When your child first finds out they’ll be getting braces or Invisalign Teen, they’re likely going to have a lot of questions. They might be nervous about the treatment being painful or embarrassed to be the only person in class with braces (fact: they won’t be!). They might be frustrated about the rules of what they can and can’t eat, and how to brush and floss their teeth. We get these questions all the time at Richard Chan Orthodontics, both from our teen patients and their parents. In most cases, kids are simply afraid of the unknown. As parents, you can play a big role in helping them understand what to expect and prepare them as best as possible.
As your child gets ready to start his or her orthodontic treatment, there are many things you can do to ease their concerns and even get them excited (yes, really!). And if you ever have questions, just call your Monroe, Mill Creek, Bothell and Juneau orthodontist. Dr. Richard Chan and our team are always here to help.
1. Learn All About Braces and Invisalign Together
Beginning any orthodontic treatment can feel a little overwhelming, not only for kids and teens but for their parents too. The first step in preparing for braces or Invisalign is to learn as much as possible about treatment before it actually starts. Research what your child will need to know from the foods they can eat to how to brush and floss. Better yet, get educated together so the whole family knows what to expect. When you’ve done thorough research and discussed all of your child’s treatment options, everyone will feel better equipped to take on life with braces.
2. Let Them Know They’re Not Alone
Many kids don’t want braces or Invisalign, because they think they’ll be the only one they know going through it. But did you know an estimated 80% of teens will have some sort of orthodontic treatment? Chances are your child already has a few friends or classmates with braces or Invisalign. Maybe you even had braces yourself way back when. Reminding your kids that they’re not alone (and that treatment can be a positive experience) can help them get more comfortable with the idea of getting braces.
There are also many celebrities who had braces, even when they were already in the public eye. Drew Barrymore, Kendall Jenner and Dakota Fanning are just a few of Hollywood’s biggest names who straightened their teeth. Once your kids see how common braces are for everyone, they’ll feel better about their own treatment. And seeing the results of braces on the big screen is also an added benefit!
3. Stock the Fridge with Soft Foods
Adapting to life with braces is about more than getting used to seeing a new smile in the mirror. Your kids will also have to adjust their eating habits to make sure they get the most out of their treatment. There are a number of foods to avoid when you have braces, including sticky, chewy, hard, or crunchy foods, or anything you have to bite into (such as apples, corn on the cob or whole raw carrots).
As a parent, you can make their lives easier by stocking up on and preparing braces-friendly foods. Soft things like yogurt, fruit, soups, smoothies, steamed veggies or ice cream are perfect foods for people with braces, because they’re easy to chew and won’t get caught in your child’s appliance. The best part is that braces-safe foods are usually super healthy, so the whole family can benefit from a braces-friendly diet!
4. Plan Ahead for Discomfort
On top of learning what they can and cannot eat, your child will also have to get used to the feel of braces or Invisalign. With any orthodontic treatment, there can be mild discomfort as the teeth shift and move to their desired position. Braces can cause additional irritation to your child’s lips or the inside of their mouth. Parents can help their kids cope by having orthodontic wax and mild, over-the-counter pain relievers on hand.
Have your kids take a child-safe medication like Advil before getting their braces tightened or when they’re switching to a new set of Invisalign Teen aligners. If their brackets are causing sores, place orthodontic wax over the uncomfortable part of the braces to reduce irritation. Being proactive about managing discomfort will ensure your kids have a much more positive experience with braces or Invisalign.
5. Put Together An Invisalign or Braces Emergency Kit
Speaking of planning ahead, putting together an Invisalign or braces emergency kit is the key to being ready for any situation and keeping teeth clean while on the go. Store these items in a toiletry or cosmetic bag and have your child keep the kit on them when they’re at school or activities:
- A Travel Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Kids will want to brush their teeth after eating to get rid of any food debris that’s stuck in their hardware. Even those with Invisalign Teen should brush after eating, so their teeth are clean when they put their clear aligners back in.
- Flossing Tools
If your child or teen will be getting braces, don’t forget to add dental floss and a floss threader or special orthodontic flossers to their kit. Flossing can get rid of stubborn food that refuses to budge with a toothbrush. Interdental brushes, also called interproximal brushes, are a good addition too. These tiny brushes are able to clean around brackets and can be used to dislodge food.
- Orthodontic Wax
As mentioned above, braces wax is effective for stopping irritation and it can be used for minor braces emergencies like a poking wire or broken bracket.
Keeping tissues on hand ensures kids can quickly wipe away any spit when they take out their Invisalign aligners. Tissues can also be used to dry off areas of the braces that are causing irritation before applying wax.
- Hand Sanitizer
Encourage kids and teens to thoroughly wash their hands before removing or putting in their aligners or applying wax to their braces. If they’re not able to find soap and a sink, hand sanitizer will do the trick.
- Lip Balm
Include lip balm for braces and Invisalign wearers. When you have braces or are wearing aligners or a retainer, the lips stretch a bit to fit over the appliance, which can cause or worsen dryness and cracking. Sometimes, after braces adjustments, the lips can feel a bit dry too. Using lip balm will keep lips hydrated and help with any irritation. The best lip balm for braces or Invisalign is one that’s rich and soothing like Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Beeswax Lip Balm or Carmex.
While it might not fit in your child’s braces or Invisalign kit, be sure they bring their reusable water bottle with them when they leave the house. Kids can swish with water after meals and snacks if they forget their toothbrush or after having a sugary beverage. Staying hydrated by drinking water also stimulates the flow of saliva, which helps remineralize teeth and wash away food and plaque to keep cavities away.
6. Set Up A System of Small Rewards
As a parent, you know the real reward for keeping braces clean or wearing clear aligners or rubber bands for the prescribed amount of time is a healthy smile. However, kids and teens don’t always fully appreciate these long-term benefits. That’s why we recommend using a system of small rewards to help kids establish positive habits. Setting your expectations and figuring out a rewards system before kids start treatment will be helpful.
Think about what motivates your child and then use it to temporarily reward them until the desired habit (i.e., diligently brushing and flossing with braces, wearing Invisalign Teen aligners or rubber bands for 22 hours per day, etc.) is firmly in place.
For example, you could reward your kiddo with 15 minutes of extra screen time each day they brush their teeth for two full minutes after meals and snacks. Or, they could earn a ticket every time they wear their aligners for 22 hours. When they collect 10 tickets, they then get to go somewhere fun or order takeout from the restaurant of their choice. Get creative and find what works for your family!
7. Focus on the End Goal
We all know that kids can be impatient and during orthodontic treatment is no different. Your kids will probably be counting down the days until their braces come off or when they can put away their aligners for good. Depending on their length of treatment, they’ll have many months to wait, which can make it hard for them to see how their oral hygiene habits today will impact results down the line.
To keep them motivated, help them look ahead to the end of treatment when they’ll get to see their perfect smile. Focusing on the outcome will encourage them to stay on track and comply with their orthodontist’s instructions. And before they know it, they’ll be able to proudly show off their brand new smile.
Let’s Work Together to Give Your Child a Healthy, Beautiful Smile!
Still have questions about preparing your child for orthodontic treatment? Whether you want more details about oral hygiene or you’d like additional recommendations for things like the best toothpaste or lip balm for braces, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
If you’re interested in finding out your child or teenager’s teeth-straightening options, schedule a complimentary consultation at Richard Chan Orthodontics in Bothell, Monroe or Mill Creek, WA or Juneau, AK today!