For all the benefits that braces can bring to a smile, they also come with a few difficulties. If your teen has just gotten braces, we’ve rounded up some top tips from parents and dental experts to ensure everyone – and every tooth – stays happy.
Let Your Kids Take the Lead
Braces are recommended for a number of reasons: to straighten teeth, to correct a bite so teeth meet evenly, or to reduce the likelihood of damage and improve a smile. Even though braces are common, many kids still feel embarassed after they have them – and some may try to avoid them altogether. “My daughter, Emily, was 13 when our dentist suggested braces, and she wasn’t happy about it,” says mom Anna. “But our dentist was great – he spoke to her as if she were an adult and made it seem like the most obvious, mature choice.” Including your children in every decision related to their new braces – from when to have them fitted to what color brackets and bands to get – will make the transition much easier.
Get as Involved as Possible
You probably supervised your child’s brushing routine when they were younger, but you may need to get back into the habit of overseeing it, especially since braces require extra care and attention. “The dentist or orthodontist will explain how important oral hygiene is with braces, as food can get trapped more easily,” says Anna. But since your teen might attend appointments without you, they could be the only one hearing (and forgetting!) these important, tailored insights. Arrange to come in at the end of the appointments to make sure you’ve both heard what the dentist or orthodontist has to say.
While your child’s oral-care tips will be specific to them, brushing properly is key in all cases. In addition to following all the normal rules (brushing for two minutes, twice a day, in circular motions along the inside and outside gum line and stopping on each tooth to ensure all food particles are removed) make sure they’re angling the brush head against the braces and thoroughly focusing on cleaning under the wires, too. An electric toothbrush with a built-in timer will help your child make sure they’re brushing for long enough and getting rid of hard-to-reach food particles. An Oral-B electric toothbrush fitted with Ortho Care Essentials heads is designed to be effective on teeth fitted with braces. Flossing is essential, so have your dentist or orthodontist show them exactly how to work around the wires to get between every tooth. Oral-B Superfloss is ideal for cleaning teeth with braces because it combines a stiffened-end dental floss threader with spongy floss and regular floss. Using a mouthwash is also recommended – Crest Pro-Health Oral Rinse prevents and reduces plaque buildup, fights bad breath and keeps teeth cleaner longer, versus brushing alone – plus, it contains no alcohol, so it’s gentler for younger mouths.
Be Food Aware
It’s important that you and your teen know which foods need to be avoided with braces. Mom Adelie learned this the hard way when her son Johnny had his braces fitted at age 15. “Johnny broke one side of the brace by eating caramel, which I didn’t realize was on his list of forbidden foods!” she says.
Chewing hard objects like pens or pencils can damage braces and wires, too, so remind kids to break the habit if they do this absentmindedly. Sticky and hard foods can also break or damage braces and wires, while sugary foods – from soft drinks to cookies – increase the risk of cavities and decay.
Encourage your children to cut out sticky and hard foods like:
- Gum (both regular and sugar-free)
- Caramel-filled chocolate bars
- All chewy candy, including gummy bears, licorice and toffee
- Nuts and chunky peanut butter
- Hard breads like bagels, French bread or taco shells
- Apples and carrots – unless they’re cut very small
- Corn on the cob
Help Them Stay Comfortable and Relaxed
Mouth wax, which is typically given out by the dentist or orthodontist, can help reduce the pain of sharp wires hitting the gums. Be sure to chat with your child about any confidence issues they may have, too. “Emily was worried about speaking in class, but we went back to the dentist and he told her to record herself on her phone and practice speaking until she was happy with how she sounded. It helped immensely,” says Anna.
How do you help your child maintain good oral hygiene with braces? Share your ideas below in the comments section.