Braces are almost like childhood right of passage. Unfortunately, they often come at the worst possible time: middle school. Kids at this age are already very self-conscious about their appearance, and many parents can sympathize about the difficult time they had with a mouth full of metal during one of the most difficult periods of their young lives. So, how can you make this transition a whole lot easier and more comfortable for your child?
First things first: visibility. One of the most challenging aspects of braces is how unsightly they can be. The metal wires and colored cement used on traditional metal braces definitely attracts the eye and can be difficult to conceal — not something a young teenager or pre-teen (or an adult!) wants to deal with. However, as we’ve discussed before, there are thankfully a lot of new options for braces that are a whole lot less visible than the all-metal kind you may have had as a kid. And, while braces still don’t come cheaply, choosing a more discrete option could make your child feel more comfortable about the whole process and the prospect of having to wear braces or a plastic retainer for several months much less daunting.
Regarding the actual procedure, you can reassure your child that it won’t hurt. The dentist will simply clean and dry the teeth, attach brackets using an adhesive, and then attach the archwire. However, your child should understand that their mouths may a be a bit sore for the next few days, and the brackets might feel a bit uncomfortable at first. To help your child adjust, try preparing some of their favorite soft foods for the next few days, and maybe even buy a tub of their favorite ice cream to help dull any aches or discomfort.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a hefty supply of orthodontic wax on hand. This can be applied to brackets that may be hurting the inside of your child’s mouth, which is one of the most common annoyances that comes up when the braces are new. Allowing your child to choose the color of their rubber bands can also make them feel more in control of the situation and might make them feel less worried about their appearance.
You’ll also need to prepare your child for the care involved in having braces. Hard, crunchy and sugary foods are generally not allowed during this time because of how they can damage the archwire. This may very well include many of your child’s favorite foods, and they may not give them up without a fight! However, you can use this as an opportunity to cook and find new recipes with your child that they can eat, expanding their palate and giving them a creative outlet rather than allowing them to sulk over the situation.
Your child also needs to know that brushing and flossing are more important than ever with braces. Bracket-style braces can be difficult to clean unless your child is very thorough with their brushing, and they certainly won’t want to deal with cavities and fillings alongside their new hardware. To help encourage good oral hygiene, consider a rewards system: if your child demonstrates that they can brush and floss thoroughly twice a day for a whole week, they can get a small treat over the weekend.
Finally, make sure you’re there to listen to your child if he or she expresses her discomfort or annoyance at their braces. Chances are you were there too, once, and you can probably remember how it felt! Commiserating with your child may be a good bonding experience, especially because you can be living proof that braces were worthwhile in the long run.
Whether you’re an adult or a child, getting braces is never easy. Although they’ve come a long way over the years, braces still come with their share of frustrations, which can be particularly difficult for children to handle. However, adequately preparing your child, being patient, and allowing them to have some control over the situation can go a long way in ensuring that these next few months are nothing more than a blip on their radar. Do you have any questions about how to prepare your child for braces, or got a tip that helped your teen? Let us know in the comments!