The very mention of the word braces is enough to make any child fearful. Even though orthodontic treatment has become routine, it is still surrounded by many myths and misconceptions. By understanding the source of your child’s fear and working with your orthodontist, you can ease your child’s fear of braces so that they actually look forward to the process and the prospect of a straight, beautiful smile.
Fear of Pain
The most common concern that children have when starting orthodontic treatment is that it will be extremely painful. As a parent, you may even share some of this fear since no parent wants to see their child in pain. There is a good chance that your child has even heard urban legends about braces being painful.
In reality, orthodontic treatment does not involve the use of twisting or wrenching of the teeth into submission. Orthodontic appliances use gentle, consistent pressure to realign the teeth gradually. The pressure can cause the gums to become tender and ache a little, especially at first or after an adjustment. This discomfort is temporary and minor. In most cases, the discomfort can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers or numbing ointments.
Fear of the Unknown
Most people are afraid of situations where they don’t have control or understand what is happening. An orthodontist’s office can be a very intimidating place for a young child. They are laid out horizontally on a chair with bright lights shining in their face. The doctor then proceeds to use a collection of unfamiliar instruments in their mouth. You can help by letting the doctor know about your child’s fears ahead of time, so they can take the time to explain the whole procedure and the equipment involved. You can even ask the office staff if they have books or videos that your child can watch ahead of time to familiarize themselves with the process.
Fear of Embarrassment
Children and teens are especially sensitive about anything that may make them appear different from their peers. You can help by explaining to your child that there is nothing to be ashamed about in trying to better themselves and improve their health. You can also point out that there are probably dozens of their school mates who are going through the same experience. It is also a good time to point out that any attempt to bully them is simply out of jealousy and not because they have any reason to be embarrassed. Your child can also take a proactive approach and make their orthodontia a focal point. Many kids enjoy using bright colored rubber bands and brackets that coordinate with their outfits. There are even choices such as Invisalign® that are completely invisible.
Fear of Food Getting Caught in the Teeth
Another common fear regarding orthodontic treatment is that large amounts of unsightly food will get caught in the wires and brackets, leading to embarrassment, bad breath, and even tooth decay. In reality, a person with braces is no more likely to get food stuck in their teeth than someone without them. Misaligned teeth also cause a much greater risk of periodontal disease than orthodontia. Drinking plenty of water can help wash away any stray bits of food. You should also encourage your child to exercise good oral hygiene techniques and to follow instructions for caring for their orthodontic appliances.
Fears Regarding the Length of Treatment
It is true that orthodontic treatment takes time. The prospect of having treatment last one to two years can seem like an eternity to a child or teen. It can help to provide your child with a little perspective. After all, a year is nothing when you consider that they will likely have 60 or more years to enjoy their new smile.
Tips for Younger Children
Younger children are often more at ease when there is a parent nearby. You can ask the orthodontist if it is possible to remain in the treatment room with your child. It may also help to allow your child to have a small stuffed toy that they can hold during the procedure. You can also try incorporating appointments with something fun by taking your child for their favorite outing. They will dread the appointment less if they know there is something to forward to afterward.
About Beach Braces
Dr. Patricia Panucci is an orthodontic specialist serving Manhattan Beach, CA. Dr. Panucci is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists and the California Association of Orthodontists. We combine state-of-the-art equipment and techniques with a personal touch and individualized treatment plans to help our patients achieve the best smile possible. We offer a variety of different orthodontic appliances, including Invisalign®.
Contact us today if you have any questions regarding our services or to schedule your complimentary initial exam.