Smiles Are For Life

May 15th marked the 5th anniversary of World Orthodontic Health Day as proclaimed by the World Federation of Orthodontists (WFO). It is a day to celebrate and highlight the importance of orthodontists and orthodontic healthcare.

Orthodontists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of misaligned teeth to ensure longevity of teeth life and oral health.

We recently spoke with PureSmile to get their advice on children’s dental care.

What common orthodontic problems have you seen in patients at different ages (babies, children, teens, and adults)?

In rare cases, children as young as 3 with extremely distorted bites may need to begin treatment. Children ages 5-7 are at the ideal time to learn to stop bad habits such as thumb-sucking and tongue-thrusting in order to avoid creating long term issues with permanent teeth. The target age for correcting most jaw problems such as overbites, protruding upper teeth or open bites is 8-10 years old. Between 10-13 is usually best to begin treating crowded teeth and put braces on.

And braces aren’t just for kids anymore. Tooth alignment can be changed at any age if your gums and bone structure are healthy. PureSmile offers a variety of treatments in Shanghai that are designed for different age groups – including adults.

When should parents consider going to an orthodontist for their children rather than a regular dentist? When is the best age to start seeing an orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that your child be evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7. An orthodontic screening enables the orthodontist to detect and evaluate orthodontic problems, and advise the parent on whether treatment will be necessary, and the best time to start the treatment. Early detection of orthodontic problems is important so that early corrective action can be taken, and more difficult treatment avoided later on.

At what age should children start considering braces? What dental problems can braces correct? What are some other options for straightening teeth other than traditional braces?

Patients with orthodontic problems can benefit from treatment at nearly any age. Problems like crooked or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites, incorrect jaw position and disorders of the jaw joints are corrected. Many of these treatments give better results at a younger age, before the age of 12. An increasing number of adults now have orthodontic treatment as well. Your orthodontist will know what appliance is best for your particular problem, but you often have a choice.

Braces generally come in three varieties: The most popular type are brackets that are bonded to teeth. Another type are Lingual, or concealed, braces that attach to the back of teeth. Another alternative to traditional braces is a series of clear, customized, removable appliances called aligners.


Do whitening strips and toothpastes really work, and are they safe for children? What age is appropriate to start using whitening products?

Whitening toothpaste removes external stains like those produced by tea, coffee, but it cannot change the natural color of your teeth. It does scratch away the enamel of the stained layer of tooth, and once this enamel has been removed it does not grow back. Whitening strips are very thin, virtually invisible strips that are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel.

The strips are applied twice daily for 30 minutes for 14 days. Initial results are seen in a few days and final results are sustained for about four months. Whitening toothpastes and strips can lighten the tooth’s color by about one shade only. However, teeth whitening is generally not recommended in children under the age of 16.

At what point should parents be concerned about children sucking their thumbs? What effect can this have on their teeth?

Thumb sucking is a common habit for your child to have before they begin school. Thumb sucking only starts to affect your child once they reach 5-6 years of age because that’s when their permanent teeth start to come in. At this point, it’s important to try to stop the habit before it leads to any damage to your child’s permanent teeth.

Some long term effects of thumb sucking beyond the age of 5-6 years include overbites, underbites, lisps, etc.

Since bottled water in Shanghai does not contain fluoride, what can parents do to ensure their kids get enough fluoride for their teeth?

Fluoride strengthens the tooth’s enamel by helping remineralization therefore making it harder for acids to destroy the enamel. Fluoride also helps to stop bacteria from making acids that can destroy tooth enamel. Fluoride can strengthen the teeth in two ways — from the outside (topical fluoride) or the inside (systemic fluoride), as long as it is not overused.

Topical fluoride includes fluoride treatments at the dental office about every six months as children’s teeth are developing. Fluoride toothpaste and rinse can be found at stores and also at your dental clinic. A child with cavities or at high risk of decay should definitely get fluoride.

Children between 6 and 16 years old can also get systemic fluoride supplements – tablets, drops- from the pediatrician or dentist.

Are there any dental care issues or tips unique to Shanghai?

As the water in Shanghai is not fluoridated, your child may be more susceptible to dental caries, so it is recommended to have regular dental check-ups and monitoring by a dentist. In addition, as the Asian diet consists of mostly soft sticky foods, there is a greater need for improved oral hygiene and especially flossing. Harder, crunchier foods aid in the self-cleansing of the teeth and gums; softer diets require more frequent brushing, flossing, and teeth cleanings. Most people don’t realize that!

Remember also that dairy foods are great sources of calcium that strengthens your teeth. If your diet is low on foods that contain calcium, you should supplement your calcium intake to keep your teeth strong.

About Dr. Rana