4 ways you can help your teen adjust to wearing braces
For all the benefits they can bring to a smile, there are a few difficulties that come with having braces, especially when you're a teenager.
We've rounded up some top tips, including insider info from a mum who's been through it with her teenage daughter, to ensure everyone - and every tooth - stays happy.
1. Let your kids take the lead
Braces are fitted for a number of reasons: to straighten teeth, to correct the bite so teeth meet evenly, to reduce the likelihood of damage and to improve a smile. They're very common, so kids shouldn't feel embarrassed, but many will - and some may even try to avoid them altogether.
"My daughter, Emily, was 13 when our dentist suggested braces, and she wasn't keen," says mum Anna Milne, 39. "But our dentist was great - he spoke to her as if she were an adult and made it seem the most obvious, mature choice."
Including your children in every decision relating to their new braces - from when to have them fitted to what colour brackets and bands they'll get - will make the transition much easier.
2. Help them take extra care of their teeth
"The dentist or orthodontist will explain how important oral hygiene is with braces, as food can get trapped more easily," says Anna. But once they're in their teens they might attend appointments without you - meaning they're the only one hearing (and forgetting!) these important and tailored-to-them insights. Arrange to come in at the end of the appointments to make sure you've both heard what the dentist or orthodontist has to say.
While your child's oral-care tips will be specific to them, brushing properly is key in all cases. In addition to following all the normal rules - brushing for two minutes twice a day, in circular motions along the inside and outside gum line and stopping on each tooth to ensure all food particles are removed - make sure they're angling the brush head against the braces and thoroughly focusing on cleaning under the wires, too.
An electric toothbrush with a built-in timer will help your child make sure they're brushing for long enough and really get rid of all that hard-to-reach food that can get stuck.
Why not treat them to an Oral-B Electric Toothbrush to celebrate their braces? You can then fit it with Ortho Care Essentials heads, which are specially designed to be effective on teeth fitted with braces.
Flossing is essential, too, so have your dentist or orthodontist show them exactly how to work around the wires to get between every tooth. A mouthwash is also recommended - Oral B Pro Expert Professional Protection Mouthwash offers 24 hours of plaque protection and, being alcohol-free, is gentle enough for sensitive young mouths.
3. Be food aware
It's important that everyone in the family knows which foods need to be avoided with braces. Sticky and hard foods can break or damage braces and wires, while sugary foods - from soft drinks to biscuits - increase the risk of tooth cavities and decay.
Encourage your children to cut out sticky and hard foods including:
Chewing gum (both regular and sugar-free)
Caramel-filled chocolate bars
All chewy sweets, including gummy bears, licorice and toffee
Nuts and chunky or sticky peanut/nut butter
Hard breads like French bread, or taco shells
Apples and carrots - unless cut very small
Chips, crispy French fries and pizza crusts
Corn on the cob
Chewing hard objects such as pens or pencils can damage braces and wires, too, so remind kids to stop it if they do this absentmindedly.
For more ways to keep on top of your children's oral health, be sure to read our guide to kid's tooth care at every stage.
4. Help them stay comfortable and relaxed
It's smart to stock up on any appropriate painkillers for your children for after their wires are changed or tightened - plus mouth wax, which helps to reduce the pain of sharp wires hitting the gums.
Be sure to chat to your child about any emotional worries they may have, too. "Emily was worried about speaking up in class, but we went back to the dentist and he told her to record herself on her phone and practice speaking until she was happy with how she sounded. It helped immensely," says Anna.
How did you help your child embrace braces? Share your ideas below in the comments section.