Proper care of braces during orthodontic treatment is an important part of helping them get and keep a healthy smile for their whole lives, as many of the habits they learn will carry with them even after their orthodontic treatment is over. However, young children may not understand the reasons for such a structured cleaning regime. To avoid your child’s frustration, support his or her cleaning efforts through gaining knowledge of the process and ideas to make it enjoyable.
Here are four ways to care for your child’s braces:
1. Brushing. Thorough brushing after every meal and snack will prevent plaque build-up that can cause cavities and gum disease. Children should be encouraged to brush their teeth and braces at all angles to ensure any food hiding behind brackets or wires may be properly dislodged.
Make it fun: Try purchasing a brightly-colored toothbrush or one with your child’s favorite movie character on it. Even better, let your son or daughter pick out his or her own toothbrush. This will empower your child and allow him or her to get excited about brushing. Other children may be spurred to brush more often by using an electric toothbrush at home. This tool may be a great gift if you are getting ready to go Christmas shopping.
2. Flossing. Effective flossing can be a challenge with braces but it is another healthy habit to encourage on a daily basis. As it is nearly impossible to floss normally with braces, using a “threader floss” with a stiff tip or a plastic floss threader will allow the dental floss to get behind the wire. Gently insert the threader between the teeth at the base of the gums, then thread the floss through the oval loop and gently pull it back between the gums. Once the floss is inserted, delicately slide the floss up and down the inside of each tooth.
Make it fun: A quick and easy tool to help with flossing is the inter-dental cleaning brush. The small bristle tip can be inserted between the braces and around the gums for added cleaning on top of brushing and flossing – or used conveniently and subtly when out in public when full brushing may not be possible.
3. Healthy Eating. It is important to eat a balanced diet to support oral care. Sugary foods, and even sweetened beverages such as juice and pop may cling to the teeth and cause cavities around the brackets. Hard and sticky foods, such as caramel, popcorn and gum, have the potential to crack, dislodge or adhere to the braces so they should be avoided.
Make it fun: Look for healthy treat recipes together with your child. Preparing nutritious snacks or baking together makes healthy eating a fun process and also provides an opportunity to talk with your child about the many benefits of eating well.
4. Wire-care. Regular brushing is the first step in keeping your orthodontic wire clean, but these wires have the potential to irritate the skin inside the mouth, causing sores and bleeding. To avoid this, moldable wax can be applied to the braces at the points of friction. This wax will protect the mouth while also remaining flexible for easy removal.
Make it fun: The orthodontist will offer a variety of colored elastics that will loop around the brackets and wires. This is a helpful method for children to personalize their orthodontic treatment and express their personality. Breaking out of the mono-tone metal color of the brackets and wires will encourage children to maintain their braces as they will be proud of how they look.
Cleaning the teeth and braces can become an enjoyable and routine part of your child’s oral care. Parents are a valuable source of knowledge and support for their children and will help set the tone in forming positive habits. Children should be encouraged to clean their own teeth and be praised for their efforts, no matter how small. Making the process fun and supportive will set your child up for success.