How to prepare your child for braces

A significant number of school-age children are fitted for dental braces each year. Orthodontic work of this type can straighten crooked teeth and slide teeth over to fill gaps. The end result is an attractive smile with strong, even teeth that will last longer and resist cavities since there are no more pockets, gaps, or crowding where bacteria can grow.

If you have been told by a dentist or orthodontist that your child may need braces, it’s a good idea to begin the preparation before the metal brackets are placed. Your child may need some practical advice as well as emotional support in facing a whole new look for the next 18 to 24 months.

Keep focusing on the outcome as you discuss this plan with your child:

“Your teeth will look so great when this eyetooth is straight.”

“Your good looks will be enhanced by a beautiful new smile.”

“Think how envious your friends will be!”

Many kids need a little encouragement for each step of the process, from taking impressions, which involves having wet plaster shaped around lower and upper teeth (separately, thankfully) to a panoramic x-ray, which is quite a stretch of the mouth for several seconds. These challenging preparations are followed by the actual placement of the braces themselves, which can take 1-1/2 hours, with a kid-friendly video popped into the VCR to keep the child occupied.

After the initial placement, your kids will need reminders about brushing adequately, about two minutes according to some orthodontists, and proper flossing, with additional rinsing and detail work in keeping teeth clean.

Point out examples of celebrities who have worn braces, especially kid or teen stars. Also mention those of your child’s friends, neighbors, or classmates who have braces, for a “bandwagon” incentive. No kid wants to be left out of the loop!

Commemorate the placement day as a “rite of passage,” for your child will be possibly two years older when they come off. Go out for ice cream, buy a special piece of jewelry, or write in your journal together about the experience. Do the same to preserve this special childhood memory on the day the braces are removed.

Explain each step of the process before you go in for appointments. Let your child know what to expect rather than be surprised and perhaps fearful of some steps.

If your child has expressed anxiety at home, let the staff know so they can be extra patient or friends to help alleviate these concerns. Ask Cousin Ralph or Aunt Marie to share their experiences with braces and recommendations of their benefits.

Listen to your child’s concerns. Be sympathetic and encouraging. Emphasize the positive outcome.

An extensive medical procedure like orthodontic work can seem overwhelming for some kids. Take time to walk your child through it. Not only will this process work out in time, but you will instill a sense of trust in your child by the way you handle this situation. The next traumatic event to come along will be much easier to handle after you have helped him or she overcome this ordeal.

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