Braces are a major investment for families. According to a survey by the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics, the average price ranges between $5,000 and $6,000.
At costs like those, it’s definitely an investment worth protecting. The road to straight teeth and a nice smile can be a jagged journey — and even more expensive — when a child doesn’t take proper care of his or her braces. So it behooves parents to know the dos and don’ts of braces maintenance and ensure that their kids are doing the right things for the duration of wearing them, which can be two years or more.
“The idea is to straighten their teeth, give them a confident smile and allow them to feel better about their appearance, but there are obstacles if proper care and attention aren’t given,” says Kerry White Brown, an orthodontist and author of “A Lifetime of Sensational Smiles: Transforming Lives through Orthodontics.”
“Why spend all that money on braces if they’re going to let their teeth go? Parents need to be vigilant from the outset.”
To ensure braces do the job for which they’re intended, White Brown recommends five ways parents can help their kids take optimal care of them:
Brushing power tools.
White Brown suggests an oscillating electric toothbrush, which does a thorough job of brushing around the braces and wires to remove food buildup and prevent decay. “Brushing will take a little more time and effort than they’re used to, since they now have more surface area to brush around,” White Brown says. “When parents ask me for recommendations, I tell them whatever will get their child more excited about good oral hygiene and keep them brushing is a good investment. Ideally, brush after every meal.”
Flossing with purpose.
Kids can be prone to cutting corners, but White Brown recommends that parents need to stress the importance of taking the extra time to floss. “Food builds up under the gum tissue, and you must clean under the gums,” she says. “Flossing aids help to thread the floss under the wire. Although it’s daunting at first, after a few days it will become routine.” Using a Waterpik, White Brown says, can help, like using an “electric flosser.” It shoots pulsing jets of water out of its tip to dislodge food particles, especially in hard-to-reach areas. “These are excellent aids, but nothing actually replaces flossing,” White Brown says. “Flossing helps to clean between teeth and helps to prevent decay in those areas.”
Inspect their work.
“Kids don’t like this, but you need to nag them and correct them until they get it right,” White Brown says. “It’s vital that you oversee their brushing and flossing until the habits are embedded.”
Avoid certain foods.
Eating the wrong things may cause wires to break or come out prematurely. “Stay away from hard candies and nuts,” White Brown says. “But usually the challenge with foods is changing the way the patient eats them, specifically hard foods like carrot sticks or apples. Biting hard foods in braces can snap a wire or break the bond, so cut them into bite-size pieces.”
Seeing your orthodontist for checkups and adjustments is essential, usually every six to eight weeks during the first year. “The orthodontist will check the condition of your braces and other appliances to make sure that they are putting steady pressure on the teeth in order to achieve the effect that you want,” White Brown says. “Regular visits are also important to identify potential problems.”
“There’s going to be a slight adjustment period for kids, and it’s important that parents help them make that,” White Brown says. “Otherwise it can turn out to be a wasted investment.”
Dr. Kerry White Brown (www.whitebrownsmiles.com) is a 5-star rated orthodontist and the author of “A Lifetime of Sensational Smiles: Transforming Lives through Orthodontics.” A graduate of the Howard University College of Dentistry, she operates an orthodontics practice, White Brown Smiles, in South Carolina with six locations. White Brown is a member of the American Dental Association, the American Association of Orthodontists, and the South Carolina Association of Orthodontists.