So, your kiddo got braces––now what? Your preteen or teenager is already going through lots of changes, and, as a parent, it has been your job to guide them through it all, including adjust to a brand new set of hardware. Here are some tips on getting them prepped and handling their new accessory like a pro.
1. Pump Them up Beforehand
The first way you can ease into an orthodontic treatment is to play up the exciting parts of the process. You might be struggling to think of positives, but there are plenty. For one thing, your child gets to choose the colors of their rubber bands.
For more benefits, check out your orthodontist’s website. Perhaps they have a high-tech office, where your child can watch TV or play video games while they’re getting their braces adhered. Or, maybe their appointment is during the school day, and they get out early — don’t worry, we won’t tell their teachers. No matter what exciting facets of the appointment will be, highlight them, so your child doesn’t become overly focused on the way their smile is about to change.
2. Prepare Them for Dietary Changes
Not quite as fun is the fact that braces require young ones to change the way they eat. Both you and your child will have to work with the necessary restrictions of those with mouth-based metallic hardware.
Start with the most notorious braces-breaker of all — popcorn. For one thing, the small bits of husk can get stuck between teeth or behind braces, and they’re almost impossible to remove. On top of that, accidentally biting into an unpopped kernel can be disastrous, causing brackets and braces to pop right off. Ouch.
To that end, you’ll want your child to steer clear of any foods with extra-hard elements. Everything from chicken wings to nuts and seeds to hard candies is off the table. Sticky sweets, such as caramels and taffies, can get stuck to braces and pull out hardware. If that’s not enough, the sugar can get stuck behind the orthodontic treatment, which can damage your child’s teeth. As much as it will pain them, candy is a big no-no.
3. Teach Proper Hygiene
Now that your child has metal covering their teeth, a simple tooth-brushing routine won’t be enough to keep their mouth clean. It’ll be up to you to ensure they’re correctly cleaning each morning and night.
Once braces are in the picture, kids should even learn to brush differently. Your child will have to hold their soft-bristled brush at a 45-degree angle to gently brush their teeth. Flossing between teeth and under wires will be a requirement, too — food will be very likely to get stuck in these places a brush can’t reach. You might also consider investing in a water pic to flush crumbs and bacteria from similar areas, although this device is not a substitute for flossing.
4. Ward off Pre- and Post-Application Pain
Your orthodontist will probably recommend some sort of pain medication to help your child ease into wearing their new braces. And, at first, it could hurt — metal wires and brackets are pulling their teeth into new alignment. So, be sure to build up your pre-teen’s pain tolerance with the recommended over-the-counter pain reliever. After the braces arrive, you can extend the same treatment to help soothe any lingering aches.
Be sure to bring home plenty of bracket wax, too. Even with the best orthodontic treatment, your child is likely to experience some rubbing, which can damage the inside of the mouth. Placing a small amount of wax over the hardware will smooth it over and prevent mouth sores. So, be sure to get instructions on how to do this before leaving the orthodontist’s office for both you and your child, so you’re both adept at applying it.
5. Boost Their Confidence Throughout
Having braces during a traditionally awkward period of life can make things even more difficult for your kids. You look at them and see how adorable they are, but they might face teasing at school because of their new hardware. If you notice your child starting to resent their orthodontic treatment, they could be getting grief at school.
The best way to stop bullying is to stay in tune with your child. A bully will typically work to make a child feel isolated and alone, so help your kiddo understand you’re in their corner — that will help them stand up to anyone making fun of their new smile. Be sure to remind your kid they won’t be the first or last one at school to have braces. Soon, the bully will lose interest in what will become a commonplace accessory.
You have all the tools to make your brood feel physically good while wearing braces by protecting their teeth, preparing them in advance and providing pain relief before and after the application. Building their self-confidence will complete the package, and they’ll be more than ready for the challenge of orthodontic treatment. They’ll also be deserving of the payoff for all their efforts — a smile that’s straight and healthy.
Jennifer Landis is a 29-year-old healthy living blogger who loves yoga, running, and dancing it out with her toddler! You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or by following her on Twitter: @jenniferelandis.