When my oldest was an infant, the pediatrician examined his mouth during a routine checkup. He said “He’s got a really small mouth. You’re looking at braces for this one.”
How right he was!
We thought braces would be needed around age 13 or so, after adult teeth had come in and when braces are more typical. We soon learned — when my son was eight — that braces would come much more quickly, as his adult teeth weren’t growing in the way they should and would soon damage the adult teeth that had already grown in.
We consulted with our dentist and an orthodontist and determined he needed braces, and quickly. We didn’t have much time to act, and neither my husband nor I had ever had braces. Looking back, there are some essentials I wish I had known beforehand.
- Timing. Your kid’s mouth is going to hurt for at least a few days after getting them. His or her diet will need to change temporarily and long-term to accommodate braces. Getting braces over a long break from school (like summer, or a long weekend) will allow time to adjust to the initial pain or soreness as well as learn new ways to eat.
- Cost options. You have cost options, and many orthodontists will do a consult for free or a low cost. Your insurance may cover the cost in whole or partially, and if not, you may get a discount for paying upfront. Most orthodontists we researched also offered no-interest financing options.
- Emotional adjustment. My kiddo was very upset when he learned he needed braces. Being so young, most kids his age didn’t have them. We were upfront beforehand about what having braces meant — like not eating some of his favorite foods for awhile. But I wish I’d known the emotional toll this news might take, as I would have given him more time to process it before the appointment. To combat the sadness he felt, we threw a chip party the night before his appointment. We bought his favorite chips and chewy candies and let him enjoy them. When the party was done, we threw everything away and decided not to buy them again until he had his braces off. Having the support of his family — and a guarantee the temptations wouldn’t be around — helped him feel like he wasn’t going through the experience alone.
- Color selections. You can change the color of your braces (if you have metal ones). Scared that my son’s choice of color would be stuck with him for the next year, I worried about coaching him to make a neutral choice. But I learned that at every visit he can choose the color he’d like until the next visit.
- Experience helps. Not having had braces before, I found friends and family who had — and who were able to chat with my son about their experiences. When school started, we found other kids who had braces and pointed them out as well. Knowing braces were not terribly uncommon helped him adjust.
- Floss is essential. Braces, as it turns out, can be a breeding ground for cavities. Flossing may be tedious, but it is essential to prevent damage to the teeth down the road. We made friends with orthodontic floss picks, but his mouth was often too crowded to floss. It was also a hard to floss when we were in a rush. We bought a Waterpik® and learned the best way to clean between his teeth and around his braces.
A few weeks after getting braces, my kiddo said “They’re not so bad! I kind of don’t really even know that they’re there anymore!”
How grateful I am! As it turns out, braces don’t have to be so bad.