Many kids are nervous and some are even a little scared about getting braces. The internet is replete with tactical advice, tips and “what to expect” blog posts and videos about getting braces so we wanted to focus on the experience and offer ideas that can help you make things more tolerable for your child. So we thought we would take a different approach and provide a few ideas and suggestions that go beyond practical and get to the heart of your child’s experience with braces.
This is a major life event no matter your age with many changes to get used to. Here are a few things you can do to help your child (and your family) prepare for this new season.
1. Talk About It
Your child may be dealing with anxiety over the procedure, especially if the braces will be on for a while. Don’t assume they’re okay just because they tell you they are. Get your child talking and try to gauge how they’re feeling. Encourage them to do a bit of research and have a good idea of what’s coming. Depending on your family screen time policy, you may consider watching a few youtube videos from families and kids who have documented their braces journey online. To an adult, this may sound a bit silly, but to kids, especially tweens, seeing other kids go through it could set their minds at ease.
2. Create a Hygiene Routine
The daily maintenance required with braces is a big change for kids. It’s a good idea to sit down with your child before the braces go on and come up with a schedule and set expectations for when, how and why hygiene is so important. You may even want to create a checklist that you can post in the bathroom to help your kiddo (and you) keep up with the new daily routine.
3. Milestones and Incentives
Generally speaking, the lifecycle of braces is 18-24 months. This is a long time! Having something to look forward to can help the time pass faster for your child. Identify and celebrate milestones big and small. Sit down as a family, get out your calendar and mark significant days — like 6 months, 12 months, 18 months etc. — and decide how you will celebrate making it that far. Maybe a trip to an amusement park, a new toy, video game or even a gift card will be a fun thing to look forward to for your child while they go through the process. If your child is struggling with breakage or hygiene, consider an incentive chart or other reward system help keep them on track.
4. Have a Party!
A few days before the big day, throw a braces party! Include any favorite foods, candies or snacks that will be off-limits during braces season. Have fun with it! Decorate! Invite some friends! Whatever you think will be special for your child — do it! Not only does it give them a chance to enjoy favorite foods that will be (temporarily) off-limits while the braces do their work, it also creates a memory that your child will cherish. Be sure to take lots of photos, especially for “before and after” purposes.
5. Prepare the Pantry
If you have ever been on a specialty or “fad” diet, you will remember that one of the first things recommended is sweeping the pantry of all forbidden foods and removing temptations. It’s a good idea to do this in advance of braces day. Chewy foods, crunchy foods, sticky foods, and hard foods are especially important to avoid. Obviously, your entire family isn’t expected to forgo these foods, but give some thought to making a family pact to avoid certain high-risk foods to show support for the child getting braces. Little acts such as these go a long way to making this a more pleasant experience for your child.
6. Braces Survival Kit
On brace day, surprise your kid with a braces survival kit. Include mission critical items such as floss, threaders, pick, sports mouthguard, dental wax, a special new toothbrush and toothpaste, pocket mirror, tissue pack, and lip balm. Put these items in a special new bag. Another fun gift idea is a new water bottle or insulated cup to encourage them to drink more water and stay hydrated (which helps with saliva production and breaking down foods).
We hope that these suggestions will give you some ideas that will help you get your child’s heart and mind ready for braces. The biggest thing to remember as you encourage your child through this time is that this is just a season — it will come to an end. Any discomfort or inconvenience they may experience for a short time will have a long-term pay off when they see that dazzling new smile.