The question every parent dreads to ask: will my child need braces? In the United States, the answer will probably be “yes”. The vast majority of pediatric patients in our office undergo some kind of orthodontics in order to create straighter, more symmetrical smiles. A straighter smile isn’t just cosmetic though — dental misalignment frequently equates to more cavities and more worries down the road. If you’ve noticed some misalignment in the way your child’s adult teeth are coming in, your dentist will most likely recommend that they get braces in a few years. Braces will definitely straighten a smile but, if your child is below the age of ten, there is another option that will help them achieve a straighter smile (for less money). It’s called HealthyStart.
HealthyStart is a relatively new pediatric orthodontic device but thousands of dental offices across the country have found a lot of success with it. The device works by correcting dental misalignment as it’s happening instead of after the fact. Braces are (sometimes) bulky, uncomfortable, and must be worn for so long because they’re fixing something that is already faulty. HealthyStart, on the other hand, keeps dental misalignment from ever happening by guiding developing teeth into the correct position over time.
HealthyStart was invented not as a way to help kids bypass braces but as a solution to the dreaded Sleep Disordered Breathing (SLB) diagnosis. Your child may have SLB (also known as a blocked pediatric airway) if they are:
SLB is essentially sleep apnea for kids. At night, their airway is becoming blocked — either by something (frequently enlarged tonsils) or by the natural way their mouth is developing. When the airway becomes blocked, the body attempts to wake up. Even if your child doesn’t remember waking up numerous times throughout the night, his or her body does. Constantly waking up inhibits the body from getting through a full sleep cycle. As adults, that isn’t especially dangerous. For kids, it can be.
Kids need sleep in order to grow and develop correctly. Without it, your child can suffer from cognitive and physical development deficiencies. So, how do you fix SLB? First, visit an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor. They will examine your child and see if they need to have their tonsils removed. If the ENT decides the tonsils don’t need to be removed (or if the tonsils are removed and the symptoms continue) it’s time to head to the dentist.
Not all dentists offer HealthyStart or have any idea what SDB is. The vast majority of dentists will say that your child will outgrow the snoring and teeth-grinding (which they will after the effects have already been felt). They’ll tell you to come back in a few years for braces. At our office, we’ll offer you a free HealthyStart consultation.
The actual HealthyStart device is made of a soft, comfortable plastic that’s easy to wear. Kids only have to put it in at night and for one or two hours during the day so it’s not like braces in that it can easily be removed (similar to an Invisalign tray). The device helps position the mouth and jaw at the correct angle so the child can breathe better at night. As the child’s teeth begin to grow in, the device guides them and keeps them straight. At our office, we do regular check-ups on HealthyStart patients to make sure everything is developing as it should. As the child grows, we take new scans and have new, custom HealthyStart devices made (also similar to the Invisalign system).
From start to finish, HealthyStart does take a while to complete. Your child may be wearing the nighttime device till they are twelve or thirteen. After that, they made need a retainer to keep the teeth as straight as possible. In severe misalignment cases, a year or two of braces may be required. Without HealthyStart, those kids would need 5+ years in traditional orthodontics.
The best way to know if HealthyStart will help your child is to bring them in for an exam. There are a lot of obvious symptoms of SDB but there is no way to firmly diagnose it just from reading an article and looking at your child’s teeth. Schedule an appointment (virtual or in-person) at Stanley Dentistry to find out how HealthyStart can change your child’s life.