While wearing braces is pretty common around middle schools these days, most tweens, including my daughter, still don’t like the idea. If your child is facing a couple years of regular visits to an orthodontist, there are things you can do to help them focus on the bright side of braces.
Learn What to Expect
The unknown is scary. Empower you child by helping them learn what having braces is like. Encourage them to ask questions during dentist and orthodontist visits. Suggest they talk to their friends who already have braces. The internet is also a great resource with lots of information and advice from people who’ve been there. Oral B’s Embrace It! website is a great starting point.
Show Your Child What They’ll Look Like
We all have our vanities, but tweens and teens can be especially sensitive about their appearance. This is a case where a picture really is worth a million words, so check out 3M’s Paint Your Smile! website. Your child uploads a picture and then clicks on either clear or metal brackets to place them on their image’s teeth. Then they apply rubber bands. The website lets them experiment with just one hue or a whole rainbow of rubber bands so they can get an idea of what they’ll actually look like with braces. The Paint Your Smile! website complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. No pictures are saved or posted elsewhere, but your child can download the image they create or share it with their friend via email, Facebook or Twitter.
Focus on the good parts of wearing braces. Try to convince your child to treat their braces like a fashion accessory and encourage them to have fun choosing the colorful rubber bands. Remind them that they aren’t alone; many of their classmates will also have braces. If all else fails, point out how fantastic their smile will look when they get their braces off.
Being positive doesn’t mean lying or discounting your child’s fears. Braces aren’t fun or painless. They also restrict what you can eat and require a lot of time at the orthodontists office. Be supportive. Offer wax or over-the-counter painkillers when your child’s mouth is sore. Choose soft foods when they’re hurting, and find new treats to substitute for the favorite snacks they can’t eat while wearing braces. Don’t make your child feel guilty for the time you’ll be spending at the orthodontist’s office. Most importantly, be there to listen when your child needs to talk.
We’ve dealt with the discomfort of having braces put on or adjusted, popped brackets, broken wires, figuring out what to eat, and learning how to brush with a mouth full of brackets and wires. While my daughter isn’t exactly thrilled to have braces, dealing with the daily care and occasional surprises her braces bring has actually helped her gain confidence in her ability to handle what life throws at her. That’s something she’ll get to keep even when the braces come off.
Interested in reading more from Bree? Check out these articles:
“Brace Yourself: Understanding the Types of Braces”
“Five Things Every Parent Needs — Even if They Don’t Know It”
“Ads and Children: How Can Parents Protect Their Kids from Advertising’s Assault?”