From sleepless nights to new morning routines, it can be tough for kids to adjust to orthodontic treatment. And as parents, it can be just as tough to watch our children go through this adjustment period if we don’t know how to help them.
As an orthodontist for many years, I have helped numerous families navigate the challenges that come along with orthodontic treatment. While changes are expected, there are a few ways to help make this transition go smoothly:
If possible, start treatment in the summertime.
There is no better time to start orthodontic treatment than right now. Expect to visit your child’s orthodontist for an initial consultation before the treatment plan is developed. Treatment plans vary by patient but usually take just a few days to develop. Once your child starts their treatment, the orthodontist may require a few longer appointments for adjustments. If these appointments are during the summer, it means less school will be missed.
Consider the various treatment options available.
Most orthodontists offer traditional treatment with metal braces or Invisalign clear aligners. Whenever possible, I recommend that my patients opt for Invisalign because the removable clear aligners offer an easier experience overall. The Invisalign technology now treats simple to complex cases and patients can remove the aligners before eating. They are virtually invisible to the eye, so teens don’t have to worry about adjusting to a new look once they start their orthodontic treatment.
Make a “soft pillow” for your child’s teeth at night.
If your child has traditional braces, they might have a hard time falling asleep at night. Help them apply wax to their brackets or try wedging a thin, cushy makeup sponge in between their teeth and cheeks. This feels like a cushy pillow for their teeth and can help with pain.
During the first few days of treatment, teeth can feel heavy and achy. While this pain is temporary, it may cause your child to have trouble focusing on daily activities or falling asleep. If this happens, you can offer your child Tylenol to help dull the pain. Other pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can slow down tooth movement so try to avoid these if possible. Follow the instructions on the bottle due to your child’s overall size and weight. Generally, one dose of Tylenol and one dose of Advil together during the first 1-2 days of treatment is enough. Your child should start to feel pain decrease significantly after about 4-5 days and be almost pain-free for the remainder of their orthodontic treatment time.
Stock up on your child’s favorite soft foods.
If your child loves yogurt, pudding or ice cream, take this time as an opportunity to let them indulge in those foods as they adjust to their new diet. They will be in less pain—and love you for it! Again, if your child has Invisalign aligners, their diet will not be as limited as those with traditional braces and their discomfort will be less, often not needing Tylenol or Advil. Just remind your child to remove the clear aligners before eating. Clear aligners should be worn between 20-22 hours per day.
Dr. Donna Galante has been practicing orthodontics for more than 28 years. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Dental School in 1984 and obtained her Specialty Certification in Orthodontics. Dr. Galante is frequently sought out by the media and has been interviewed by USA Today, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and FOX News 40 in Sacramento. More about Dr. Galante can be found on her practice’s website here.