For millions of families around the country, braces and childhood tend to go hand-in-hand. This leaves many moms with lots of questions about what life with braces will be like for their kid. Common questions range from when kids should first see the orthodontist to what types of food are off limits. The more parents are know what to expect, the less they will fear the process, and be able to help their children enjoy and get the most out of their treatment experience. “Getting braces doesn’t have to be a scary process, but it can be if you haven’t had some of the more common questions answered ahead of time,” explains Dr. Karson Kupiec, a second-generation orthodontist at Kupiec Orthodontics & Pediatric Dentistry, located in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. “The last thing you want is to go into the treatment process without feeling comfortable. When parents feel comfortable and confident about it, so will the kids. They often mimic their feelings.” Here are some of the things that every mom must know before their child gets braces:
- Age. Many people are unsure when a child should see an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist no later than the age of seven.
- Straightness. Even children who have straight teeth should still be evaluated by an orthodontist. There may be a problem with their teeth that can be detected by the doctor. Early treatment helps to guide proper jaw growth, correct harmful habits, and help guide teeth, and even shape one’s face.
- Cost. With an average cost for metal braces being around $5,000- $7,500, many parents may feel they can’t afford the treatment. However, some orthodontist offices offer payment plans, making it worthwhile to check into what options are available. There are various types of braces available, so discuss them with the orthodontist to determine the best one for your child and invest in their future smile.
- Clean Teeth. If your child’s teeth aren’t sufficiently clean before getting braces, your orthodontist will have to clean them with a polishing paste so that the braces can properly be cemented to your teeth. If possible, schedule a regular professional cleaning appointment with your dentist a few days before you get your new braces so the teeth will be plaque-free prior to your braces appointment. Then, brushing with a high fluoride toothpaste — along with flossing and gargling mouthwash before your appointment — can help make you feel more confident and will speed things along with the orthodontist.
- Expect discomfort. Getting braces is going to create some discomfort, especially once your child first gets them. They can cause sores in the mouth. To help, choose soft foods, such as soup, pasta and bananas for the few days following getting braces. If there is still a high level of discomfort after a few days and it doesn’t go away with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, call the orthodontist.
- Regular care. Talk to your orthodontist about proper care of your braces. You’ll need to brush regularly and use a Waterpik to flush out the food particles that can get caught between braces and teeth; you should also avoid sticky foods. With proper care and by seeing your orthodontist regularly for checkups, you can keep your teeth healthy while your braces are in place.
- Foods. There are some foods that should be avoided when having braces, because they tend to get caught. These include chewy foods, crunchy foods, sticky foods, and hard foods. Specific foods to avoid include sticky peanut butter, popcorn, caramel, taffy, and gum. Also, things you have to bite into, such as an apple or corn on the cob.
- Choosing a doctor. Opt for an orthodontist, since they are specialists in straightening teeth and have had two to three years of additional training beyond dental school. Meet with the doctor to determine whether or not it will be a good fit for your family.