How does your child feel about orthodontic treatment?
If your child is about to receive braces, it’s normal for them to be anxious. Even children who are excited to get braces are often nervous about their first couple of appointments, during which the braces are placed and later tightened for the first time. Although you certainly want to help ease your child’s fears, it can be difficult to know exactly what to say or do to make them feel better about getting braces. Thankfully, our pediatric dentists work with a lot of children and parents who are going through this process, and have plenty of insight into what causes this anxiety for some children and how you can help them. Here are a few tips that will help you reassure your child while preparing them for the realities of receiving braces.
Ease their concerns about the appearance of braces.
One of the major concerns that a lot of kids have about braces is how visible they are. At the age that most kids are getting braces, they’re often very concerned with fitting in socially or even becoming popular. Since braces are noticeable and don’t have a reputation for being particularly stylish, your child might be worried that they’ll be teased by their peers. For the most part, that perception has changed in recent years. Braces no longer carry the stigma they once did as more children and adults are receiving orthodontic treatment.
Try to remind them that many other kids their age will also be getting braces, so they won’t stand out in a bad way. And while the braces themselves aren’t incredibly fashionable, encourage your child to think of them as an opportunity to express their own unique style, since they’ll be able to choose the color of the small rubber bands that go around the brackets of their braces. This will reassure your child while giving them something about the treatment they can look forward to.
Throw a pre-braces party.
For many kids, one of the biggest downsides about braces is the fact that they’re unable to eat some of their favorite foods for the length of their treatment. That can sometimes mean a few weeks to years without favorite foods like popcorn, whole apples, crunchy carrots, or gum. One way you can make this bittersweet goodbye to their favorite foods—however temporary it may be—a little more fun is by throwing a party to commemorate it! Stock up on foods they won’t be able to eat anymore and invite their friends over to play games, including a few directly involving soon-to-be-banned foods, like bobbing for apples.
A party will make the entire process just a little more fun, especially in contrast to quietly purging newly banned foods from your pantry.
Prepare your child for their appointment.
Even adults will experience anxiety when they don’t know what to expect from an appointment or procedure, so another way you can ease your child’s anxiety about getting braces is to prepare them for their appointment. Answer any questions they have as honestly and straightforwardly as you can, and remind them that they can ask their orthodontist anything during their appointment as well.
Then explain the process of placing braces, which can take between one and two hours, so that they know what to expect. Reassure them that even though they might be uncomfortable for a few days afterward, that will fade. Your child will appreciate the honesty, and it’ll dispel a lot of their anxiety to simply know what to expect. If you’ve had braces before, including a few of your own experiences can make your reassurances even more comforting because your child knows you’ve personally experienced what you’re talking about.
When the day of your child’s appointment arrives, our staff at Must Love Kids will do our best to keep your child relaxed and anxiety-free. We work hard to build a close relationship with your child so that they feel comfortable with us; ideally, this helps reduce anxiety and ensures that they’re willing to address their concerns with us immediately and directly.
Establish a routine after every appointment.
Kids thrive on routine. It helps them feel safe, secure, and confident, so establishing a routine around their appointments with the orthodontist can help ease their anxiety. Plan a pain-relieving strategy before your child receives their braces, such as using over-the-counter pain medication and orthodontic wax. This ensures you’ll have everything your child needs, even if they end up more uncomfortable than you predicted.
Additionally, it’s a great idea to work in a small reward after each appointment. You know what rewards might work best for your child, but avoid any food-related rewards that include sugary food or beverages. You could cook their favorite meal for dinner that night, make an extra trip to the library for a new book, or spend an extra 15 minutes reading together that evening or playing their favorite board or card game with them. No matter what you choose, the goal is to give your child something to look forward to after the appointment; this tends to make the appointment more enjoyable or, at the very least, encourages them to cooperate readily with their orthodontist throughout the appointment.
Discuss the long-term benefits of braces.
Another simple way you can ease your child’s anxiety about braces is to sit down with them and discuss the long-term benefits that braces can bring them. Kids are smart, so give them real, specific benefits instead of vague promises like, “You’ll be grateful later.” You’ll want to tailor this explanation to your child’s individual case, but braces often improve the symmetry of patients’ faces, create room for previously overcrowded teeth, and help teeth to look and function better. Braces can decrease the number of orthodontic treatments your child may need in the future—especially when they’re placed early to prevent issues like overcrowding from becoming severe. Additionally, since straight teeth are easier to clean properly, your child will likely experience improved oral health and a boost in confidence when their braces are removed to reveal a straight, even smile.
While a few of these benefits may be hard for them to understand initially, they’ll understand the basics—braces will improve their oral health for years to come and will give them a beautiful smile that will last them a lifetime if they care for it properly. If your child is having a hard time grasping the benefits, you can show them pictures of people who have had braces before; dig out pictures of yourself before and after braces or even show your child pictures of their favorite celebrities, many of whom have had braces or other orthodontic treatments in order to achieve their beautiful smiles. This will enable your child to visualize the kinds of changes their teeth will undergo, making the benefits that much more real.
Getting braces can be scary for your kid for many reasons; kids often wrestle with the uncertainty surrounding the procedure itself, worrying that it’ll be painful, and deal with fear surrounding how their peers will react. While you may not be able to erase their uncertainty completely, there is a great deal you can do to ease their concerns and to make the process a little bit more fun. In the end, your child will be glad for the time they spent with braces—and for the memories you made with them along the way!