Kids and Braces. Does Your Child Really Need Them?

- Dr. Paul Kennedy

Dr. Kennedy, known as "Dr. Paul," is a graduate of the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco, California. He received his certificate in pediatric dentistry from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. A native of Corpus Christi, Dr. Paul is a graduate of Mary Carroll High School. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Baylor University and his Master of Science degree from Texas A&M - Corpus Christi.

In this interview, Dr. Kennedy covers some of the most important questions about orthodontic treatment for children. He gives insight as a Pediatric Dentist on signs your child might need braces, scheduling their first Orthodontic appointment, some common problems in a growing child's mouth and much more!


Tye: Can you tell us a little about your dental practice as well as your journey in dentistry?

Dr. Kennedy: We're a group pediatric dental practice with three locations around Corpus Christi and we also do orthodontic treatment as well.

I followed in my father's footsteps. He started practicing in Corpus Christi as a pediatric dentist in 1969. I joined the practice upon completing dental school and the practice has continued to grow. My dad is retired now but the practice is still going strong. 

Tye: How early can I tell if my child needs braces?

Dr. Kennedy: Sometimes as early as their first visit, you can tell your child needs braces. At a very early age sometimes we see skeletal malocclusion, bite issues that we can tell are going to be an issue as the child gets older.

Tye: Are there any visible signs I should look for? 

Dr. Kennedy: In young children, we mainly look for the front teeth position and spacing depending upon how far the teeth are in front of or behind each other. If the teeth are very close together or have no spacing, their primary teeth are probably going to have crowding with adult teeth. 

Tye: When should my child visit an Orthodontist for the first time?

Dr. Kennedy: The recommendation by the American Academy of Orthodontics is age seven, to see an Orthodontist for the first time. At Kennedy dental care, we provide an orthodontic assessment at every visit for your child. 

We will make that referral or have our Orthodontist take a look at your child at the appropriate time when we feel like it may be time to start treatment. 

Tye: What kinds of problems or issues can be discovered on the first visit to an Orthodontist? 

Dr. Kennedy: You can find bite issues, crowding, missing, extra or impacted teeth. 

Tye: What are some of the common problems you see at an early age? 

Dr. Kennedy: At an early age we sometimes see bad habits like a thumb or pacifier habit that could cause problems with their bite, like a crossbite or open bite.

Tye: Can orthodontic treatment begin while my child has baby teeth? 

Dr. Kennedy: Yes, it can. Typically you're not going to do braces, but there are situations when we do an appliance to correct some orthodontic problems that we see at an early age, while a child is in full primary dentition or all baby teeth.

Tye: I've read that braces are not necessary until the teenage years. What's the thinking behind this? What are your thoughts? 

Dr. Kennedy: Well, most patients can wait until all the teeth come in or when they're a teenager or older. There are some benefits to starting early for some patients. It really just depends on the individual. Sometimes starting early will end up with a better result. It prevents having to take the teeth out or possibly surgery to correct the problem later.

Tye: What if my child isn't ready for braces?

Dr. Kennedy: I say don't do it. If you don't think your child's ready and can handle it, then it's probably not a good idea to move forward if you don't feel like they're ready. There have been times when we've had patients start and the parents have regretted it. 

They didn't think they were ready, but they didn't say anything. That's a big factor. They need to be responsible enough to take care of their teeth. That's something we really look for and make sure that our patients are ready before they start.

Tye: How often should we schedule orthodontic checkups for my child? 

Dr. Kennedy: It really depends on your child. Sometimes, checkups need to be more frequent, sometimes we can wait so it really just depends on the need of the child. 

Tye: Is Invisalign available to kids of all ages, and are there any advantages over traditional braces?

Dr. Kennedy: Invisalign is being used on a larger variety of cases and on children of all ages. There are limits to Invisalign, it cannot fix every issue, but it's being used to fix more and more. So again, it's kind of individualized treatment, and it really depends on the case. 

The advantages over traditional braces with Invisalign is they can be removed, they're clear, and because they're removable, sometimes you have better hygiene, you can clean the teeth better because you can take the aligners out to eat.

Tye: Are kids braces covered by most of the common insurance carriers you work with? 

Dr. Kennedy: Some carriers have an orthodontic benefit, usually, braces are not covered by insurance. Some insurances have a benefit, so they may pay for part of your treatment. You really have to look at what your insurance covers. There's no insurance that covers 100% that I'm aware of, but we do take most insurance carriers and you can use your insurance at our office.

Tye: Other than insurance, what are some other payment options that are offered? 

Dr. Kennedy: We offer different payment plans and we do take CarCredit which is a way to finance your treatment through a third party company.

Tye: Any final thoughts on kids and braces?

Dr. Kennedy: I really feel like a great smile makes a big difference in an individual's life, so getting braces at an early age, creating a nice smile, it really builds confidence in a child and you never know what a difference that could make over their lifetime.

Tye: What is the best way to contact your office to schedule a consultation for my child? 

Dr. Kennedy: Well, for more information, our website is or calling our office to schedule an appointment at 361-992-9500. Thank you.

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