Your kid just got braces, and it’s a pretty big deal. On one hand, you made a lifelong investment in their smile. On the other hand, you’ve quickly realized caring for braces requires extra vigilance, both on your part and on the part of your child.
Let’s face it -- for kids, who aren’t always stellar at brushing their teeth, braces make oral care tricky. But don’t worry — this metal-in-the-mouth phase is manageable. Help your child learn how to care for braces with these six tips.
Braces Care Tip #1: Use the Right Tools
Brushing and flossing is an important part of anyone’s dental care, but it is especially important for kids with braces. Food and plaque get easily trapped between your child’s teeth and braces, increasing their chance of developing cavities.
Help your child care for their braces with these three tools. All are inexpensive and found at drugstores.
- Soft-bristled toothbrush: Encourage kids to brush above and below braces at a 45-degree angle.
- Inter-ortho brush: Next, reach between braces with a cone-shaped, inter-ortho brush.
- Floss threader: Most kids with braces benefit from floss threaders, which create a loop for dental floss. This makes threading floss behind braces brackets much easier.
Braces Care Tip #2: Use a Fork and Knife
I know. Getting a hungry teenager to use utensils with pizza is about as easy as — well, nothing. But when it comes to caring for braces, this is an important one.
Biting into food pushes it up behind and between a kid’s braces, causing it to get stuck. Hard foods also damage brackets and wires. Encourage kids with braces to eat foods like burgers and pizza with a fork and knife. Also, cut corn off the cob and slice crunchy fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
Braces Care Tip #3: Choose Chocolate
Kids love sugar, but sticky sweets, hard candies and tacky gum damage braces. Chocolate is a softer option that dissolves quickly without getting stuck. Who knew eating chocolate was part of caring for braces! Steer your child toward chocolate but remind them to consume all sweets in moderation. And remember, break large chocolate bars into bite-sized pieces.
Braces Care Tip #4: Be Mindful
Caring for braces extends beyond good oral hygiene. Many kids have unconscious habits — like fingernail biting and chewing on pencils — that can loosen or break braces brackets. And damaging braces only extends the length of time your child must wear them. Help braces-wearing kids replace these habits with something that won’t cause damage, like a stress ball or a fidget spinner.
Braces Care Tip #5: Listen to Your Orthodontist
Elastics aren’t fun. Headgear isn’t comfortable. And expanders make talking difficult. Kids have a dozen legitimate reasons to hate braces. But the discomfort is only temporary and your child’s treatment plan is designed to align their teeth as quickly and safely as possible. No matter how much they grumble, encourage children to follow the orthodontist’s instructions about caring for their braces. They’ll thank you later, when they enter adulthood with nice, straight teeth.
Braces Care Tip #6: Visit Your Dentist
Routine dental exams are another part of caring for braces. The orthodontist helps straighten your child’s teeth and the dentist keeps them healthy during treatment. Your dentist, as well as your orthodontist, is an expert on helping kids care for braces. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need more tips or if you are concerned about your child’s oral hygiene while wearing braces.