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Some of my children’s friends have already started treatment, but our orthodontist says my child should wait. Why is there a difference in treatment?

Each treatment plan is specific for that child and his/her specific problem as well as his/her growth and development. Children mature at different stages and interceptive treatment is indicated to prevent a more severe problem from occurring. Your orthodontist is the best person to decide the best type of treatment and its timing. If you have questions, you should discuss them with your orthodontist.

My child has an allergy to nickel. Can my child still have orthodontic treatment?

Yes, there are nickel-free options available. Please tell your orthodontist if your child has any allergies.

Is free treatment available for kids whose families can’t afford it?

There are several programs that offer orthodontic treatment to patients in need at little or no cost. The American Association of Orthodontists Donated Orthodontic Services Program (DOS) is offered to patients in need throughout the U.S. Applicants must meet financial need requirements. 

Smiles Change Lives and Smile for a Lifetime Foundation provide orthodontic treatment in many regions of the U.S. Other regional programs include: Advantage Smiles for Kids for children in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Colorado Orthodontic Foundation for children in Colorado. Assisting Children to Smile and Sunshyne Smiles Orthodontic Program for children in South Dakota. 

Also check with your state or local dental society about programs in your area. In Canada: Smiles 4 Canada – British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Newfoundland, and Labrador.

My child’s teeth aren’t too crooked on top – can he/she just get braces on the bottom?

Orthodontic treatment is designed to develop teeth that fit well and, as a result, wear better over an individual’s life. Think of teeth in the mouth as a “gear” system. Teeth, like gears, must intermesh well to help avoid excessive wear throughout a lifetime of use. An ideal orthodontic result most often requires treatment of both the top and bottom teeth. Consult a member of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) to learn what will best correct your child’s orthodontic problem. The AAO Find an Orthodontist service will help you locate AAO orthodontists near you.

I can go to another country and get braces put on my child, and then go to any orthodontist for check-ups/continuation of care, right?

INCORRECT. When treatment is started with an orthodontist, that professional is “your” orthodontist. A treatment plan is developed based on the orthodontist’s diagnosis of your child’s problem. There are many treatment decisions made in a treatment plan, including the type of “appliance” (braces, aligners, etc.) to be used in the orthodontic correction. There are many types of appliances, and many manufacturers. The components are not necessarily interchangeable. 

Different orthodontists use different bracket systems and may not have the wires and accessories to fit another type of bracket. If someone wearing braces goes to an orthodontist who did not place the braces, the patient is considered someone else’s patient, or a “transfer” patient. Orthodontists in the U.S. are not obligated to accept transfer patients. Transferring can complicate and lengthen treatment and is not ideal. It is ideal for a patient to receive care from one orthodontist (or orthodontic practice) from start-to-finish. 

Visit the Find an Orthodontist service to locate nearby members of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). All AAO members are orthodontists, meaning they first graduated from dental school, and then went on to successfully complete a 2-3 year orthodontic residency at an accredited orthodontic program. When you select an AAO member, you can be assured that the doctor truly is an orthodontist.

I noticed that when my child bites, he/she uses side teeth to bite instead of using front teeth. Is this a sign of an orthodontic problem?

Yes. If someone cannot bite with their front teeth, called “incisors,” which are engineered to cut (“incise”) food, this can be a sign of an orthodontic problem. The upper and lower jaws could be out of balance and/or the front teeth could be protruding. See an AAO orthodontist for an in-person evaluation.

It seems like my child’s permanent teeth are coming in late. Should we see the dentist or the orthodontist?

See an AAO orthodontist to learn whether there is a reason your child’s permanent teeth are late coming in. Orthodontists look at teeth differently than your dentist does. Something may be blocking the path of unerupted permanent teeth, they may be missing, or it may simply be that your child is on his/her own schedule and there’s nothing to worry about. To see an orthodontic specialist, you do not need a referral from your general or pediatric dentist.

My child doesn’t seem to be able to close her mouth all the way. Is that a problem?

It could be. When a person can’t comfortably keep their lips together when the mouth is closed and at rest, the condition is called “lip incompetence.” This can affect facial muscles, which could alter facial development. There may be problems with swallowing, jaw joint function, and the way teeth come in. See an AAO orthodontist for an evaluation.

My child’s baby teeth came out early. Why is that considered a problem?

A child’s mouth needs baby teeth to hold space for permanent teeth. Without baby teeth, permanent teeth may not come in properly, and facial development can be affected. See an AAO orthodontist to learn what early loss of baby teeth means for your child.

My child’s front teeth stick out. Should we see an orthodontist?

Yes. Protrusive front teeth may be the outward sign of a problem with the positions of the jaws, or positions of the teeth, even if your child has baby teeth. Protrusive upper front teeth are more likely to be broken at play or in an accident. Consult an AAO orthodontist.