You may believe that orthodontic treatment (if anything) is all that is needed to guide and improve the appearance of your child's teeth during his or her adolescent years. However, more and more parents are now seeking cosmetic procedures for their child's smile. When should you seek cosmetic dentistry for your pre-teen, and what should you know about the process before making your appointment? Read on to learn more about adolescent cosmetic procedures.
What cosmetic dentistry procedures are available for adolescents?
Dental procedures for pre-teens and teens are no longer limited to traditional metal braces to correct an overbite or align the teeth. Today, teens may be able to have porcelain veneers applied or undergo professional whitening treatments at the dentist's office, while slightly younger patients may be able to have "invisible" plastic braces to guide the teeth into a more aesthetically-pleasing appearance. Adolescents may also be able to have a sealant applied to their teeth to prevent discoloration, etching, or future cavities.
Because these procedures are still relatively uncommon when performed on teens and adolescents, you'll need to seek out a pediatric dentist or orthodontist who has experience performing these procedures on patients of all ages.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of these procedures?
This type of preventive treatment involves the placement of a durable plastic material in each of the tiny cracks or pits in the surface of your child's teeth, particularly the molars. This plastic material keeps out food particles and sugars that can lead to bacterial overgrowth and eventually cause cavities or other tooth decay. In many cases, applying a sealant to an area of your child's tooth that is beginning to show weakness can prevent decay in this area for years.
Dental sealing provides a particular advantage to younger patients, as its preventive effect is greater the earlier it is used. Many teens and adolescents may not have the most regular brushing and flossing habits, so the use of a dental sealant can help prevent long-term damage from short-term habits. These sealants are durable enough to last for years and can continue to protect your child into adulthood.
The primary disadvantage of dental sealing is the risk that the sealant will come loose -- however, because the sealant is composed of a non-toxic, non-digestible material, it will simply pass through your child's digestive system unnoticed.
Unlike traditional metal braces, which are applied and then periodically tightened to guide the teeth into a more appropriate form, invisible or plastic braces fit over the surface of teeth like a very thin mouth-guard. These braces are custom molded to provide guidance to the teeth, and your child will need more than one brace mold over the course of his or her orthodontic treatment.
These braces are well-suited for young patients, and help avoid the angst and appearance anxieties that can come with metal braces.
In the past, whitening treatments were not recommended for children or teens because of the harsh acids and peroxides used to remove surface stains from teeth. However, today's whitening treatments are much less invasive, while retaining the same level of effectiveness. Many dentists now use a non-invasive laser to remove stains from teeth, rather than applying a detergent to the surface of the tooth.
Although your child may not have any deep-set staining yet, if he or she likes to drink coffee, tea, or soda, having an occasional preventive whitening treatment may help these stains from becoming permanent. However, experts recommend refraining from these treatments until your child is at least 12 or 13 and has all of his or her adult teeth.
One of the most appearance-changing types of cosmetic dentistry is the application of porcelain veneers over natural teeth. These veneers are similar to crowns, but are much thinner and lighter, and are often used to correct problems like gapping, gummy smiles, or other aesthetic issues.
This procedure is generally not recommended for children until their late teen years, when their teeth have settled into their final positions and the child's face and body are close to maturity. Applying veneers at a young age may actually hinder the growth of the teeth.