Your step-by-step guide to getting the best orthodontic treatment

As a parent, you want to safeguard the health of your child’s teeth for as long as possible. Ensuring you’re seeing a specialist orthodontist for their orthodontic care can help you to feel confident that you’re doing everything in your power to give them the best possible treatment and care. If you want to get the best treatment for your child but are uncertain about what orthodontic treatment actually entails, here is a step-by-step guide to your orthodontic journey.

Step 1 – Initial assessment

We recommend taking your child to see a specialist orthodontist for an initial assessment around age seven. This assessment is beneficial if your child will require early intervention, such as in cases where thumb/digit sucking has distorted their bite, for premature tooth loss due to trauma or decay, or any bite issues that are best addressed at a younger age. However, if you’ve missed this early milestone it is never too late to bring them in for an initial assessment.

During this appointment your orthodontist will perform a thorough examination of their face, teeth and bite and might also take a panoramic (OPG) x-ray of your child’s teeth to assess their growth and development. If early intervention is required, they will explain what is needed and the key milestones for their treatment. Alternatively, your orthodontist will suggest an age or developmental stage (e.g. after their last permanent tooth comes in) to commence their treatment.

Step 2 – Understanding your options

Depending on your child’s case, there could be several different treatment options that may be suitable. To achieve the best results, your orthodontist will make their expert recommendations based on which option will be most effective. They will also be able to advise on the expected cost and duration of the treatment, as well as explaining why some options are more beneficial than others.

Your specialist orthodontist is an expert at straightening teeth and correctly aligning jaws. They are constantly working to stay at the forefront of the latest developments in technology and best practice for their profession. Your orthodontist will be able to answer any questions you may have gathered from your own research.

Step 3 – Ask for a quote

Your orthodontist can prepare a quote for the duration of your child’s treatment to help you to prepare for the years to come. If required, their office can also help you to arrange a payment plan to spread out the cost of your child’s treatment.

Step 4 – Commence treatment

Depending on the type of treatment you and your orthodontist have decided on for your child, there may be a short waiting period while custom appliances are created. In the first appointment of their treatment, your orthodontist may make a digital or plaster mould of your child’s teeth to assist with the creation of these appliances. If your child requires a fixed appliance (that is, the appliance can’t be removed by the patient), then spacers may need to be placed between the back teeth to help the molar bands fit comfortably around the teeth.

Fitting your child’s braces can take up to 1 hour as the individual brackets are carefully attached to the teeth and thorough instructions are given to help with their care. The process will be full of new sensations and they may experience some discomfort for a couple of days afterwards, so keep some pain relief and ulcer wax handy, and ask your orthodontist for their advice to help make the transition as easy as possible.

Step 5 – Caring for their braces

Helping your child to learn how to properly care for their braces can ensure you’re not needing to make additional appointments to have wires replaced or brackets reattached. Before leaving their first appointment, your orthodontist will demonstrate how to properly brush and floss their teeth and around their braces.

You should also stick to soft foods for a couple of days, such as soups, yoghurts and bananas, while the teeth are adjusting to the appliances. Also, staying away from hard foods like nuts and hard muesli bars for the duration of their treatment will help prevent breakages. If your child plays contact sports, you should ask your orthodontist about the best types of mouthguard for them to wear as they may need to get one custom fitted while they undergo treatment.

Step 6 – Maintenance

It is likely that you will need to see your family’s specialist orthodontist on a regular basis (e.g. every 6-8 weeks) so your child can have their braces adjusted. This may involve changing or relying the archwires or adding elastics to help progress them to their next stage of treatment.

Having a specialist orthodontist supervise their treatment ensures you have an expert in teeth straightening and jaw development on hand to monitor any changes that need to be made safely.

Step 7 – After care

It isn’t the end of the road when your child’s braces are ready to come off. Once their braces are removed they will be supplied with retainers that they’ll need to wear according to the orthodontist’s instructions to make sure that the teeth are held in place. The retainers are able to be removed when eating or cleaning their teeth, with the wearing time often being reduced gradually as the teeth and bite become more stable.

Why you should check you’re seeing an orthodontist

Before you commence step one, it is important to check you’re seeing a specialist orthodontist. While all orthodontists were once dentists, not all dentists are orthodontists. In fact, orthodontists underwent an additional three years of full time study to specialise in the field of orthodontics, and that is all they do, all day, every day.

You can use our new Orthodontist Check tool to see if the person you are considering is a specialist orthodontist, or use our Finder Tool to locate a specialist in your area.

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