Back to School with Braces: What You Need to Know

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If your teen got braces over the summer, they are probably just starting back to school with those braces. Having braces during the break is one thing—having braces during the school year is something else entirely. If your teen has already started school or is going to start school soon, they might be nervous about how they are going to adjust to a class schedule and extracurricular activities with their braces. Whether you just want to assuage their fears or put together a kit to help them deal with any braces-related discomfort while at school, here’s what you need to know.

1. Make sure they have a braces care kit.

What is a braces care kit? It’s a bag or pouch of stuff that they might need to keep their braces clean and comfortable during the school day. An ideal kit includes a toothbrush and toothpaste, floss or flossing picks, and maybe even a small mirror, just in case they want to check and make sure there is nothing stuck in their braces but they don’t have time to visit the bathroom before class starts. If their braces require rubber bands, a few extra bands is also a good idea, as is some of the wax that their orthodontist has given them, so they can smooth over any irritating brackets or wires. This is basically everything they need to handle any problem with their braces, at least until they get home.

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2. Pack easy lunches.

Unless their school provides a lunch program (which, in that case, it would be your child’s responsibility to make sure that they are picking foods that will not harm their braces), making sure that they have a lunch that complies with Dr. Gemmi and Middleberg’s dietary rules is essential. This can be one of the most discouraging parts of getting braces, but there are still plenty of lunches that your teen will love. Just make sure that raw carrots, whole apples, nuts, chips, or large pieces of meat are not on the menu. It’s also a good idea to remind your teen not to chew on ice and to avoid sticky snacks like taffy or caramel. It’s also important to avoid hard breads when making a sandwich, for example.

3. Check to make sure they have a water bottle.

Drinking enough water is essential for health, but it is especially important when your teen has braces. Not only does drinking plenty of water help to clear away and food pieces that might be hiding around the brackets or underneath the wire, water helps to neutralize the acids from the foods we eat, which keeps your mouth healthier. While most schools have water fountains, having a water bottle in their backpack is the best way to encourage them to drink water and is more convenient than getting up and leaving class when they need a drink. Disposable water bottles are a good option, but a reusable water bottle is probably the best choice. It’s better for the environment and is better for your teen, too.

4. Make a new mouth guard for sports.

The mouth guard your teen wore last year for football or soccer is not going to work now that he has braces. It’s time to make a new one, especially if his team uses the molded kind. Any sport that might cause injury to the mouth usually requires their players to wear a mouth guard. This could be football, soccer, rugby, lacrosse, etc. If you suspect that your teen is going to need a mouth guard at all, have one on hand and ready to be molded, so he does not have to worry about whether or not he is going to be able to play.

5. Let them have a special treat.

Going back to school with braces is hard. During the summer, most kids see only their friends. Being thrust back into the halls of a school where kids can be cruel is difficult for both you and your teen. Letting them have a small treat of a milkshake or a smoothie, especially on days when they have had an adjustment to their braces, can be a great pick-me-up. Other treats might include a little bit of ice cream (as long as it does not contain nuts) or some pudding. Even a small piece of cake might be a nice treat. Don’t be afraid to spoil them a little bit. Braces are a big transition period for your teen and though they have to wear them for a relatively short amount of time (especially compared to how long they will be able to enjoy a healthy, straight smile), this can be a rough time. A small treat can take some of the edge off.

6. Help them understand that they are not alone.

Thirty years ago, they might have been one of only a few kids who had braces at school. Now, a huge portion of their class has either had or is currently wearing braces. They might feel that they have been separated from their classmates because they are wearing braces, but the truth is that most of their friends are probably wearing them, too. They shouldn’t feel embarrassed about smiling or laughing. In reality, very few people are even going to notice that they are wearing braces. Today’s braces are much thinner and more discreet than the brackets used even ten years ago. Encourage them to still be outgoing and to not let their braces hold them back!

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