While braces can almost seem like a rite of passage, there’s still the element of the unknown that makes some kids a little bit nervous. Does the process involve needles? How long will treatment last? Do braces hurt? What will my friends think? You get the idea! Dr. Jeff and the team here at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics are friendly, fun and work hard to put kids’ minds at ease. Yet, our young El Dorado Hills braces patients need encouragement from their parents as well to get over anxiety and to motivate them to stick to all of the treatment requirements. Here’s our guide to how to prepare children for braces along with some local ideas.
Schedule Your Child’s First Visit to the Orthodontist by Age Seven
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends kiddos see an orthodontist for the first time by the age of seven. Not only will Dr. Kwong be able to monitor the growth and development of their teeth and jaws, he can also keep his eyes peeled for red flags that may warrant early intervention. While little kids getting braces is pretty rare, sometimes using appliances before all of the permanent teeth are in ensures treatment down the road is easier and cheaper, while also reducing the risk they’ll need surgery or extractions. Before you start panicking and wondering, “Is my child ready for braces already?” just know, that usually, this is merely an observational period and we’ll inform you when the time is right for treatment. Kicking off regular visits at an early age will help them get acclimated to the office, build rapport and trust with the orthodontist and alleviate a lot of unwarranted fear surrounding braces.
Explain the Braces Procedure
Demystifying treatment goes a long way in getting kids ready for braces. The thought of pain, needles and metal hardware is enough to make anyone uneasy. While we always walk our patients through exactly what will happen at every stage, when the information comes from their parents, it can carry a lot of weight. Plus, giving them a rundown of the process prior to a visit, allows them enough time to make a list of questions and concerns that Dr. Kwong can address. Make sure to let them know that getting braces put on doesn’t hurt (it’s like putting stickers on your teeth), shots aren’t involved in the process and maybe even outline the different parts of braces. Invisalign Teen doesn’t usually elicit the same response but an overview of the Invisalign procedure always helps. If you had braces yourself and now have a beautiful smile to show for it, talk about your experience!
Be Honest With Yourself and Your Orthodontist
Be realistic about your child’s personality and lifestyle and let your orthodontist know the details. This will allow you to seriously evaluate their treatment options and choose the route that’s likely to be the most successful. Is your child a whiz at oral hygiene or is getting them to brush their teeth a chore? Do they play sports or an instrument? Are they fairly responsible or still working on the whole self-discipline thing? For example, if your kid plays the flute, isn’t the greatest with flossing or you know they’ll never turn down popcorn, then Invisalign Teen might be preferable. If you don’t think they’ll wear their Invisalign aligners for the full 22 hours a day or you’re afraid they’ll consistently lose them, braces could be the way to go.
Set the Ground Rules
Orthodontic treatment is an investment and, obviously, you want your child to have lasting, dramatic results in the shortest amount of time possible. Consistently damaging brackets, failing to brush and floss correctly, forgetting to wear aligners or skipping appointments will drag out treatment and make it less effective. Be clear about your expectations, outline the consequences and be consistent in enforcing the rules. Getting this out of the way upfront will eliminate any confusion once treatment has started.
Offer Some Motivation
Do you know what’s really motivating? Seeing the end results! If your child knows that getting braces or wearing Invisalign Teen, sticking to the treatment plan, being diligent about oral hygiene and making a few small sacrifices, like avoiding sugary candy and soft drinks, are the keys to getting the smile of their dreams, they’ll be more likely to jump in with both feet. Do some research about which of their favorite celebrities had braces and show them before and after pictures of other orthodontic patients. Better yet, show them your own before and after braces pictures if you have them. On bad days or if they start questioning treatment, remind them of how their smile will look when it’s all over.
Right before your child’s braces treatment starts, get your supplies ready and involve them in the prep. Look up recipes together, go shopping for braces foods (have some cold drinks and soft foods ready to go), stock up on orthodontic flossers, a waterpik and electric tooth brush heads and make a list of some Sacramento, El Dorado Hills and Folsom restaurants with braces-friendly food to try. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of life with braces and tackle treatment head on.
Lend an Ear
Just being there for your child is extremely valuable. Listen to their concerns about treatment and validate them. Let them know how proud you are when they practice excellent braces or Invisalign behavior, which brings us to our next point:
Dole Out a Few Rewards
Creating a rewards system is an awesome way to encourage positive habits, like abiding by Dr. Kwong’s instructions, wearing elastics and brushing and flossing as recommended. Whenever your child reaches a predetermined milestone or just impresses you with their dedication to the teeth-straightening process, do something fun. We even have a few ideas:
- Go see a movie and let them choose the flick. For a bargain, visit Palladio 16 in Folsom on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10am all summer long for its Summer Matinee Series. For just a $1, you can watch a kid-friendly film. Teens would probably rather take advantage of $5 Tuesdays, which lets you see any movie at any time for, you guessed it, $5.
- Hit up an area park and make a day of it. Pack a picnic (with your kid’s favorite braces-friendly snacks, of course), visit the super fun El Dorado Hills sprayground at Promontory Community Park or the outstanding playground at Folsom Kids Play Park, take a long walk and if the weather’s nice, fly a kite. While you’re at it, you can even stop by Old City Kites, a really cool Sacramento store with just about every kite variety that’s sure to wow kids –and adults too!
- Go on a Sacramento scavenger hunt with Urban Adventure Quest. It will take you around to the historical sites in the Capitol district and through Old Sacramento while you solve clues.
- Put your child or teen in charge for a day of family fun. You can get the ball rolling with some of our recommendations for summer activities for kids in El Dorado Hills and Folsom or, in cooler months, try out our compilation of winter activities in the area.
- Let them sign-up for a class or activity they’ve been wanting to try. Not only is it a good reward, they’ll learn something too. The El Dorado Hills Community Services District offers all sorts of classes for kids in El Dorado Hills, ranging from science camps to creative writing courses. In Sacramento, kids and teens can learn to climb during kids belay or climbing camps at Sacramento Pipeworks. For Folsom kids’ classes, swing by the Folsom Public Library for events like the Build Robots program.
While being prepared, talking about your expectations from the get-go and using the occasional reward as positive reinforcement can help ease your child into orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist will be a great resource as well. At Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics, we offer Invisalign Teen, metal and clear braces for kids in El Dorado Hills and the surrounding areas. We’re your ally in your child’s smile journey and we’re always available to answer questions, educate kids about the teeth-straightening process and keep you informed so that you and your child both feel confident about treatment. Schedule your free consultation today!