So your child needs braces – yikes! There’s a lot to learn as a parent, but don’t worry. With some preparation and positivity, you and your kid can embrace it together.
Here are tips for some of the most common concerns about braces and how to make this a positive experience for your child or teen. For more detailed information on preparing for and living with braces, check out our parent’s complete braces survival guide.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
Some kids can't wait to get their braces and see them as a rite of passage to their teen years. Some might be cautiously optimistic at the idea of a straighter, more confident smile. And others might feel worried about how they’ll look and if it will hurt. Chances are, your kid will feel a mix of all of these.
Older kids and teens can be especially self-conscious about having braces. Let them express their emotions, and let them know that their feelings are normal. While you can’t control all of the factors, a little support can go a long way.
Keep up with Cleaning
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help the process go smoothly. Encourage your child to follow best practices for brushing teeth with braces. (Not doing so can lead to other dental health issues.)
It’s recommended to brush after every meal, which makes an on-the-go cleaning kit with toothpaste, toothbrush, floss and mouthwash helpful for sleepovers and meals away from home. There will inevitably be times your kid will be without a toothbrush after a meal. In those cases, they should try to at least get in a quick swish and rinse with water.
And with all that extra brushing, an electric toothbrush is a great way to help your kid get a thorough clean every time.
Look to your dentist to help set expectations about any pain your child might experience, how long their braces will stay on and specific care instructions.
Before your appointment, it’s a good idea to write down all of the questions you and your child have so you don’t forget anything. For example, if your kid is involved in sports, ask if they’ll need to wear any special head gear or equipment.
Keep Braces-friendly Food on Hand
For kids with braces, meals and snacktime can be a regular reminder of the things they can’t eat. Hard, crunchy snacks like popcorn, nuts and pretzels can get stuck in braces and should be avoided. Instead, stock the fridge and pantry with softer things like yogurt, string cheese, bananas and berries. For meals, steer clear of hard taco shells, crusty bread and corn on the cob. A good rule of thumb: If something tends to gets stuck in your teeth, it will almost definitely get stuck in your kid’s braces.
Focus on the Future
The best thing about braces is, of course, the great confident smile your child will have when they come off. Focusing on the future result can help the present seem less challenging – and remind them that it will all be worth it.
You might want to plan a fun event to celebrate the occasion, like a special family meal featuring some of the foods your kid has been missing or a family photo session to show off those pearly whites. (Just remember, teeth can be sensitive right after getting braces removed, so be prepared with some sensitivity toothpaste.)
As daunting as it might seem, braces are common and lots of families have successfully navigated the process. Talking to other parents who have done it can help you feel more confident and in-control.