Back to school braces survival guide

It seems like summer took forever to get here, and now it’s already almost gone! Getting into the swing of a new school year is always a mix of emotions, but for students who have recently gotten braces, heading back to school can feel especially stressful. Students have experienced changes to their appearance, and their daily routines as well. What seemed like small potatoes at home over the summer might feel more overwhelming at school, particularly in the first few days and weeks. At Unger Orthodontics, our goal is to make treatment as easy and enjoyable as possible. If your child will be going back to school with braces for the first time ever this year, we’ve put together some tips below to help make it a smooth and stress-free experience!

Keep snacks and lunches braces-friendly

Food restrictions are a necessary part of successful orthodontic treatment with braces, but they can also be one of the biggest learning curves. School can compound that, especially until you and your child find your new normal when it comes to lunches and snacks. Foods that are too crunchy, sticky, and chewy must be avoided to prevent damage to the wires and brackets. This is relatively easy to manage at home, but if your child buys their lunches at school or has access to vending machines for snacks during the day, the temptation to indulge in some of their favorite forbidden foods can be strong. Check the school’s lunch menu every week and look for braces-friendly options like cooked vegetables, spaghetti, mac and cheese, and lean cuts of meat to make sure there’s something safe for your child to eat.

If the school’s choices are limited, packing a lunch can make things easier. Prepping bite-sized pieces the night before will save time and keep lunchtime brushing and flossing to a minimum since smaller bites make eating and chewing simpler for orthodontic patients. Healthy snacks like yogurt and applesauce are great additions to lunch bags and can help keep your child feeling full and satisfied throughout the day while also being gentle on their braces.

Invest in a braces care kit

Speaking of lunches at school, we recommend every student in braces have a care kit with them at school, especially those who are new to orthodontic treatment. Because brackets and wires have a tendency to trap food particles, it’s ideal for students to brush after lunch, adding a quick floss if needed. Having a handful of common items packed away in their backpack or locker keeps your child prepared for any braces-related issues that might pop up during the school day. Some of the best items to include are:

  • a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • fluoride toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • dental wax
  • lip balm

Wires and brackets can sometimes cause mild irritation to the lips, gums, and cheeks from time to time, and a small amount of dental wax placed over the offending area will often reduce that irritation until the problem can be fixed. Lip balm is a must-have for lips that are dry and irritated due to braces!

Always carry a bottle of water

Never underestimate the importance of water! While staying hydrated is important for your child’s overall health, water is also an easy way to keep food particles from sticking to the teeth and braces. Try to encourage water over other liquids, especially soda, fruit juice, and other sugary drinks. These can stain the teeth, and for a child in braces, this can result in white spots once the brackets are removed. If you have a child who insists on the occasional soda or fruit juice as a treat, give them a straw in order to keep the sugar as far away from their teeth as possible.

Take advantage of a small mirror

Even with braces-friendly food, eating with brackets, wires, and bands can sometimes be tricky. There are several nooks and crannies that can easily trap food debris, which can be embarrassing if someone else notices it before your child does. It can also increase the chance of bacteria and plaque getting a foothold, leading to cavities and tooth decay. Because most of us are too polite to point out when someone has something stuck in their teeth or braces, encourage your student to keep a small mirror in their locker or backpack to check their teeth after eating.

Have a mouthguard on hand

For children or teens in braces that still have recess or gym class to contend with, it can be worth investing in an orthodontic mouthguard. This is even more prudent if you have a student-athlete. Sports and other physical activity can increase the risk of braces being damaged or your child’s cheeks, gums, or mouth being injured. Because orthodontic mouthguards are designed specifically for wear with braces, they are the simplest way to prevent injury and ensure oral health. These mouthguards are usually available at major sporting goods stores, but we’re also happy to order one for you if you’d rather go through us!

Starting the school year off right with Unger Orthodontics

It’s totally normal to feel nervous about going back to school with braces! It’s a new experience and that always comes with a little fear of the unknown. Working towards a straighter smile and healthier mouth takes time and effort, but fortunately, it doesn’t take long for life with braces to become the new norm for your child. It’s important for patients to be informed about the treatment process in order to be an active participant in their orthodontic journey. With knowledge often comes a desire to do their best at ensuring their treatment is a success! With a little encouragement and treatment from Unger Orthodontics, your child can get through the school year with their smile shining and fully intact! Contact us today to get started!