If you haven't had a child with braces, you may not know just how much of a pain braces are. Everybody already knows that braces are physically uncomfortable -- even if you didn't have them yourself as a kid, your friends complained to you about having their braces tightened. But you may not be aware of the extent of the financial pain (five years ago we paid >$4K for a straightforward case, here in low cost-of-living Gladlyville). The biggest surprise for me was the time commitment. If I had a job where they were counting my use of PTO, I would have burned through something like 50 hours of it taking my kid with braces to the orthodontist every month.
So. Best to avoid the whole scene if possible, right? Strategy A I knew about: breastfeed. (Breastfeeding can protect against malocclusion; long-term use of artificial nipples can promote it.) Strategy B was completely new to me: consider a lower lingual arch if the issue is crowding.
Teeth like to touch each other. If there's a gap in the gumline, teeth will shift slowly along it so they are closer to each other. But if you have a kid with crowding, you want to push back against this tendency. Preserve the space, and the lower teeth may be able to untangle themselves.
I assumed we were looking at extractions + braces for my third son because his lower teeth were all squished together and overlapping and strangely angled. Instead we paid $300 for a lower lingual arch and got most of the money back from our dental insurance. When his eyeteeth fell out in junior high, his incisors began a slow mysterious dance in which they eased themselves into a lovely straight line. No braces needed, no extractions needed.
I had no idea that such a thing was possible, but it worked beautifully. A+++ would lower lingual arch again.