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Important facts to know about braces for your child

Two orthodontists share their advice

Children often receive their first evaluation and consultation at around the age of 7, although treatment frequently will not begin until sometime in middle school, usually around the age of 12 or 13. File photo

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For many children, braces are an integral part of childhood. A rite of passage, if you will - from crooked, crowded, poorly aligned teeth to a healthy, picture-perfect smile.

But the subject of braces can be confusing - and even a little bit intimidating - for parents. When should I have my child evaluated? How long is this going to take? How much will it cost and how will we pay for it? And why should I even consider braces in the first place?

"There are many reasons to seek orthodontic care," said John Dhane, DDS, of Dhane Orthodontics in DuPont. "Well-aligned teeth improve function, decrease wear and allow for improved ability to keep all the surfaces of the teeth clean and plaque free.  Crooked teeth are difficult to brush adequately.  Obviously ‘straight' teeth and an enhanced smile are major benefits of orthodontic treatment.  The improved appearance often leads to improved self-esteem and an increase in confidence."

Children often receive their first evaluation and consultation at around the age of 7, although treatment frequently will not begin until sometime in middle school, usually around the age of 12 or 13.

However, "some children may have bite issues that are better addressed at a younger age, before the adult teeth come in," said Thomas Gessel, DMD, of Gessel Orthodontics in Tacoma.

The initial evaluation is generally free of charge. However, before beginning any treatment plan, it's important for parents to understand that orthodontia is a lengthy procedure, lasting anywhere from 18 to 36 months.

"Initiating treatment at a time that allows for completion of treatment prior to a scheduled PCS is very important," said Dr. Dhane. "Transferring to a new orthodontist at a different location to complete treatment usually leads to longer treatment times, duplication of efforts and increased costs."

If possible, military parents should do their best to schedule orthodontic work at a time when they expect to remain at the same duty station long enough to complete treatment.

The cost of braces can seem prohibitive at first, especially to families on a budget. Braces can range in price from $2,000 for early intervention to $6,000 or more for comprehensive orthodontic treatment. The final cost depends on treatment time and difficulty of the case, Dr. Dhane said.

MetLife (the current military dental plan) offers a lifetime benefit of $1,750 to help with the cost of orthodontia. Both Dr. Dhane and Dr. Gessel offer in-house, interest-free financing and easy monthly payment plans, making braces more affordable than they might seem at first glance.

"It is beneficial for patients to see a MetLife preferred provider, as that will lessen their out-of-pocket costs," added Dr. Dhane. "Fees charged by a MetLife preferred provider are dictated by the insurance company and are usually significantly less than those charged by non-preferred providers."

A referral from a doctor or dentist is not necessary to obtain a consultation with an orthodontist, so parents are able to schedule an appointment with either Dr. Dhane or Dr. Gessel whenever they deem necessary.

Gessel Orthodontics is located at 1626 S. Mildred, Suite 201, in Tacoma.  Call 253.503.1023 or visit gesselbraces.com.

Dhane Orthodontics is located at 1100 Station Dr., Suite 211, in DuPont. Call 253. 912.9383 or visit www.dhaneortho.com

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