Top 8 Tips to Prepare Your Child for Braces or Invisalign ® Teen

Tips To Prepare Your Child For Braces Or Invisalign Teen:

So your child or teenager needs braces or Invisalign Teen treatment. Thankfully, today’s orthodontic treatment options are more comfortable, efficient and convenient than ever before, meaning your kiddo won’t need to change their entire lifestyle to get a fantastic smile. However, there are still steps they’ll have to take to care for their appliance and teeth for the best results. It’s also normal for some kids to feel a little apprehensive about kicking off treatment. 

Knowing how to get kids ready for braces or clear aligners will go a long way in ensuring they’re a willing and enthusiastic participant in the teeth-straightening process. To help, our Richmond orthodontists are sharing eight tips to do prepare your child for braces or Invisalign Teen in our Ultimate Guide.

1. Visit the Orthodontist Early

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends kids have their first visit with an orthodontist by age seven. This is because most kids have their first permanent molars and incisors at this point, allowing us to assess how their bite is shaping up. If Dr. Gardner or Dr. Tang spot specific red flags, they can use certain appliances or even limited braces for kids to guide jaw growth, intercepting the issue before it becomes a serious problem. This helps prevent the need for extensive treatment, extractions or corrective jaw surgery down the road. 

While some kids do need phase 1 orthodontic treatment, the majority don’t. These early visits will often simply mark an observational period where your Richmond orthodontist will keep an eye on your child’s development over the years. Kids will have the opportunity to build rapport with the orthodontist and team and get used to visits to the office, helping to prepare them for treatment when it’s time. Additionally, by identifying the best age for braces or clear aligners for your child, we can achieve the ideal outcome as quickly and comfortably as possible, which is definitely helpful for keeping kids on board and excited about treatment. 

2. Choose the Orthodontic Treatment Option Best Suited to Your Child

Preparing kids for successful orthodontic treatment starts with choosing the treatment option that will best suit their personality and lifestyle. When they’re happy with their treatment, they’ll be more likely to follow the orthodontist’s instructions. 

At Gardner Orthodontics, we offer an array of different types of braces, including  conventional metal braces, conventional clear braces, as well as self-ligating metal and clear braces. We’re also a leading Richmond Invisalign Teen provider. 

If your child loves being the center of attention and you think they’d like to customize their braces with colorful elastics, conventional metal braces could be the best choice. If you’d prefer braces but your kid or teen wants a more discreet solution, conventional or self-ligating clear braces would work wonders. If oral hygiene isn’t your child’s strong suit and you want to get in and out for appointments, self-ligating braces would be preferable. 

Or, for those who don’t want braces at all, Invisalign for kids and teens could be a possibility with Invisalign Teen. Invisalign Teen aligners are comfortable, removable and virtually invisible. It’s excellent for musicians and athletes, those who would struggle with the oral hygiene and food restrictions that come along with braces, or teenagers who want to keep their treatment under wraps. The one consideration is that your child will have to keep track of their aligners. 

3. Fill Your Child In On The Braces or Invisalign Teen Process

Kids and teens can feel anxiety about the unknown (hey, so can adults!). That’s why talking about what to expect during orthodontic treatment is one of the best ways to get kids ready for braces or clear aligners and alleviate any jitters. Explain what happens when getting braces put on or when being scanned for aligners. Emphasize that the process is painless, efficient and doesn’t involve needles. 

If you’ve had treatment yourself, talk about your own experience, focusing on the positive. Of course, when you bring your child or teen to Gardner Orthodontics for a consultation, we’ll also explain everything they need to know about braces or Invisalign Teen and answer any questions they have. 

4. Set Expectations

Another one of the most important tips to prepare your kids for braces or Invisalign is setting expectations upfront. Before your child starts treatment, talk about how it’s an investment. Lay out the ground rules, such as staying away from really hard, chewy or sticky foods if they have braces, maintaining excellent oral hygiene and wearing Invisalign Teen aligners or extras like rubber bands for the prescribed amount of time. Let kids or teens know exactly what their role will be in their treatment. 

5. Focus on the End Results

Keep your child’s eye on the prize, which is, of course, a perfect smile! If you have a gorgeous smile after braces or Invisalign, show them some of your pre-treatment photos and talk about how orthodontic treatment has benefited you. You can also look at braces and Invisalign before and after photos or read success stories online. Have them check out pictures of their favorite celebrities with braces too. Knowing people they looked up to rocked braces and came out with a stellar smile can help them feel less self-conscious. 

Throughout treatment, if your child has a tough day or their teeth are feeling sensitive, remind them of the results they can expect. Let them know that orthodontic treatment will only last a short time, but their new smile can last forever. 

6. Teach Your Child How to Handle Orthodontic Emergencies

True Invisalign or braces emergencies are extremely rare but, sometimes, a minor mishap can occur. Knowing how to handle problems quickly and effectively on your own will not only keep your child or teenager comfortable but help them feel more prepared and confident about starting treatment. 

