Can Kids Get Invisalign?
When it comes to orthodontic treatment for kids, the standard is traditional metal braces. While metal braces have been the industry’s go to for decades, in the last twenty years a newer form of orthodontic treatment has grown in popularity. Clear braces or clear aligners.
Invisalign was the first of the clear aligners to come onto the scene in the early 2000s. Even though there was some uncertainty around them in the beginning, they have proven to be just as effective as other types of braces in most situations.
Originally, clear aligners were targeted towards adults. This made sense since many adults don’t want to wear metal braces. While adults were the primary patients early on, the appeal of having invisible braces has trickled town. Today, many teens and kids want to know if they can also use clear aligners.
The simple answer is yes. Kids and teens can wear clear aligners like Invisalign. In fact, Invisalign has a special Invisalign Teen program. However, every child is different.
Therefore, just because teens and kids can get clear aligners doesn’t mean it is the best treatment for your child. Especially if they are under the age of 13 years old.
The Difference Between Invisalign for Kids and Teens
Before discussing the advantages and disadvantages of clear braces for kids and teens, let’s clarify who we are referring to. A patient who is considered a kid is anyone younger than 13 years old. A teen patient is anyone between the ages of 13 and 18 years old.
While this may seem like a small detail to clarify, the difference in age is the main factor to consider when discussing if invisalign is the right treatment for your child. As mentioned above, there is a specific Invisalign Teen treatment protocol. This is almost identical to the regular treatment for adults, with a couple small differences.
The teen program includes a small blue dot on each plastic aligner tray. This helps parents see if their child has been wearing the trays enough. In addition, the treatment plan includes a few free replacement aligners (in case any are lost).
These two additions to the teen treatment plan address the two main concerns when having young patients use clear aligners. Tracking the frequency in which the aligners are worn, and the possibility of losing the aligners.
These are the same concerns around having kids use the Invisalign treatment. Currently, there is not a different treatment plan for kids that are younger than 13 years old. Therefore, kids would use the teen treatment protocols to help address these concerns.
However, even with the added benefits of the tracking dot and replacement trays, Invisalign may not be the best choice for your kid. Moreover, while clear aligners are the newest form of orthodontic care, there is still a place for tried-and-true treatments. Especially for kids.
Before choosing the Invisalign treatment for your kid, here are some things to consider.
The Benefits of Traditional Braces for Kids
Here at Reagin orthodontics we love clear aligners! In fact, it is one of our specialties.
We especially love that Invisalign encourages more adults to get treatment. As much as we love Invisalign for adults though, we also still love more traditional methods for straightening teeth.
Metal braces were the tried-and-true method to straighten crooked teeth for decades. Even with the new options available today, traditional metal braces continue to be an excellent treatment. They are especially great for kids.
The main benefit of choosing traditional braces over clear braces for kids is that they can’t be removed.
Metal braces are made up of small metal brackets, wire, and o-ties. A single metal bracket is adhered to each individual tooth. Then, the wire and o-ties are added to the brackets to create tension. This tension helps to move the teeth.
Once the braces are adhered to the teeth, they are on there for the entire treatment. When considering braces for young kids this is a key factor to consider.
With the braces being adhered to the teeth the orthodontist is the only one who can move or change the position of the braces. This keeps the treatment plan on track. Moreover, it takes away any extra responsibility for the parents or kids.
The Benefits of Invisalign Braces
If you are considering Invisalign braces for your kid, then you are probably already familiar with biggest benefit – their look. In fact, your kid may have asked for these specifically because of their invisible look.
While the lack of visible braces is one of the main benefits of Invisalign clear aligners, there are many other benefits.
More comfortable: Even though there can be some discomfort as teeth are adjusting, most patients find clear aligners to be a bit more comfortable than traditional braces.
Better oral hygiene: With metal braces it is difficult for kids to clean their teeth effectively. Since clear aligner trays can be removed, it is easier to brush and floss. Therefore, kids can keep their teeth just as healthy as prior to their treatment.
No off-limit foods or drinks: Some foods are difficult to eat with metal braces because things get stuck in the wire and brackets. However, since you can remove aligners to eat and drink, kids can enjoy their favorite treats without any concern. While the aligners are being worn (20 hours a day) it is important to only drink water so you are not bathing your teeth in sugary or acidic liquids.
Fewer visits to the orthodontist: With clear aligner treatment, less time is needed at the orthodontist’s office. In addition, the visits are quicker. Office visits can even be done virtually (in some cases).
Shorter Treatment (if treatment is followed): IF the protocol is properly followed by the patient, the overall treatment plan could be shorter than with traditional braces. However, one of the concerns with choosing Invisalign for kids is that it is more difficult to manage how long the kid is wearing their trays. If a kid does not wear the trays as prescribed, then treatment could end up taking longer. You know your child best.
Despite all of the benefits of Invisalign treatment, the ability to remove the trays may be the single reason this is not the ideal treatment for your child.
Disadvantages of Invisalign for Kids
Invisalign aligners are removable. It is one of the things we love about them! Depending on the patient though, this advantage can become a disadvantage.
For Invisalign to properly work, each clear plastic aligner needs to be worn for a minimum of 20 hours per day. Remembering to wear the trays this much can be hard, even for adults. Even with a routine, they may forget to put them back in after eating or before bed.
Most adults eventually find a routine that helps them meet this goal each day though. In addition, many teens have enough awareness to meet this goal as well.
The younger the patients get though, the more difficult it can be to guarantee the 20 hours is being met.
Since it is recommended to remove the trays for eating, a young patient will do this every time they eat. If they are at home, it is easy to remind them to put the trays back in after a meal. Parents don’t have this control when kids are away from home though.
From school to sports and friends’ houses in between, there are plenty of places kids might remove their aligners. There is no way to track how long the aligners are being worn. Moreover, it is easy for kids on the go to potentially lose a tray.
Kids and Parents are Responsible for the Results
If a kid loses a tray or regularly forgets to wear their aligners, it is likely to extend the treatment. This is the main reason that choosing Invisalign treatment for your kid may not be the most effective treatment.
With traditional braces, young kids cannot remove their braces. The braces are set for the entire treatment. The only one who can make a change to them is the orthodontist.
With the Invisalign treatment though, once the patient leaves, the orthodontist cannot control if the braces are being used. The responsibility to maintain the treatment protocol becomes the responsibility of the parents and the kid.
Therefore, when considering if clear aligners are the best choice for your kid, consider how much time you want to invest in the daily treatment. In some families, this treatment will work well. In others, a more traditional approach to braces may work better.
If you would like some help deciding on which treatment is best for your kid, contact us for a complimentary consultation.