Talking about getting braces can be an overwhelming process for adults — so imagine how confusing it is for a seven-year-old. And yes, you read that correctly: Although treatment usually begins between the ages of 9 and 14, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a preliminary visit no later than 7 years old.
No matter the age of your child, parents will have questions as they approach the braces process that range from "Does insurance cover it?" to "How much cash are we talking?". But kids will have their own queries, and you'll want to be prepared to put their minds at ease. Here are 5 commonly asked questions from kids about braces, plus information to help you out when you're in the hot seat.
It may help to explain to your child that getting braces is a journey, and the first step is a consultation. You'll all know more after you discuss your kid's exact circumstances with the orthodontist, and you might even want to talk to several different specialists for their opinions and approaches.
You can tell your child that the main differences in their life will be a) making time for regular visits to the orthodontist and b) cleaning their teeth, which will be more than just brushing twice a day while they have braces.
Braces do hurt, especially after they are adjusted. Usually the pain eases by the third day after an adjustment, but do be clear that there will be some discomfort. Reassure your child that you will all come up with a plan to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.
For example, you can help them double-check any poky wires before leaving the orthodontists' office (so they can fix it right away), serve soft foods following adjustment visits (when their mouths are tender), stock up on popsicles and ice packs, give over-the-counter pain medications before bed, and make sure they have plenty of wax on hand in case their lips or cheeks are bothered by the braces.
Most kids like to fit in with their peers, so they might be apprehensive about having anything that makes them stand out. Remind your child that lots of people have braces. It's incredibly common, and even if they are the first kid their age to get braces, many of their friends will end up getting them, too.
If they seem especially worried, you could arrange for your child to talk to an older kid who has or had braces. You can also bring this up at the consultation, asking the orthodontist to explain how many kids — and grownups — they fit with braces.
Orthodontists might recommend things kid balk at to care for braces, such as wearing a mouthguard during sports, avoiding soda and super-sticky candy, or cleaning teeth extra diligently.
You can acknowledge that certain aspects are, indeed, a huge bummer. But the more they follow the orthodontists' instructions, the more effective the treatment will be. And the faster they are more likely to be done with braces.
Maybe your child will be thrilled about getting braces. Maybe they'll be inconsolable. Or they might just be freaked out by the unknown — that's when you'll be fielding lots of "what if" questions. "What if I set off metal detectors?" Don't worry, you won't. "What if I can't play the trumpet?" Don't worry, you can. "What if I hate them?" Don't worry, it's not forever.
After all, nobody has braces forever. Remind your child that before they know it, the braces will be history. And they'll have a gorgeous, healthy smile.