Being a teen or pre-teen is hard enough. Being a teen or pre-teen with braces can be even harder. If you're trying to help your kid deal with their new braces, here are some helpful perspectives from parents who have been through the process before.
Dealing with a less compliant kid
“Teaching my son to take proper care of his braces took a lot of patience. Wires frequently snapped. Brackets were slipping often. I’m sure he chewed on pencils, ice or hard candy at school where no one could remind him of the consequences.
However, after getting his orthodontist involved, his habits slowly changed. His orthodontist explained to him that the braces would be on much longer if he were to continue doing bad habits. After that, broken hardware became less of a problem. Some kids are more prone to tune out their parents as opposed to other adults. In this case, his orthodontist’s words had more of an effect than mine. And that was fine. It worked.”
Phase 1 Orthodontics
“My younger child got her braces at an earlier age than her older brother. At age seven, her teeth were in bad shape. She had an overbite and very crooked teeth. She was a ripe candidate for Phase 1 Orthodontics. Using a palate expander resulted in a noticeable change within months. It changed the shape of her mouth so that the braces could work better. Looking back, Phase 1 Orthodontics was well worth the extra cost. Without it, she wouldn’t have the great-looking, straight set of teeth that she has now. “
“Living with braces is yet another opportunity to teach kids responsibility, with clear consequences if they don’t step up and do the right things. They have to learn self-discipline – no gum, no popcorn, no hard candy, etc., – until the braces are out. They have to learn to keep track of retainers. I told them that retainers go with you when you leave the house – just like keys, wallets and cell phones. As for avoiding lost retainers, I told my kids that they would pay half of the replacement fee. And if that means digging through a trash can to save one, well, so be it.”
Finding the right orthodontist
“I got recommendations for a couple of orthodontists from friends. First impressions really do count, even when on the phone. The first orthodontist office I called left me with the impression that they were doing me a favor and I would need to accommodate them. Needless to say, I didn’t call them back. The second orthodontist office I called was warm, friendly, and understood this was a big deal and not inexpensive, especially since I was looking at having three children go through braces. They answered all the questions I had and were very accommodating. We scheduled an appointment for each of my children to judge what treatment would be required. Each visit was very thorough. X-rays were taken and a plan of action was determined, including costs, both out-of-pocket and what our insurance company would cover. Plus, I was given detailed packets of information for each child that included pictures from the x-rays, timelines of when specific procedures should be completed, costs, and approximate durations. A booklet was included that explained how to care for braces from beginning to end. I felt confident that I had found the right orthodontist for my family, and by the end of our visits came away with a solid plan of what was going to be required.”
Paying for Braces
“Braces are not cheap! I must admit it was quite a shock to see how much braces were going to cost. Since I had three children plus myself getting braces, I asked the office what kind of a discount I would receive, honestly expecting that I wouldn’t get anything. However, they said the first set of braces was full price with each additional set receiving a 5% discount. Proves the point that if you don’t ask, you won’t get anything. Knowing what the discount was, I sat down to figure out how our FSA account and our insurance could be used for paying for these braces. The key was spacing out when each of us received braces to match our dollar amount in the FSA account per year (minus all other medical expenses). I got started first, with one child starting pre-work that was required. The following year, one went into full braces. The next year another child was started, with the last one in braces the following year. By doing it this way, the FSA and our insurance were able to pay for them all in full.”
Different kids, different approaches to caring for braces
“My 17-year-old son A. and 15-year-old son M. both had their braces removed this year. They both ended up with beautiful smiles, but their approaches to wearing and maintaining their braces were very different. A. is a trendy kid. He loves to spend time on his appearance. His hair, clothes, and hygiene all say, "I have style and know how to present myself." A. was always looking at his teeth and marveling at the progress. His favorite parts were the new colored rubber bands he got every month and the opportunity to show off his clean teeth. M. is a totally different kid. He's a winner when it comes to soccer and fishing but a loser when it comes to hygiene. He's at an age where he just doesn't care. He's so oblivious, his little brother frequently tells him "M., you need a bath." M. took care of his dental hygiene the same way he took care of his feet...basic and as needed. But once M. settled in on brushing two times a day with an electric toothbrush, his oral hygiene got and stayed on track.”
He’s not afraid to smile anymore
“If you look at our family pictures, my son always had a big toothy smile until he was about five. Then he stopped smiling in pictures and when we prodded him to say “cheese”, his smile looked more painful than pleasant. He just didn't like the way he looked and after a while avoided pictures.He started smiling more about 4 months into wearing his braces. He liked the colored rubber bands and I think he liked showing them off. This made me happy, but I was still not prepared for the transformation he went through when the braces came off! My little introvert became an extrovert overnight. Now he just explodes when there's a camera around. In our vacation pictures, his smile looks like a wide-open laugh! He has a huge grin on his face when he's talking about things he's passionate about and it makes you smile back! Everyone tells him how handsome he is and he soaks it up. That snowballed into styling his hair like his favorite soccer player, raiding his big brother's closet for cool clothes, and using my favorite cologne!”