A Parent’s Guide to Braces for Their Child
A Treatment With Lifelong Benefits
Over the years, braces have become so common that it’s almost a rite of passage for young teens and preteens. It’s easy to see why they’re so prevalent, as they provide a wide range of lifelong benefits for your child. Straightening your child’s teeth and correcting their overall bite not only improves the appearance of their smile, which can give them a boost in self-confidence, but it improves the health of their teeth and gums in very tangible ways. Correcting a misaligned bite helps prevent TMDs, and straight teeth are easier to clean than crooked teeth, which helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Despite these benefits, your child may be nervous about getting braces and will likely need time to adjust once they get them. While braces certainly require an investment of time and effort, the treatment is certainly worth it. Here’s what you can expect from your child’s treatment, including a few tips on how you can make the process easier on them.
Prepare your child for getting braces.
When you take your child in for their appointment to receive their braces, plan for the process to take one or two hours. While this is a relatively long process, it’s completely painless. Explaining the process to your child before they arrive at our office and reassuring them that it won’t hurt may help your child feel less anxious about the procedure. Your child’s orthodontist will begin by cleaning and drying their teeth before they begin gluing the brackets in place and curing the glue with a special light. Next, they’ll put the metal bands that’ll anchor the braces in place around your child’s back molars before attaching the wires, which will be held in place using small rubber bands. Your child’s teeth will likely feel sore for a few days after they get their braces put on, but it’s usually relatively mild. Eating softer foods and taking over-the-counter pain medications should ease their discomfort.
Know what to expect from the treatment process.
Everyone’s teeth are different, so your child’s treatment plan will be tailored specifically to them. This means it’s hard to predict exactly how long their treatment will take until we’ve seen them for a consultation. On average, braces take 16 to 18 months to straighten teeth, but treatment could last as long as 24 months. Throughout your child’s orthodontic treatment, they’ll need to come back to our office for an appointment every four to six weeks to have their braces adjusted. These adjustments gradually increase the gentle pressure on their teeth, shifting them into the ideal position over time. Your child’s teeth will be a little sore or uncomfortable after every adjustment but only for a day or two.
While they have braces, your child will need to learn how to brush and floss their teeth with the braces in and will need to avoid foods that could harm the wires or brackets. This means that hard, sticky, or chewy foods like nuts, popcorn, corn on the cob, and caramel are off limits. To help you take care of your child’s oral health throughout the treatment process, you’ll be given detailed instructions on how they should care for their braces and what foods and they can and can’t have.
Help your child adjust to their new braces.
No matter how you slice and dice it, getting braces requires an adjustment period. Your child has new dietary restrictions and new habits to get used to in addition to getting used to the appearance and feel of the braces themselves. One way you can help them adjust is by preparing them beforehand and telling them what they can expect from the treatment as a whole. This will help ensure they’re not surprised or disappointed by learning a few of the downsides of the treatment at the last minute. That said, you can — and should — still get them excited for their braces by showing them before and after pictures and pointing out how great their smile will look once their treatment is complete.
Listen to their concerns and do your best to answer all of their questions both before and after they’ve started their treatment. They may struggle with feeling self-conscious once the braces have been placed on their teeth. Don’t discount or push away these concerns. Instead, really listen to them and show that you understand why they feel the way they do. Then, gently remind them that many of their peers also have braces, and most of their peers won’t give their braces a second thought. Once they get their braces, do your best to help your child stick to their new dietary restrictions. Don’t just take away the foods they can no longer eat, but do your best to find replacement snacks your child genuinely enjoys. That way, giving up other snacks feels less like a loss. Taking steps like this helps your child feel understood and supported and can make it easier for them to settle into their new normal.
Encourage your child to brush and floss properly.
Practicing great oral health is always important, but it’s even more important while your child is undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces. Brushing and flossing their teeth will be a little harder with braces on. Teenagers, in particular, may be discouraged from doing a good job. Unfortunately, not only does avoiding oral hygiene risk cavities and gum disease, but it can cause uneven staining where the brackets are secured to their teeth. Positive reinforcement can go a long way toward encouraging many children, especially younger ones, to brush their teeth regularly. Older children often need to understand why they need to do something before they’ll commit to doing it. Hygiene is so important with braces, and it is essential to encourage them to stick to a thorough oral hygiene routine.
Give yourself grace during the adjustment period.
If your child is struggling to adjust to their braces, it’s easy to feel guilty or like you’ve somehow failed them. Many parents wrestle with feelings like this when their child is struggling, so don’t worry; you’re not alone! That said, try to remember that your child’s health and self-confidence will benefit from this treatment in the long run. The adjustment period might be hard, but it’ll be worth it in the end! Don’t push your emotions aside; rather take the time to work through them. It’s healthier for you and will help you relate to your child on a deeper level. You’ll have real, tried-and-true advice you can offer them about how to work through their own emotions. Even if they get off to a bumpy start, providing this type of genuine, honest advice can help your child acclimate to their braces better.
It’s normal for your child to require an adjustment period when they get braces. In the end, though, the healthier, more beautiful smile they’ll gain will be worth all the changes they needed to go through. They may even learn some lessons about responsibility along the way!