Helping Your Teen Cope With Their New Braces

Jul 01, 2023
Helping Your Teen Cope With Their New Braces
Today’s teens that need braces have a plethora of treatment options that most of their parents’ generation could only dream about. Although the process may seem much easier, there are still things to cope with. Read on. 

In the not-too-distant past, teens who needed orthodontic treatment added the embarrassment of metal mouth and headgear to their already awkward teen years. Fortunately, those years are long gone.

Although the tried and true traditional metal braces still exist, today’s teens can choose from numerous wire and bracket colors, clear braces, and even removable, virtually invisible clear aligner trays to correct their alignment issues. 

Regardless of the type of braces your teen has, there are still things to deal with. Here, our own Dr. Jean Seibold McGill at McGill Orthodontics in Easton and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, gives you the 411 on how to help your teen cope with their new braces.

What happens during orthodontic treatment

Helping your child through the next several months will be easier if you better understand the actual mechanics of orthodontics, so let’s start there. Throughout your teen’s treatment, new spaces will be created and old spaces will be erased, and the whole transformation involves tissue and bone.

Specifically, orthodontic treatment gently shifts both teeth and the underlying tissue, a process known as bone resorption and ossification. Initially, cells called osteoclasts break down old bone in the space that’s being replaced. The body naturally reabsorbs old bone cells.

Once the teeth are realigned and moved into new positions, another type of cell called osteoblasts swing into action to create new bone through ossification. Every time you bite and chew, osteoblasts build up and strengthen the bone, reinforcing the whole process.

Dealing with temporary discomfort

During the orthodontic treatment process, your teen will probably experience some temporary pain or discomfort. This is especially true when they first get their braces and when routine tightening happens with traditional braces or it’s time to move on to another set of clear aligners in the case of Invisalign® and the Spark™ clear aligner systems.

Pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) will ease the pain. If your teen wears traditional braces, they’ll also want to ward off cheek and mouth irritation from wires and brackets with dental wax.

Avoiding certain foods or drinks

Another area of adjustment for your teen will be the type of food and beverages they ingest during their orthodontic treatment. If you’ve ever worn braces, you probably remember the first time you absentmindedly forgot and started chowing down on corn on the cob. What a mess!

Help your teen navigate through the kinds of foods that are best to avoid when wearing braces. Sticky and gooey foods such as caramel and gummies may taste good, but they’re a nightmare when it comes to picking them out of braces. Similarly, guide your teen away from hard candy, popcorn, and especially unpopped popcorn kernels. While these foods can be challenging to pick out of their braces, the bigger issue is that they can damage wires or brackets.

Doubling down on at-home hygiene care

Even though teens wearing clear aligners can remove them when eating or drinking, food choices can still be an issue, especially if your teen’s at-home hygiene care is lax. Because the aligner trays seal off the entire surface of each tooth, any lingering food debris sits on their teeth longer than usual because saliva or water can’t rinse it off.  

Encourage your teen to step up their at-home hygiene care. If your teen is wearing traditional braces there will be new nooks and crannies that can trap foods. Special toothbrushes like interproximal brushes can help them reach into those new spaces.

In addition to brushing after every snack and meal, remind your teen to floss at least once daily. Flossing before brushing is the ultimate cleaning strategy. Two things happen when they floss first — they dislodge food stuck between their teeth while loosening plaque, and the toothpaste gets delivered at a more potent concentration. 

While these new routines to cope with wearing braces may initially seem like a huge bother, when the braces come off and your teen sees their new beautiful smile, they’ll realize the effort was well worth it.

If your teen needs braces and you want to learn more about how to guide them through the process, contact McGill Orthodontics to schedule an orthodontic consultation. Call our office most convenient to you or request your appointment online today.