Deciding whether or not braces are right for your child can be difficult. It may not be a decision you make as a parent alone. The fact is that by the time your child is ready to get braces, they may very well be old enough to have an opinion about it. Lots of kids are reluctant to get braces — and while you certainly shouldn’t physically force braces upon a child, the more informed you are about braces, the easier it will be to convince your child that not only are they necessary; they aren’t that scary, either. There’s an inherent quandary to consider, of course: lots of parents who choose braces for their kids didn’t have braces themselves. Why is it that we’re so willing to choose braces for our own children? Why do we often go straight for traditional braces, rather than considering metal braces vs Invisalign braces?
For many people who are parents now, cosmetic dentistry wasn’t quite as accessible as it is today. In this day and age, there are more than enough competing orthodontists and cosmetic dentists, and it’s easy to find one that will work for you. Of course, we also understand now more than ever that braces are not simply meant for cosmetic purposes, though they often have a positive cosmetic effect (after all, 97% of Americans believe that a great smile is a social asset). Braces are meant to correct issues with the alignment of the teeth. This could mean that they can correct something as simple as crooked teeth, or as complex as missing teeth or teeth that grow in the wrong location. Braces essentially move the teeth over time. Sometimes, the braces themselves act as a singular treatment. However, they can also prepare the teeth and their alignment for more intense procedures, depending on what your child’s orthodontist recommends. For these reasons, among others, there are many different types of braces to choose from, which is why many parents end up in a metal braces vs Invisalign braces debate. The fact is that it’s simply more acceptable now for children to have braces; while it’s understandable for your child to care about how they’ll look, in the long term braces will help them stay healthy. For that matter, it’s likely that a child with braces will grow up to be an adult much more comfortable with their smile than they would have been otherwise. Still, it’s important to make your child feel like a part of the process and know what they’re getting into. Let’s look into what you should expect and prepare for when your child gets braces.
Metal Braces vs Invisalign: What’s The Deal?
Depending on how old your child is, and how involved they are in the process, they may or may not have already brought up the metal braces vs Invisalign question to you. This is because, while you may not necessarily think of Invisalign braces for your child, these types of braces are definitely more well known than they once were. If your child is self conscious about the idea of traditional metal braces, they may have done some research and discovered the differences between metal braces vs Invisalign braces. While you should, of course, follow the advice of your orthodontist first and foremost, the metal braces vs Invisalign question may be worth visiting before you decide on the type of braces your child receives. Remember: even if you have an idea of what would be better for your child, you’ll want to ease them into it and make them feel like they’re a part of the decision making process.
Chances are high that you’re familiar with traditional metal braces. They do have a distinctive look — though it should be noted that a lot of kids actually enjoy choosing the colors of their braces. Over the years, the opinions on the aesthetic appeal of metal braces have certainly been debated! In the past, kids used to be embarrassed by their metal braces — but braces are now so commonplace that this may not be as much of a concern as it once was. Of course, there is a certain amount of irritation that comes with having metal braces. You will have to be diligent and make sure that your child keeps them clean; food can get caught in them rather easily. Traditional braces can’t be removed and must be, essentially, tolerated the entire time. Another thing to remember in terms of the metal braces vs Invisalign debate is that metal braces have been around a lot longer than Invisalign braces. They’re tried and true, and you don’t need to worry about the results you’ll get out of them. This isn’t to say that you need to worry about Invisalign braces, but they are newer, and therefore there has been less time over which they’ve been tested. Before you decide on where you stand in the metal braces vs Invisalign debate, consider the commitment behind the two options as well. Usually, traditional metal braces also need to be kept for eighteen months to three years, with follow up visits required every four to six weeks.
So — what about Invisalign braces? The reason why there is a metal braces vs Invisalign braces debate at all is that Invisalign braces offer the advantage of being practically unnoticeable. While metal braces can be made to imitate the look of enamel, Invisalign braces are clear and fit over your teeth. The smoothness of Invisalign braces means that they’re often more comfortable than metal braces. When it comes to the amount of commitment of metal braces vs Invisalign braces, Invisalign braces often win out there as well. Most people wear them for six to eighteen months, rather than going into multiple years’ worth of wear. However, they also require a certain amount of upkeep. For one thing, you would need to monitor your child to make sure that they care for their Invisalign braces; they must be worn almost constantly in order to work effectively, but they do need to be removed before dinner if you want to avoid staining. For that matter, follow up visits are still required of Invisalign braces; and they do tend to be more expensive than metal braces. If you’re investing that much in braces, you’ll want to make sure that your child is mature enough to commit to them.
