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Orthodontics: Oral Health or Cosmetic?

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Barakat Orthodontics

Dear Dr. Barakat,

It seems like every kid today has braces, and the kids look so young. Is orthodontic treatment necessary for oral health or cosmetic appearances?

– Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent,

Your question is one that I answer every day for my patients and their parents. It does seem as though a lot of kids have braces, and that they are much younger than they used to be. There are several reasons for orthodontic treatment to start at a young age, and they have to do with both cosmetic and oral health concerns. Fortunately, your Orthodontist has had extra years of training over and above dental school and will know that where indicated, starting earlier gives better results.

Orthodontists can recommend that children start their braces treatments at a younger age because the jaw and teeth are not fully developed yet. This makes the bones softer, and therefore easier to work on the jaws and shift teeth gradually into place using braces. When it comes to shifting teeth, age is definitely a factor in the length and also the ease of treatment.

Cosmetic concerns are, of course, a factor in deciding to start orthodontic treatment, but they are not the only factor. Multiple research studies have shown that orthodontics can have a significant effect on a child’s self-esteem. If a child is self-conscious about his or her appearance, it will affect that child socially and academically. A child or teen who believes that his or her teeth don’t look the same as others will be less likely to speak up in class or to reach out to make a new friend. Orthodontists are aware of those concerns and will address them during a first visit.

For the majority, the decision to start orthodontic treatment is based on oral health issues. Crowded teeth are more difficult for a child or teen to brush and floss, which leads to cavities. A bad bite can lead to jaw issues later in life, which can then lead to headaches, TMJ, or a whole host of chronic health conditions. Over and underbites are, again, difficult conditions for a child to maintain good oral health techniques, and in most situations, are best treated while a child is growing.

Orthodontists base the decision to start treatment on all of these considerations while weighing your child’s readiness to comply with treatment. No two children have the same orthodontic concerns, and so no two treatments plans are based on the same criteria. Asking specific questions during a consultation and including your child in the discussion will ensure that the treatment plan your orthodontist develops will address all of your concerns, both oral and cosmetic.

– Dr. Barakat


Dr. Rana Barakat, a board-certified specialist in Orthodontics, has been proudly serving Northern Virginia for 20-years! She has built her practice on a personal touch and excellent treatment. As a parent, she understands wanting the best for your children in giving them beautiful, confident smiles. She makes it a priority to ensure optimal results, but also believes that each patient’s experience during treatment is just as important as the clinical result. As the 2015-16 President of the Virginia Association of Orthodontists, Dr. Barakat’s dedication and expertise reflect why her peers continue to nominate her as a Top Dentist.

Barakat Orthodontics is located at 45745 Nokes Blvd., Ste. 175, Sterling, VA 20166. Connect with them by clicking: OnlineFacebookTwitter, and calling: (703) 433-9330. Download their free app: iTunesGoogle Play.

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