Child Orthopedics

Frequently Asked Questions

We have two boys ages 14 and 16. The younger boy just had braces taken off his teeth. Now he has a retainer. The older son has finished wearing a brace for scoliosis of his spine but there's no retainer. How do they keep everything from shifting back without a retainer?

That's a very good question. Bracing for scoliosis (curvature of the spine) is used until X-rays show the child has reached skeletal maturity. This means the bones have stopped growing.

For the normal, healthy child, the scoliosis is unlikely to progress or get worse once skeletal maturity is reached. The scoliosis may not be stopped if the child has some other developmental or neurologic condition.

Many children finish with orthodontic braces before growth is complete. A retainer is worn until the roots of the teeth are firmly implanted in the jaw. There's no danger that they might continue to move or migrate back. The dentist uses both the age of the child and the X-rays to make this decision.

Scoliosis bracing is not stopped or discontinued until the growth plates are fully closed. The phase of rapid growth when scoliosis is most likely to get worse is now over.

A retainer is not needed but further follow-up is required. The orthopedic surgeon will continue to follow your son for at least another two years. It's important to keep these appointments to insure maximum success from the program.

Robert N. Hensinger, MD, and George H. Thompson, MD. Orthotic Management in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. Leveling the Playing Field. In Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. June 2007. Vol. 27. No. 4. Pp. 367.

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