The Application Process: What To Expect
It’s natural for kids to be nervous about having braces applied. For one thing, a lot of children have a natural fear of dentists and orthodontists. For another, the metal look of braces makes lots of people assume that they’ll hurt — causing a lot of added anxiety. No matter how old your child is — whether they’re in middle school or high school — they shouldn’t feel ashamed of being afraid of the dentist. You should be supportive, hearing out their fears and reassuring them. It may be a good idea to have the orthodontist walk your child through the process before it happens.
Usually, traditional metal braces have a standard application method, which could be curbed a little bit to accommodate the specific alignment of your child’s teeth. Your child’s orthodontist is going to do their very best to create a relaxing atmosphere — but there’s no need for your child to be given a sedative in order to have their braces applied, so you don’t need to worry about that. Traditional metal braces are essentially pieces of flexible metal and tiny rubber bands, carefully placed and manipulated in order to move the teeth over time. The orthodontists will have your child’s teeth cleaned and dried first, after which they’ll add glue to keep the metal brackets in place. With that being said, the process normally takes about an hour or two, after which your child will be able to home immediately.
After your child’s braces are applied, they should refrain from eating for a certain amount of time, though you should follow your dentist’s advice on that front. The process of having the braces applied will not hurt — but there is some discomfort associated with traditional braces. One aspect of the metal braces vs Invisalign debate that some focus on is that of soreness following application. However, any soreness isn’t that bad; it certainly won’t require pain medication on the level of Vicodin. The teeth will be realigning, which means that a little bit of soreness is natural. Over time, however, this will fade away. Your child may still feel a little uncomfortable, though that’s largely because they’re probably getting used to the idea of chewing with their braces. While the pain may not be much of an issue, there is something of a life adjustment that needs to be made after your child gets braces.
Life After Braces: What Should Your Child Prepare For?
As we’ve discussed, there are certain adjustments that must be made after your child gets braces, though those expectations may vary with metal braces vs Invisalign braces. Perhaps one of the biggest adjustments your child will have to make involves what they eat. There are a lot of different foods that your child will need to avoid while they wear traditional metal braces — though of course, with Invisalign braces, they’ll simply have to take them off before eating. Popcorn, gum, and virtually anything chewy can get caught in your child’s braces. Of course, the trouble with food getting caught in your child’s braces is that it could be hard to clean out. Furthermore, that food could potentially start rotting, causing issues with your child’s braces as well as bad breath. Pasta can also be a problem for those dealing with braces in the beginning. You’ll need to set rules for your child, and check up on them to make sure that they’re followed.
You’ll also want to make sure that your child is regularly cleaning their metal braces with a waterpik. If they have Invisalign braces on the other hand, you’ll find that it’s a good idea to keep an eye on whether or not they’re properly storying the when taking them off. The last thing you would want is for your child to lose their expensive braces! It may be a good idea to set the ground rules before your child gets braces in the first place, and to make sure that those good habits are in place before you let your child care for their braces on their own. By the time they have their braces taken off, they’ll be an expert!
Yes, braces may seem like a tedious waste of time to your child when they’re young — or even a little scary. But ultimately, they’ll provide far more benefits than they will discomfort. Getting braces as an adult is a lot more time consuming, stressful, and often socially embarrassing than it is for children. Therefore, you’ll be doing your child a favor by having it taken care of when they’re young. They might fight you on it initially, but that’s part of being a parent. It’s your responsibility to make sure that your child is taken care of. It’s also your responsibility to make the tough decisions for them. If you approach the process of getting braces with a sense of fun and reassurance, your child will quickly realize that they have nothing to worry about. Be there for them, and be ready to answer their questions — and they’ll have a new and improved smile in no time. And remember: they’re just braces! They’re as a part of living life as a kid as acne; and just like acne, they’ll be gone before you know it.
AUTHOR: CAROLINE SIBLEY
Caroline is a freelance content creator and creative writer. VCUArts alum with a focus on the arts, travel, and culture.