going to be twelve this year. I think it's the right time. My dentist told me that the ideal age for braces is between 10 to 14 when the mouth and head are still growing.