With the first official day of fall only a few weeks away and many kids heading back to school, this is the perfect time to discuss how to properly care for braces during the school day. This is especially important for children and teens who are returning to school for the first time since starting orthodontic treatment. Like any other new adventure, wearing braces comes with its own set of learning curves, but Dr. Sears is here to help make the transition easier! Keep reading below for a few of his favorite tips on taking braces from the summer to the school year with no stress.
Students in braces can benefit from keeping a basic care kit in their purse, backpack, or locker, especially if they have not been wearing them for very long. Having a few commonly used items close to hand can help prepare patients for any braces-related issue that might pop up during the school day. Some things worth including in the kit are:
- a soft-bristled toothbrush
- fluoride toothpaste
- dental floss
- orthodontic wax
- lip balm
- an unsharpened pencil
These items can be useful in numerous ways. Brackets and wires create nooks and crannies that can trap food particles and other debris, so we encourage brushing after lunch, with a quick floss added if there is time. If brushing at school is not possible, we recommend brushing as soon as they return home, even if it shortly before eating dinner.
Some patients experience mild irritation from their braces occasionally, especially inside the lips and cheeks, or along the gum line. A pea-sized amount of orthodontic wax placed over the area causing problems is an excellent way to reduce discomfort and to find some relief.
For wires that have strayed and are poking into the cheeks, the eraser end of a pencil can be used to nudge them back into place.
It is not uncommon for braces to cause dryness and irritation to the lips, so lip balm is a must-have all year long!
At school, at home, or anywhere in between, patients must follow the same rules for braces care. This is particularly important when it comes to food restrictions. These restrictions are often one of the biggest challenges children and teens will face while undergoing orthodontic treatment. Being at school can make it even harder for kids to choose lunches and snacks that are braces-friendly! This is usually easy enough to manage at home where parents can keep their child away from anything too crunchy or chewy, but it may be a bit more difficult for patients who buy school lunches or regularly use a vending machine for snacks.
To keep orthodontic treatment progressing as it should, we suggest parents make a habit of checking the school’s lunch menu every week for options that are safe for braces. Examples of this would be lean meat, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, mac and cheese, and cooked vegetables. If a child is a picky eater, packing a lunch can sometimes make things simpler for both the patient and the parent! Pasta, soups, and other soft options are great options for a Thermos, while sandwiches can be cut into smaller bites the night before. This makes eating and chewing much easier for students in braces.
Snacks can sometimes be a minefield, since patients in braces need to stay away from foods like pretzels, chips, and some raw fruits and veggies. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy options available, such as applesauce and yogurt. These will help keep kids feeling full and satisfied throughout the school day, as well as being gentle on braces.
Food is far from the only lunchtime consideration. What a child chooses to drink at school can also affect their braces. Staying hydrated should always be a priority, and drinking water is also an excellent way to keep food particles from sticking to the teeth and braces. Drinking from a water bottle throughout the day quenches thirst and help to keep teeth clean! Please stay away from sugar-filled drinks such as juice, soda, Gatorade, chocolate milk, and similar drinks.
We do encourage our patients to stick to plain water instead of soda, fruit juices, or other sugary drinks, because these liquids can stain teeth and increase the risk for cavities. That said, we know that there will be times kids indulge in a sweet drink or two. On those occasions, they should use a straw to keep the sugar as far away from their teeth as possible, and brush as soon as they are able to.
For student athletes or children who have regular P.E. or gym classes, an orthodontic mouthguard is recommended. Although people tend to think of sports like football and hockey are the most dangerous for teeth, almost half of all sports-related mouth injuries occur in basketball and baseball. A properly fitted orthodontic mouthguard is designed to be worn with braces, and protects a child’s mouth (and braces!) if they are tackled, elbowed, or if they fall down. Orthodontic mouth guards, as well as non-orthodontic models, are generally available at most major sporting goods stores and we have them here at the office to give out. Dr. Sears can also recommend or order a custom one for patients and parents who would prefer to have a better fitting one instead.
Send students back to school with a smile thanks to Coppe + Sears
It is common for kids going back to school with new braces to feel nervous or anxious about what to expect. Even patients who have been in braces for a while can struggle with feeling slightly more stressed than usual! Thankfully, it only takes a short amount of time for life with braces to become just another part of a child’s daily routine.
Coppe + Sears works hard to make every patient’s orthodontic journey as rewarding and exciting as possible. For more information on how to navigate the new school year while wearing braces, get in touch with our office. Every child deserves a straight-A smile and Dr. Sears is here to help families in our community accomplish that!