If you're the parent of a teen, you're probably all too accustomed to being the 'bad guy', 'ruining their life' and 'just not getting it'. Comments which are often taken with a grain of salt because you know you're doing what's best for them. But with so many teenage milestones to overcome and so much at stake, some decisions can be overwhelming even for parents. Dr Inah Mundy talks us through just one of these teenage milestones – orthodontics – to ensure you have all the details you need to make an informed decision for your teen.
WHEN TO STRAIGHTEN?
"Research shows that straight teeth are in fact healthier teeth and orthodontic treatment as a teenager is a great way to ensure your child keeps their teeth for life. As a general rule it is best to treat BEFORE puberty during an active growth phase. Treatment is often easier and more predictable. The problem is that this age group is highly sensitive to changes in their physical appearance, so the idea of having a 'metal mouth' is not only daunting, but confidence-crushing for many teens. What's worse, teens often see braces as a change to be 'endured' until the brackets are removed, meaning they have little commitment to retaining the results in the long term – so their teeth simply shift back."
That's why it's important to encourage your teenager to focus attention on the long term benefits of straight teeth to ensure they retain their results. "Teens are most concerned with the here and now, and they do not fully comprehend that their crooked or misaligned teeth could affect them as young adults – when they start dating or when they go for their first job" says Dr Mundy. Encourage your child to see beyond the cosmetic benefits. For example, it is much easier to keep your teeth clean when they are straight, and correct dental alignment can alleviate tension headaches and other symptoms.
HOW TO STRAIGHTEN?
The good news is, technology has changed the way we straighten teeth – there's no need to fear the dreaded 'metal mouth' anymore. Now there are all sorts of alternatives for your teenager, many of which are hardly visible- including ceramic braces and Invisalign. "We treat many teens with 'invisible' braces (Invisalign) which are plastic inserts that fit over your teenager's teeth. Invisalign uses a series of clear removable aligners that are custom made and worn for two weeks at a time. The aligners exert pressure on the malpositioned teeth and move them gradually into their correct position. Given the aligners are virtually invisible and removable, they offer a range of lifestyle benefits for teens and give them the confidence to smile right throughout their treatment".
The most important things to remember is that every child's treatment needs are different and ultimately, a good result depends not only on your choice of dentist, but also on the commitment from your teen to comply with their treatment needs – so start an honest discussion with your teen about their feelings toward orthodontic treatment, today.