Health

Brace yourself! All you need to know before your child gets braces

If your child is told that they will need to wear braces they will probably feel a bit anxious and have loads of questions such as: ‘Will they hurt? Will I look ugly? How long will I have to wear them?’ Often children are fitted with braces during their early teenage years, at a time when they may be beginning to feel self conscious enough about the way they look already. We’ve put together information about what to expect when your child wears braces so that you can answer questions they ask and talk through any of their concerns.

How will I know if my child needs braces?

Your child’s dentist will tell you if and when your child needs braces and if you qualify for free NHS treatment. They will then refer you to an orthodontist. At the first appointment the orthodontist will take photographs and possibly x-rays of your child’s teeth and then take moulds to make the braces. This doesn’t hurt but feels a bit strange. A top tip is to take a lip balm with you to this appointment to soothe dry lips after the fitting. Your child will then have braces made especially for them and these will be fitted at the next appointment.

Will my child need to have any teeth extracted before getting braces?

Each child is different and in some cases one or two teeth may have to be removed before starting orthodontic treatment. This is a last case solution though and is not commonplace. Often an orthodontist may suggest wearing twin block braces first, which move the jaw gently and can move teeth sufficiently to avoid any extractions.

All about Twin Blocks

What are they?

Twin blocks come in two parts to fit over the top and bottom teeth. Both have (quite large) plastic blocks, which are a little higher than the teeth and slightly visible when your child bites together.

How will they feel?

Wearing Twin blocks can be a bit of a shock at first. They can feel bulky and your child also might find it harder to speak without a lisp. In the first few days your child might want to just feel like giving up and stop wearing their twin blocks altogether. Reassure your child that the more they wear their brace, the quicker they will get used to it, any pain will go and their speech will improve quickly.

Twin blocks are removable, which makes things a little easier as your child can take them out at mealtimes (or to get a short break).

What is it REALLY like to wear them?

We spoke to Holly, who had to wear twin blocks for nine months when she was 12. She said:

“After I got my twin blocks I remember feeling so upset. My best friend convinced me that I didn’t look or sound as awful as I thought.

I was worried about going to school and everyone staring. Honestly though after the first few times that all my friends had seen my twin blocks they didn’t bat an eyelid.

I’m 16 now and my teeth look great. I can honestly say that the short-term hassle of wearing twin blocks was so worth it.”

Twin blocks usually have to be worn for about 9-12 months.

All about fixed braces? 

You might know these best as ‘train tracks’. They are fixed braces which are glued onto the teeth with little brackets and wires.

Do they hurt?

There’s no pain at all to get them fitted but they can feel a little sore a few hours later. You can give your child a pain killer to soothe any aches. In the first few days they can rub against the gums a bit too. You can get special wax to stop this happening and washing the mouth out with warm salty water can help too.

Are they a hassle?

Fixed braces have to be tightened every 6-8 weeks and so you will have to trek to the orthodontist a lot. It is a mostly painless procedure but teeth can feel a little tender after each time.

The good bits

Each time your child can choose to get a different colour of plastic behind the brackets. There’s a nice range of colours available and your child might enjoy picking different colours each time. With fixed braces the change in your child’s teeth is quite noticeable after even a relatively short time and seeing the progress made can help your child keep the end goal in sight.

If they’re good enough for Bieber…

Fixed braces are very common. If your child feels self-conscious about wearing them it might help to let them know that more than 200,000 people in the UK wear braces every year and so they’re not alone. Celebs such as Emma Watson, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber have all rocked braces.

Fixed braces usually have to be worn for 12-24 months.

Is there anything my child can’t do once they have got their braces?

Once fixed braces are fitted it is important to avoid eating any hard or sticky foods (such as sweets, peanuts, chewing gum etc) and fizzy drinks. Foods such as baguettes and apples should be cut up into small pieces before being eaten. Corn on the cob is a total nightmare!

Extra care should be taken to avoid sweet foods that can cause tooth decay and to brush teeth carefully after each meal. It’s a good idea for your child to use a fluoride mouthwash to make sure there is no food trapped between the brace brackets and the surface of the teeth.

If your child plays a wind instrument it might take a couple of weeks to adjust to playing it with their new braces. You can buy brace covers if they feel any discomfort.

Your child should also use a brace cover when playing sports, such as cricket, rugby, hockey and football. Mouth guards can protect cheeks and lips from serious cuts and can prevent damage to braces if your child falls over or is hit in the face.

One of the burning questions many teenagers may have about braces is if you can still kiss when wearing them. The answer is yes!

Retainers 

After fixed braces are removed your child will need to wear a retainer at night until they are at least 18. A retainer is like a plastic gum shield that is moulded to be the right shape for your child’s teeth. It prevents teeth from moving and keeps teeth straight. They are removable and really very easy to wear (especially after the ordeal of braces) but it is important that you remind and encourage your child to keep wearing retainers each night to keep their new straight teeth in position. Your child can clean retainers by brushing them daily with warm water and dish soap (toothpaste is too abrasive).

Are braces worth it? 

Your child might be so daunted by the thought of wearing braces (and feel like a year or two is such a long time) but there’s no better time to get braces fitted than in the teenage years, when teeth are still growing and malleable. And chances are there will be loads of other children in their school who are also brace wearers so they won’t be alone.  There may be times during treatment where your child just wants to rip their braces from their teeth and be done with them but when they get them taken off and run their tongue over their set of smooth and straight gnashers they will be so glad that they persevered.