Kids between the ages of 9 and 14 years are the ideal candidates for braces as this is the period when they start to grow some permanent teeth. However, the orthodontist may recommend braces if one or several of the following conditions become evident:
- Irregular or unusual loss of baby teeth
- Breathing through the mouth
- Finger sucking
- Dental issues involving chewing or biting
- Misaligned or disproportionate teeth or jaw
A majority of dental issues are often hereditary, although bad habits or certain behavior can also be contributing factors. Poor dental hygiene, an unhealthy diet, and even finger-sucking can increase your child’s chances of needing braces.
Once your child gets braces, it may take a few months to years before these are removed. As braces feel awkward and foreign, kids need to build good habits to keep them clean. Cleaning and maintenance methods are similar, whether your tyke is wearing traditional metal braces, invisible braces, or ceramic models, among others.
The following are a few reminders to help you explain to your kids how to keep their braces clean and in good condition.
1. Be watchful of what they eat
Talk to your child about the changes they can expect with having braces. You can use a mirror to show that it’s not just the teeth that have gaps, nooks or crannies. All those brackets and wires become ideal places that can trap food and for plaque to develop.
Use this image to illustrate that, with braces, it becomes trickier to keep their teeth clean. It may take a bit more time and effort, but it’s doable. Caring for their teeth is necessary to avoid tooth pain and prevent them from developing other oral problems in the future.
Explain to your child that the food they eat can contribute to this situation. Hard foods such as candies, caramel, and hard pretzels may damage the brackets or even the wires. Chewy and sticky foods may be fun to eat, but these can get stuck and require more effort to remove later on.
Make your child understand that broken braces can’t correct their teeth. Without proper care and a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, your child may need to wear braces for longer than planned.
2. Apply more care when cleaning
Dental care is just as important when a person starts to wear braces. In-between the spaces are minute areas where food can get trapped, and plaque accumulates. Inadequate and incorrect cleaning causes the development of teeth stains and early decay in areas around the brackets and bands.
Children who wear braces should continue to brush and floss their teeth after every meal. The method is generally similar, although your child needs to be extra careful with brushing their teeth. Scrubbing hard, you can explain, may result in detaching the brackets or wires.
Instead, show your child how to be thorough yet gentle when cleaning. Any detachable parts, such as elastics or wires, will need to be removed prior to brushing. Buy your kid a soft toothbrush or a power toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to get through those hard-to-reach places and keep tooth decay at bay.
Flossing takes longer when you have braces. If your kids have a lot of difficulty flossing, consider buying interdental cleaning brushes. Your dentist or orthodontist can provide you and your child with some tips on how to purchase and use interdental cleaners.
3. Wear a mouthguard outdoors
Parents typically worry about their kids getting injured while playing sports or being outdoors. Worries and anxieties multiply further when your child is wearing braces as any rough playing can result in a mouth injury. Should you discourage them from participating in any physical activity?
You don’t need to prevent them from having fun with their toys or playing sports. Ask your orthodontist about mouthguards instead. A mouthguard is a small piece of plastic that your child can wear to protect their teeth while playing sports or with outdoor toys for kids.
Mouthguards come in three forms: pre-molded, boil-and-bite, and custom-fitted. Pre-molded mouthguards are the cheapest types but may not fit properly or offer the best protection. You can buy these, along with boil-and-bite products at your local pharmacy or sporting goods store.
Boil-and-bite products are slightly more expensive but allow for a better fit. These typically come in packs that include a mold that can be softened by soaking it in boiling water. Once it has softened enough, have your kid bite down on the mold so it will fit snugly around their teeth.
Lastly, there are custom-fitted models that you can only get from the orthodontist. Albeit the most expensive option, having one custom-fitted ensures that it fits perfectly.
4. Handle injuries quickly
Injuries can happen anytime. Some kids play rough, or your child could get into an accident. When should you go to the dentist, orthodontist, or emergency room?
Before you do anything else, stay calm and examine the injury carefully. Inspecting their mouth will allow you to make a quick assessment of the gravity of the situation.
Seeing a lot of blood can make it difficult to find the source or determine how bad the injury is. Clean the mouth as best as you can, and stop the bleeding. If the bleeding continues profusely, there is a large wound or your child is in pain, go straight to a hospital.
On the other hand, if the bleeding slows down or the child is not in any pain, schedule an appointment with the dentist or orthodontist as quickly as possible. It may not seem to be an emergency, but these dental specialists still need to check if there is any damage to the teeth or jaw.
Dentists and orthodontists have extensive experience when it comes to making and taking care of dental braces. Whether it involves determining if your kid needs braces, asking for advice on maintenance or ensuring your child’s teeth are in good condition, you need the advice and help of both dentists and orthodontists.
Continue to schedule regular visits to ensure that your child’s teeth and dental health are on track.
Dr. Zul Paliwalla is the General and Cosmetic British Dentist at NOA Dental Clinic, specializing in smile-related concerns. With over 33 years of experience in the UK, Dr. Zul has successfully worked on and improved many internationally recognized smiles. He is a certified Invisalign® GOLD provider as well and has brought his elite expertise to Dubai not only to enjoy the sun, sea and sand, but also to offer his brand of personalized smile makeovers.