Braces come at the most inconvenient time for most kids. Right at the onset of the most awkward phase of their preteen/teenage years. Trying to navigate who they are, pimples and 4th period’s science projects are enough without adding what a lot of kids perceive as the embarrassment and uncomfortable addition of a metal mouth.
Being aware of our kids discomfort and doing what we can to make it as painless as possible to both their confidence and their mouth is important. Here are some things I found really helpful for my daughter that I hope helps makes this a better experience for your family.
Like with most things helping our children understand the way of the world and why things need to be done a certain way can be a struggle at this age. They are so much smarter than us (at least that’s the common perception anyway) so having a professional really explain what needs to be done, why, and the long term benefits was crucial.
Once she understood the numerous health benefits of braces, it helped her to not only understand why she needed them, but accept them as well. Not only do braces straighten and correctly space crooked teeth, but they:
- Prevent gum disease
- Prevent teeth from rotting and falling out
- Correct bad bites and prevent jaw problems
- Prevent abnormal tooth wear
One of the subtle complaints when we talked about getting braces was the loss of certain foods. Foods like Jerky, gum, caramels, nuts, popcorn, taffy are all off limits. Anything crunchy or chewy are bad news for braces. The crunchy foods can damage the braces, bending wires and popping brackets. The chewy foods like gum, caramel and taffy get lodged into the braces also causing bending and popping of brackets and ending up terribly stuck in the braces.
When the orthodontist explained that eating these things would probably end in prolonged treatment that gave her pause, it wasn’t until her and I sat down and made a game out of deciding what foods I would keep in the house to replace the ones she would have to stay away from. Apples were replaced with bananas, chips with string cheese, bagels with muffins, popcorn with cookies and so on. In the end the “haves” outweighed the “have nots” and she was happy, and that’s what mattered most.
This was the hardest for her. We have all heard of and seen in popular media the poor “geek” with braces that gets ragged on by their classmates. Being a teenager is hard enough and kids can be really brutal so giving them ammunition, like braces, is scary for most kids. There are some kids who are confident enough to own and dismiss any negative responses to their braces without a problem. I wanted to make sure for both of our emotional well beings that she was comfortable socially with them.
We sat and talked about whether the opinion of mean spirited people is important to her, whether she has any friends that have braces and if she sees them any differently and for a good laugh, looked up the celebrities who have had braces and what they looked like. It was a good way for us to connect, have a good laugh and help her to be more comfortable in her own skin after she got the braces.
Another factor that was a lot of fun for her were the colored bands. She was able to customize them to her liking making them feel a little more trendy which helped with the original self consciousness surrounding them.
This was a big one. A lot people have an anxiety about the dentist in general. I am not sure why but my daughter has been afraid of the dentist from a very young age. So much so that in grade school when I would tell her she had a dentist appointment coming up she would immediately tear up and looked as if she had seen a ghost. It slowly got better as she got older and realized the dentist wasn’t there to intentionally cause her harm, but the potential of harm still made her squirm.
Treatment for braces does not hurt most of the time; it is just uncomfortable. After her orthodontists and I clarified the facts and let her know that it is nothing a little Tylenol won’t relieve and any discomfort only lasts a few hours you could visibly see the sigh of relief.
We scheduled her appointment at the end of the school day so that she didn’t have to go back to school with a sore mouth and she was able to spend the rest of the evening becoming accustomed to them before heading back to school to take on whatever was thrown at her with confidence and a smile.
Featured photo credit: Chris Winter via flickr.com