About braces
We've come a long way from the days when braces were something painful to be inflicted on the unfortunate. These days, they are friendlier and carry little stigma. Here we discuss who needs braces, why and what it involves

We’ve come a long way from the days when braces were something painful to be inflicted on an unfortunate few. These days, they’re much friendlier all round and generally carry little stigma.

How braces can help

Braces can help to achieve dental stability and ensure that the chewing function of the teeth is optimal. Correctly aligned teeth are also easier to brush and keep clean.

Crooked teeth may make your child self-conscious, and correcting the long-term problem of crooked teeth with the short-term solution of braces may have far-reaching benefits.

Underbites, overbites and overcrowding

The overcrowding and over/under bites that result in crooked teeth can be genetically inherited; but can also be caused by things like dental disease, early loss of baby or adult teeth, accidents or prolonged thumb-sucking.

Whatever the case, if your child needs braces they will usually only be recommended when all the permanent teeth have come in, which could be anywhere between the ages of 11 to 16.

If you suspect that your child might need braces, a diagnostic consultation with an orthodontist will establish the extent of the problem, and the orthodontist will then formulate treatment plans and options as necessary.

Braces options

The main options for children’s braces are metal brackets or clear brackets.

Clear brackets

Although clear brackets are not as visible, they are bigger and more easily knocked off. There is an extra charge for fitting them, and the treatment generally takes longer.

Metal brackets

Metal brackets are more visible, but the brackets are smaller, they are physically stronger and stick to the teeth better.

Children get used to the smaller metal braces in their mouths more quickly and the duration of the treatment is generally shorter.

Other types of braces

Braces that fit to the inside of teeth are not really recommended for children as they are uncomfortable, affect speech, and the results are not always as good.

Fitting the braces

Fitting the braces takes about an hour and there’s no injecting, drilling or hammering. It’s a little uncomfortable but not painful.

Once the braces are on you will need to take your child back once a month for adjustment. Rubber bands might be attached to the braces to exert additional tension during these visits.


Straightening teeth can take anything from 18 months to two years depending on the density of the bone, and the cooperation of the patient.

To help speed up the process you’ll need to make sure your child does not eat anything too hard (anything they can’t break with their hands), sticky or chewy (like toffees or chewing gum) and fibrous or stringy (like biltong, mangoes or mealies).

Correct dental hygiene also assists in ensuring that the treatment runs as smoothly as possible, so a dental hygienist will teach your child how to brush correctly.

When the teeth have finally moved into their required positions, the braces will be removed and retainers fitted. The retainers must be worn for anywhere between 18 months and 5 years, otherwise the teeth could drift back to their original positions.

Helping your child understand

Helping your child to understand the process and its long-term benefits will go a long way towards helping him to be cooperative rather than resentful, ensuring a good result that will be worth the money spent. This can be anywhere between R20 000 and R40 000, depending on severity.

Medical aids will typically pay up to R18 000 of this. Good results from orthodontics are best achieved when things are relatively stable in your child’s life.

Pushing a child into treatment at an especially stressful time, for example during the divorce of parents, can end in an uncooperative patient and a poor result.

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