What your child should expect before and after braces. While most parents include oral hygiene as part of child care, many do not really consider the possibility that their child may need braces at some point in order to be able to chew or bite properly. The American Dental Association recommends visiting an orthodontist for an evaluation at around 6 or 7 years old when permanent teeth begin to come in.
There are some signs parents can look for to help determine if their child may need braces, but sometimes only a professional can say for sure. If it is determined that your child will need braces, there are many things you can do to lessen anxiety and help the whole process go more smoothly.
So what is the best age to get braces? It may vary from child to child, but the youngest is around 8 years old. While there is no braces age limit, doctors ideally recommend braces for kids under 18, while their teeth and gums are more malleable and less likely to be affected in the long run.
Even without a braces age limit, you and your orthodontist should decide what is the best age to get braces for your child. Handling braces for kids may be determined by maturity level or other individual factors. Most children can tolerate braces at age 8 or over.
Preparing For Braces
Once it has been determined that your child will definitely need braces, it’s time to prepare for the long-term process. You may want to sit down with your child and look at pictures of children and adults wearing braces. Your child can decide whether to choose a colorful or a more invisible look for their “mouth jewelry.” Speak with your child about the reason for wearing braces. You may put a picture of a beautiful smile on the fridge or in the child’s room as a reminder of the future results.
Before the actual braces, it will be necessary for the orthodontist to take x-rays and impressions of your child’s teeth. The model made from the impressions will help your orthodontist see more clearly the work that needs to be done and make a plan to meet that goal. You may want to discuss with your child, especially if he or she is younger, about what having an impression will be like.
You may also want to make a list of foods your child must avoid while wearing braces, such as the following:
- Hard candy or foods such as nuts or pretzels
- Sticky foods such as gum or taffy
- Popcorn is very difficult to remove from braces or between teeth with braces
- Acidic beverages such as soda
If your child is receiving braces at age 8, you may want to design a reward system for exercising self-control in his or her eating and cleaning habits. The orthodontist will show your child how to properly brush and floss, but they may need supervision when they first begin.
Be prepared to pamper your child’s sore mouth for the first few days. Although the pain may not be severe, it is still uncomfortable. It may be a good idea to have a variety of soft foods on hand, such as applesauce or pudding cups. Cold treats are especially soothing, such as yogurt or ice cream. If the pain seems more bothersome, try Tylenol or Aleve at doctor-recommended doses.
The time it takes to straighten a little one’s teeth may seem like an eternity. You may plan some celebratory events to mark certain milestones in time or progress. Nothing is quite so scary when you have a plan and know what to expect, so help your child stay focused on that beautiful smile that’s coming for them.
After the Braces Come Off
When the big day finally arrives, and the braces come off, make sure your child knows it’s not over yet. There will probably be new impressions to make, and then—the retainer. For some, this little torture device can be worse than the braces ever were. Since the removable retainer will be inserted onto the roof of the mouth, your child may have some initial problems talking around it.
Make sure your child understands that taking the retainer out is not an option except for cleaning or absolute necessity. Again, you may need some new motivations to help your child adjust to this inconvenience. After a period of time, the retainer will only need to be worn at night. The retainer holds the teeth secure as they settle into place after the braces are removed. You don’t want to undo all that hard work!
Even with the retainer, your child can’t help but love the smooth feel of their newly straighten teeth and enjoy that bright new smile. You can watch your child’s self-esteem swell and their confidence take a giant leap with a smile like a movie star! Celebrate! Walk around the mall and grin at all the people. Get all the family together and make it a big deal. Why not? It’s as wonderful as a birthday. Remember that there are still limitations about certain foods. You wouldn’t want to break that retainer.
Here’s What We Think
The end is in sight, and soon the braces process will be just a memory. With a little diligence, it doesn’t have to be a horrible memory, but just another part of life’s great adventure. Because you had your child evaluated by an orthodontist early on, the process will be over long before the most awkward ages in growing up.
If your child is older, encourage him or her to be bold and embrace the braces. Encourage them to wear their mouth jewelry with pride, not embarrassment, because they’re on their way to being all they can be!
Here’s the Kicker
The advantages of wearing braces early are many. Dr. Papandreas can make a professional assessment and assist you with the total orthodontic process. It’s an investment in your child’s future that you don’t want to put off. Make an appointment today.
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