How to Help Your Child Adjust To Braces
Braces can be no fun sometimes. Even as an orthodontics office, we can admit that. While it might be fun to pick out colors for your elastics and many improvements have been made for comfort of braces, there is certainly going to be an adjustment period for your child when adjusting to braces. Life with braces is very different from life without braces. Here are some tips to help your child adjust to braces as smoothly as possible.
1. Encourage them to follow the dietary instructions of their orthodontist.
When your child gets her braces on, her orthodontist is going to give her a list of instructions. Perhaps most important of these instructions is the list of foods that they should not eat while wearing braces. For most children, this is the biggest adjustment and the biggest change they will have to make. Instead of being able to grab an apple to go with their breakfast like they always have, they will have to cut up that apple into small, manageable pieces in order to be able to eat it. They will have to give up hard chips, movie theater popcorn, caramel, and many other foods that they would otherwise not have thought twice about eating. Because most children have not spent very much time thinking about their diet before getting on braces, this adjustment could be difficult. One way you can help your child adjust to braces is to make sure that you pack lunches and prepare meals that are easy for your children to eat with their braces. There was nothing more frustrating as a teenager than being presented with a dinner that I could not eat because of my braces. Most of the time, I would just eat it, rather than be left out.
2. Help them with their cleaning routine.
Even if your child has always been diligent about brushing their teeth, you might notice that they become less and less diligent when they have braces. This is because braces require a lot more work for your child than not having braces does. They will often have to use special brushes in order to clean in between the wire and their teeth and around the brackets. This can be a time consuming and boring process, one that might be abandoned in favor of a little more sleep at night or in the morning. Encouraging your child to stick with their cleaning routine is the best way help them make it a part of their daily habits. Once it is a habit, they are less likely to abandon it simply because it is difficult. This might mean standing with them while they are cleaning their teeth or asking them if they have been using their new toothbrushes and have been following the instructions of their orthodontist when it comes to their cleaning routine. Stay on top of them!
3. Listen to their concerns.
Braces can make your child feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Listening to their concerns and find a way to help them deal with those concerns is essential to help your child adjust to braces. Specifically, if they are afraid that they are going to be made fun of, remind them that most of their friends are wearing, have worn, or are going to wear braces in the near future. If they are dealing with a bully that will not leave them alone because of their braces, do not be afraid to escalate the problem to talking to that bully’s parents or getting the school involved. Most of all, encourage them to continue to pursue their interests, even if they feel a little embarrassed or uncomfortable while wearing their braces. Life with braces should be essentially the same as life without braces, especially when it comes to extra curricular activities and to their social lives.
4. Help with the discomfort.
Even if their braces are never actually painful, they are probably going to be uncomfortable from time to time, whether this is throughout the entire process or whether it is only after their braces are first put on or after an adjustment. Helping them with the discomfort of those braces is going to be a big part of helping them adjust to life with braces. If they are feeling real pain, give them an appropriate painkiller. If the pain does not going away, you might want to schedule an appointment with their orthodontist in order to make sure that there is nothing wrong with the braces. Listen to your child and if they complain of pain or discomfort, take steps to help them with that pain or discomfort, whether it is giving them a bowl of soothing ice cream (the cold can help to numb the teeth and the gums) or giving them a painkiller.
5. Make it easy for your child.
If you make your child’s adjustment to life with braces as easy as possible, they are more likely to be compliant with their orthodontist’s instructions and to have a great result at the end of the treatment. This might mean buying them an electric toothbrush that makes it much easier to clean their teeth and braces. My orthodontist often recommends a Waterpik for children that are less likely to be compliant with the complicated flossing process that braces require. Providing them with meals that they can actually eat without breaking their orthodontist’s rules is another great way to help them stay on track. Taking the time to help your child adjust to braces and making it easy for them means that at the end of it, you are going to see a much better return on the time and monetary investment you have put into those braces!