According to the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), as many as four million U.S. children, teens, and adults currently wear braces. One of the most challenging aspects of wearing braces, particularly traditional metal braces with brackets and wires, is keeping them clean.
That is where innovation and new products, like dental student Christina Gordon’s Proxy-Flosser, come in. Gordon is working on a prototype of a new invention that will “floss and clean around braces in one motion” and “reduce oral hygiene time for braces wearers by at least half,” Richmond Inno reports.
Until inventions like Gordon’s reach the market, it is more than possible to keep braces clean, effective, and relatively pain-free, even after orthodontists tighten or adjust them. To help your kids have the best possible experience with their braces, utilize the following tips.
Help Them Keep Their Braces Clean
One of the main challenges of having braces is keeping them clean. Good parenting means helping your child navigate these challenges. While it isn’t possible or advisable to clean their teeth and braces for them, you can teach them good habits and give them the right tools to keep their braces clean. Here’s what to do:
- Encourage regular brushing and flossing. Sometimes, the best tips are the most obvious. Ensure that your child brushes their teeth after every meal and flosses at least once per day. Kids should brush and/or floss any time that they snack or get any food residue stuck in their braces as well.
- Simplify cleaning whenever possible. There are plenty of tools currently out there to make brushing, flossing, and cleaning braces easier. Talk to your child’s dentist or orthodontist about purchasing an electric toothbrush and a water flosser to make the process simpler for them.
If your child questions the importance of keeping their braces clean, remind them physical, chemical, biological or bacterial, and cross-contamination are the four primary sources of contamination and are all possible risks without regular cleaning.
Help Your Child Manage Pain
One of the less pleasant realities of straightening your children’s teeth is managing pain. Help your child keep pain to a minimum — particularly after the orthodontist tightens or adjusts their braces — by keeping an ice pack handy and feeding them their favorite frozen treats, like ice cream, popsicles, and milkshakes. It is also possible to manage your child’s pain with mild, over-the-counter pain relievers.
Talk to Your Child About Their Experience
On average, your child or teen will wear braces for a minimum of two years. During that time, your child is likely to experience some of the challenges that come along with wearing braces, particularly as a preteen or adolescent. If your child feels self-conscious about their braces for any reason, consider:
- Listening openly to children’s concerns. If children are worried about their peers’ opinions or things their peers may say, listen with a sympathetic ear. Do not dismiss or diminish their concerns. Often, parenting is about being present for your child, and that includes truly hearing them.
- Don’t make it all about looks. While it may initially seem like a good idea to throw out reassurances that the end results will be worth it, these sentiments imply that there is something off about your child’s smile right now and may only add to their insecurities. Instead, focus on the other benefits of braces.
When your child gets their braces off, it will be easier to clean their teeth. They will get fewer cavities, and they will ultimately spend less time at the dentist.
- Exploring Your Options. Often, your child can customize traditional metal braces, choosing the colors for rubber bands and metal brackets. Encourage them to pick their favorite colors, or even to choose subtle, transparent options if that makes them most comfortable.
Parenting is an active process. Don’t let your child go it alone when they get braces. Take the proactive steps above to help them keep their braces clean, intact, and as painless as possible.