Not sure how to troubleshoot braces or Invisalign issues? Here’s a quick primer on everything from dealing with broken braces wires to alleviating irritation:

  • A Loose or Broken Braces Bracket – If your child or teen has a loose or broken braces bracket, they can carefully slide the bracket back into its correct place and stick some orthodontic wax over the bracket. As for how to use orthodontic wax, have your child break off a small piece, roll it in between their fingers to warm it up and then place it on the offending part of their braces. If they dry the area of their braces off first with a piece of tissue or a clean towel, it will help the wax stick. 

If the bracket comes off completely and is in the back of the mouth, have your kiddo cover it in a tissue, carefully slide it off the wire and remove it from their mouth, being careful not to swallow it. Call our office and we’ll schedule your child for a repair appointment if needed. 

  • A Poking, Loose or Broken Braces Wire – While a poking or loose braces wire isn’t an emergency if your child is not in pain, call our office anyway, so we can properly schedule their next appointment or fix their broken braces wire to keep their treatment on track. If your child or teen is experiencing discomfort and isn’t able to get to the office right away, use the eraser end of a new pencil or a clean cotton swab to gently push the wire out of the way and against the nearest tooth. They can then cover the part of the loose or broken braces wire that’s irritating them with orthodontic wax. 
  • Soreness or Discomfort – Your child should never experience real Invisalign or braces pain. If they do, call us right away. That being said, when kids first get braces put on or start Invisalign treatment, and after adjustments or a new set of aligners, the teeth can feel a little sensitive. Discomfort will only last a few days. You can help manage your child’s discomfort from braces or aligners by having them take an over-the-counter pain reliever (whatever they’d take for a headache). Sticking with soft foods and cold foods and drinks for a few days will also help with sensitivity. 
  • Irritation – Your kiddo’s braces brackets and wires can irritate their cheeks when they start treatment. The mouth toughens up in a week or two and the discomfort will stop. In the meantime, you can reduce your child’s braces irritation by having them dry the area of their braces that’s bothering them and cover it with orthodontic wax. They can also swish with a salt water rinse (a teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass of warm water) as often needed. 
  • Lost Invisalign Teen Aligner – If your child loses their Invisalign Teen aligner, call our office ASAP. Depending on where they are in the wear cycle, we may have them wear their previous aligners while we make replacement aligners or they might be able to skip ahead to the next tray. We recommend having your teenager save their last set of aligners for this reason. Since each set is pre-programmed to achieve certain tooth movements, we want to be sure those tooth movements have occurred before moving on.

7. Stock Up on Braces-Friendly Food Ahead of Time

As we said, braces for kids and teens won’t drastically change their day-to-day life. However, they will have to make a few adjustments to their diet. While most foods will still be on the menu, there are some foods to avoid with braces because they can damage your child’s appliance. These include anything really sticky, hard or chewy like:

  • Hard candy
  • Nuts
  • Unpopped popcorn kernels
  • Pizza crust
  • Certain chips
  • Whole, raw apples and carrots
  • Corn on the cob (off the cob is okay)
  • Tough meats
  • Carmel
  • Taffy
  • Other sticky candies like Starburst or Airheads

At the start of both braces and Invisalign Teen treatment, eating soft foods will help with discomfort. Once any sensitivity subsides, kids can return to their normal diet, but if they have braces, be sure they break or cut food into small, bitesize pieces and chew with their back teeth. 

Some of the best foods to eat with braces include:

  • Soft breads
  • Grains and pasta
  • Milkshakes
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Oatmeal
  • Soup
  • Applesauce
  • Steamed veggies
  • Ripe fruit like bananas
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soft-cooked, fork-tender meats
  • Beans
  • Tofu, tempeh and other vegetarian protein options

Go shopping with your child before they start treatment and stock up on their favorites that fit the bill. You can also help kids get excited about braces by searching for braces-friendly recipes together and choosing a few to make during the first few weeks of treatment. 

8. Get Those Orthodontic Supplies Ready

While you’re stocking up on all of the best foods to eat with braces, you may also want to grab a few essentials for caring for braces or Invisalign Teen. We’ll provide you with things like orthodontic relief wax, so you won’t need to worry about that, but here are some other items to add to your list:

  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Travel toothbrush
  • Interproximal brush
  • Fluoride toothpaste (go for a non-whitening version if your child will be wearing braces, so they don’t have a two-toned smile when their braces come off)
  • Travel toothpaste
  • Waxed dental floss
  • Orthodontic flossers or floss threaders
  • Fluoride mouthwash for extra protection against cavities
  • Toiletry or cosmetic bag for travel-sized hygiene supplies and/or your child’s Invisalign Teen case

By following our tips to prepare your child for braces or Invisalign Teen, you can ensure they’ll be confident and ready to start their teeth-straightening journey. If you’re interested in Invisalign Teen or braces for kids and teens in Richmond, schedule a complimentary in-person or virtual consultation at Gardner Orthodontics. From our fun contests and giveaways to our awesome Kid’s Club, there’s never a dull moment at our kid-friendly practice. We make the experience positive and exciting for children and parents alike!

Gardner & La Rochelle Orthodontics in Richmond, VA