From extended family gatherings to decorating and gift shopping, the holidays are a whirlwind of activity that can be stressful for anyone. One way to really up the holiday stress ante? Be the parents of a teen who just got braces! Getting braces right before the holidays can be an especially challenging experience for teens who may feel anxious over their new appearance. Restrictions on which foods they can eat and new requirements for brushing and flossing can further compound this challenge. Getting braces early in life offers numerous benefits to your teen. In addition to boosting your child’s confidence with straight teeth, getting braces early in life can eliminate the need for jaw surgery or other, more expensive and lengthy procedures later down the road, reduce and eliminate the need to extract permanent teeth, and correct harmful oral habits. But your teen may not see it this way. Instead, your teen may fixate on the awkward or uncomfortable experience of wearing braces as well as the new frustrations associated with brushing and flossing.
Tips for Parents: What to Do When Your Teen Gets Braces
Braces and holiday celebrations don’t have to be a recipe for a family disaster. If your teen just got braces, here’s how you can help him or her cope this holiday season:
Make your list and check it twice.
Heading to Grandma’s house to celebrate? If you'll be there overnight, remember to pack everything your teen needs to keep his braces food-free:
- Toothbrush: We recommend using a toothbrush with soft bristles to gently clean the teeth. Since metal brackets can fray bristles faster, replace any brush with frayed bristles every three to four months.
- Proxabrush: To clean between the braces and teeth, get a “Christmas tree” brush also known as a proxabrush. Insert the brush from the top of the wire between the brackets and work on two teeth at a time.
- Floss: Consider using the floss used to clean dental bridges. This floss has a tip that fits gently between your teeth and gums.
- Mouthwash: Antiseptic mouthwash can help decrease plaque build up, which is a common problem for people who wear braces. Mouthwash can also help clear any bacteria from lingering food particles.
- Wax: If your teen just got braces in the last few days, he may find the metal brackets and wires especially irritating to the inside of his mouth. A small amount of dental wax can be used to cover a wire and alleviate this irritation. Ask your orthodontist for some dental wax during your next appointment.
Watch out for sticky holiday desserts.
Hard candies, caramel apples, sticky candies, gum, and nuts are all on the “do not eat” list. Instead of focusing on what your teen can’t eat, however, focus on what she can enjoy. Bake softer sugar cookies, pies, and holiday puddings that won’t get easily stuck between the teeth or risk chipping a bracket. If you’re visiting relatives this year, remind them what your teen can’t eat and ask them to refrain from serving foods on the “do not eat” list so your teen won’t feel excluded.
Talk to your teen.
Remember, a change in routine can lead to additional stress for your teenager. Teens can already be moody and difficult even under the best of circumstances. Add to this the stress of being with extended family members and wearing braces for the first time and you’ve got a recipe for stress-filled holiday gatherings. Take time to check in on your teen and really listen to how he or she is doing. Some teens aren’t up for talking and that’s okay. Simply being present in the midst of all the chaos and letting them know you truly care can make all the difference. Want to learn more about how to care for your braces? Download our FREE guide on How to Care for your Braces: A Guide for New Patients