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I-Team: Are Kids Getting Braces Too Young?

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Ginger Allen
Ginger is the Senior Investigative Reporter of the CB...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Ten or 20 years ago, parents would just live through those “not so pretty years” with their children’s teeth.

Today, some parents are going to what some call extremes with their kids’ teeth, and some North Texas doctors are calling out their colleagues for being involved.

Plano mom Diane Sharber has three children, twin 6-year-olds and an 8-year-old. They all have dental problems. Sharber says a lot of her friends’ kids have similar teeth and they are already getting braces. “It does seem very common that the trend is the earlier the child is, the better off you are to go ahead and do braces,” said Sharber.

Dr. Al Karam of Dallas is a father of six and pediatrician who’s been practicing for 27 years. He says he’s noticed a change in the past decade when it comes to children and braces. “Twenty-seven years ago, I almost never saw children that had braces on their teeth at a very young age, say 7 or 8,” he said.

He’s noticed more of his patients with metal in their mouths in elementary school and then again in middle school. “We have families that are young families with young children, many times with more than one child,” explained Dr. Karam. “It’s got to cost more and with young working families that is hard earned money. Is it really necessary to do that?”

Dr. Robert Morgan is the past president of Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the first pediatric dentist ever elected to the position. He says about half of the people who get the first set of braces, probably don’t need them, and estimates 70 pecent of children are getting two sets.

Several other dentists and orthodontists nationwide tell CBS 11 News reporter Ginger Allen that they agree with Dr. Morgan. They say the trend to start braces, while the tooth fairy is still visiting, is controversial. They add it’s not just braces. It’s also filling cavities, teeth sealants and teeth whitening.

Some doctors say greed drives some of it, but they also point to pushy parents. “There is a push, when a patient walks in, to provide what they want, because if you don’t, the person down the street will,” said Dr. Morgan.

Sharber said she will not buy into vanity, trends or unnecessary work. “Yes, they are going through lots of transitions in their mouths, and they aren’t maybe the prettiest teeth at this moment. But that’s okay. They’ll be great later,” she said.

A doctor speaking for the American Association of Orthodontists says the number of children benefiting from two pairs of braces is at least 15 percent.

The experts who CBS 11 News spoke to all agreed that parents should always see a specialist, and ask what is a “could, should and must” treatment. If you still question it, get another opinion.

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