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You may have seen advertisements on TV or in magazines for Invisalign braces. These commercials often focus on the clear plastic aligners that are virtually invisible. Most users of Invisalign aligners are adults and teenagers. However, clear aligners are available for children as young as seven-years-old as well. Here are five situations when Invisalign will work for young children.
It goes without saying, but Invisalign is used by orthodontists to correct crooked teeth. If your child has teeth that are crowded, gapped, rotated, or misaligned, a San Mateo orthodontist may recommend Invisalign to correct the spacing, orientation, or alignment of your child’s teeth.
Crooked teeth can lead to other problems besides their mere appearance. Crowded or misaligned teeth can cause tooth pain, jaw pain, and headaches. Your child can also suffer from soft tissue damage if your child’s bite is so misaligned that they bite their tongue or cheeks. Moreover, dental hygiene is more difficult with crooked teeth, possibly leading to cavities and gum disease.
Invisalign can straighten baby teeth and erupting teeth to avoid or reduce a developing problem in your young child’s teeth. Invisalign works by gradually coaxing your child’s teeth into place using a series of clear aligners. Each aligner is slightly different from the aligner that it replaces and the final aligner places the teeth in their desired positions and orientations.
Because these aligners are removable, the child needs to be mature enough to wear the aligners for the recommended amount of time. Specifically, the aligners can be removed while eating and brushing and flossing teeth. However, dental professionals recommend the aligners be worn at least 20 to 22 hours per day for maximum effectiveness.
Invisalign can work for children who can adhere to this schedule. For most children, this should not be a problem because the plastic aligners are more comfortable and less noticeable than traditional braces with metal wires and brackets. However, children who are too young to understand these instructions, or too rebellious to follow them, may not receive all the benefits provided by Invisalign.
During those times that the aligners can be removed, such as during eating, brushing, and flossing, the child must be responsible so that the aligners do not get lost or broken. Lost or broken aligners can slow down treatment if your child uses the missing aligner as an excuse to stop wearing the aligners. Worse yet, if the child skips to the next aligner when the teeth are not ready for it, the child could disrupt the orthodontist’s dental treatment plan or break another aligner. A good orthodontist will have protocol in place to take care of any eventuality even the comical, but actual instances of “my dog ate my aligner”.
For most plans, an orthodontist is able to order a replacement aligner. Occasionally, this replacement aligner will be free of charge, depending on how many aligners are lost. For example, most Invisalign plans include two free replacements.
Invisalign does not mean a break from brushing and flossing. In fact, the need to brush and floss thoroughly is just as necessary, or even more necessary, while wearing aligners because the aligners hold whatever is stuck to your child’s teeth. Poor dental hygiene can lead to bad odors and tooth decay if the teeth and aligners are poorly cleaned.
The child will need to brush at least twice a day once in the morning and once at night. Your child will also need to floss, since brushing without flossing can miss more than 40% of the tooth’s surface. The good news is that your child can easily floss by taking the aligners out to brush and floss normally. This is not the case with braces where floss has to be fed under the wire and takes at least double the amount of time and effort.
Aligners are cleaned toothpaste and a toothbrush inside and out during any tooth brushing time. The aligners will accumulate food particles and bacteria. Do you use hot water to clean aligners. This will soften them and may cause them to change shape.
If your child is the type who needs a bandage every time he or she bumps the couch, Invisalign may be a much better choice than traditional braces. Traditional braces have metal wires and brackets. Metal braces can irritate gums and other soft tissue in the mouth. Invisalign aligners, on the other hand, are manufactured using a 3-D printer which creates smooth trays that are custom-fit to your child’s mouth. The result is less irritation and pain.
Invisalign can work for small children with crooked teeth who are responsible, can follow instructions, and have good dental hygiene.
Dr. Alexa Alborzi is a certified orthodontic specialist providing comprehensive orthodontic care for the children, teens, and adults of San Mateo and Half Moon Bay. Dr. Alborzi earned her BA. degree in Biochemistry from University of California, Berkeley was trained at University of California San Francisco, School of Dentistry. Dr. Alborzi has served as a respected professor at the University of San Francisco, School of Dentistry for over fourteen years. Additionally, Dr. Alborzi was voted by her community in 2019 as the Bay Area Best of the Best.