Teens with braces need to take extra care of their oral health now that they are receiving orthodontic treatment. But how do you convince them to buy in to investing more time in their oral health? Our Edmonton dentists have some tips for you that may help.
Teens with Braces: How to Make the Case for Good Oral Hygiene
We were all teenagers once, and if you received orthodontic treatment you might even remember (and be able to empathize) with your teen's feelings now that they have braces.
With all that in mind, depending on how your teen feels about having braces and their diligence in taking care of their oral health previously, you might need to make the case that they need to take extra care to avoid certain foods and a bit more time on their oral hygiene routine during treatment. Here are some tips to start you off:
Equip them with the right tools.
Now that you've invested in orthodontic treatment for your teen, it might be worth it to get them an electric toothbrush, which will require less dexterity and may reduce the tendency to rush through brushing as they navigate around their teeth as well as those brackets and wires.
Electric toothbrushes run for the two-minute recommended brushing time and have a timer that beeps every 30 seconds to indicate when they should switch areas, which is another benefit for teen with braces.
Help them envision a future free of braces.
So, why is brushing at a 45-degree angle from the top and from the bottom of their teeth, staying away from some foods they probably like and having braces on their teeth so important anyway?
Your teen may ask this, and the more you can help them envision a future free of braces, in which they'll be able to reveal a straight, healthy, bright smile, the more you'll increase your chances of getting your teen's buy-in with oral hygiene and braces care today.
Appeal to their vanity.
Since teenagers are at an age where they are likely concerned with their appearance, you might choose to play up this angle when discussing how to take care of their braces at home. After all, they don't want their teeth to be stained when their braces come off if they've missed brushing consistently, right?
They also don't want to wear braces any longer than they have to or have any unsightly food debris caught between their brackets and wires at inopportune moments. If your teen can take care of their oral health, we may be able to work with them on the style aspects of braces to either play them up or de-emphasize them visually.
Prepare braces-friendly meals.
One of the most challenging aspects many teens find with orthodontic treatment is changing their diet. To reduce temptation to grab hard, chewy, high-sugar snack foods, prepare lunches and snacks that are easy to eat on the go, after your teen first gets their braces and for after periodic adjustments, since their mouth may be tender.
Listen to their concerns.
Now that they have braces, your teen will likely hear a lot of advice - after all, you and their dentist will be on their team, cheering them on to their goal of a healthier smile.
But sometimes, we could all do with a listening ear that truly sympathizes with our concerns. While your teen's frustrations and worries may seem trivial to you, at this age they won't be to your teen. Keep this in mind as you navigate their orthodontic treatment together. Sometimes it is just enough to know mom or dad is in your corner, even if they can't change the circumstances or provide solutions to every issue.
Why doesn't my teen take care of their braces?
We've heard many a parent become exasperated when their teen falls behind on brushing and flossing their teeth, and other aspects of oral hygiene. This often happens not because they particularly hate cleaning their teeth but because it feels like it takes time at the beginning and end of their day that they don't always feel they can afford to spend.
Many of today's teens feel they have a lot on their plate. Between school, homework, extracurricular activities, friends, family and potentially work, this important task sometimes gets put off or rushed through. Plus, the part of the brain that understands long-term consequences for their actions is still developing. But once braces are placed on teens' teeth, prioritizing good nutrition, oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist become important to the outcome of their treatment.
Below are some tips on how teens can take care of their teeth with braces, and what can happen if they neglect this duty.
How to Take Care of Braces
While advancements in orthodontic care have made braces lower profile in recent years, patients must still take measures to care for them properly, protect their oral health and ensure they avoid eating or drinking certain foods and beverages that can harm their orthodontic appliances.
Here are some tips on how to take care of teeth with braces:
1. Brush and floss diligently.
While most teens with braces will brush the front area of their teeth and the areas where braces are most visible, it's important not to miss brushing behind the brackets as food particles and plaque tend to build up here.
Learning to angle the brush at the proper 45-degree angle for two minutes per session will help prevent tooth decay. In addition, flossing will keep your teen's gums healthy and plaque from collecting along the gum line and in hard-to-reach places. Flossing also keeps their braces fully functional.
2. Avoid hard, sugary foods and drinks.
Ice cubes, hard crusty bread, hard candy and other similar foods can cause brackets to become loose, which can mean an unplanned visit to the dentist. Plus, sugary foods and drinks are also bad news and can contribute to cavities.
3. Listen to the dentist.
Your teen's dentist will have their interests in mind when it comes to your kid's oral health, so it's important to follow their instructions and advice regarding oral healthcare, diet and other aspects of orthodontic treatment.
What are the consequences if my teen doesn't take care of their braces?
Unfortunately, people who neglect taking care of their braces can experience both short and long-term consequences during and after treatment. These can include:
Cavities & Tooth Damage
Just like cavities can occur for people without braces, people with braces can also get them if poor oral hygiene and eating off-limits food leads to tooth decay. The dentist will need to fill the cavity and if the damage is bad enough, it may alter your teen's treatment plan.
Worse Outcomes for Orthodontic Treatment
To achieve your teen's goals of getting their braces off quickly and having a straighter, white smile by the end of treatment, they'll need to work hard to stick to their treatment plan and care for their braces. If they don't, this could lead to setbacks in their orthodontic treatment, and/or worse outcomes at the end of treatment.
Urgent Visits to the Dentist
If a wire becomes loose or your teen has a dental emergency due to neglecting to care for their teeth and braces during orthodontic treatment, they'll need an unplanned, perhaps same-day visit to the dentist. Another goal is to avoid these if possible since they take time out of your teen's day and can lead to setbacks in treatment.