In the long run, the benefits of braces far outweigh the awkwardness and self-consciousness a child may experience while wearing them. Having a misaligned bite or crooked teeth increases the risk for tooth decay, gum disease and a slew of other oral problems, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Although you can think to the future when your child has braces, it's often difficult for the patient to see beyond the immediate discomfort. Smiling with braces can be difficult when your child feels self-conscious or less than thrilled about showing them. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to give your child's confidence a lasting boost.
Dress 'Em Up
Keep in mind, firstly, that today's braces are a bit more stylish than those of the past. You may have been limited to clear rubber bands and metal brackets when you underwent orthodontia, but today's kids can choose from a rainbow of colors, even clear, when picking out the rubber bands for their braces. If your child is able to pick out a favorite or seasonal color for these elastics, smiling with braces can become much more encouraging.
Another way to keep kids happy is to turn braces into a fashion statement, one that isn't exclusive to teeth. Developers like Braced-Lets, for example, even make inexpensive wristwear out of orthodontic materials. Spotted on the arms of kid-friendly celebrities, these bracelets can make your child accepting and even proud of having braces.
Highlight the Good
There are a few ways to boost his or her self-esteem if worries over mocking linger, but don't fight one cosmetic item with another. Although focusing on other aspects of your child's outer appearance (such as his or her hair or clothes) can seem like a way to increase confidence, it might have the opposite effect. From a suggestion to get new clothing or a haircut, your child might not hear, "to bring out your best qualities" but rather "because you're not attractive."
Instead, focus on what your child is good at. Encourage them to embrace something that interests him or her, like auditioning for the school play, going out for the basketball team or joining a new club at school. He or she can do all of these things with braces, and with each instance of success, their smile is that much more justified.
Amid the inevitable moments of insecurity, be a rock for your child when he or she is still getting used to the appliance. If you had braces when you were younger, make a point to share photos of yourself, particularly those you are smiling in. Show him your teeth now, and stress the fact that you're glad you had braces when you were younger, even if you hated them at the time.
Kids may still complain, though, and are sure to when faced with having to keep them on for an extra month or so. But don't brush off his concerns; be a listening ear and let him know you think it is not easy, too. You don't have to give a lecture on how the braces will be off "before you know it."
Care for the Braces
Some of your child's self-consciousness can stem from the fact that braces can be tricky to clean and care for. So, depending on how old your child is, you might want to help him or her brush and floss at first. Using the right tools, such as waxed floss and a special floss threader, can make the job much easier. And because he might also be concerned about fresh breath when he has braces, invest in a breath-freshening toothpaste that also offers cavity protection, such as Colgate® MaxFresh® Shockwave.
One final way to get your child smiling with braces: Smile yourself. Being a great role model through the thick and thin of orthodontia can have a big impact on how he or she feels about them.