What are 8 things moms should know about braces? Orthodontist tells you

Round 2 of braces for Ava Villalpando has just begun. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

This advice came into my inbox, and as a mom who has managed to get one kid through braces and is just starting a second round of braces with the second kid, I thought it was some good advice. Especially No. 1, which is often something parents wonder.

Dr. Karson Kupiec, an orthodontist at Kupiec Orthodontics & Pediatric Dentistry, in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., tells us what moms should know before their child gets braces:

  • Age. Many people are unsure when a child should see an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist no later than the age of seven.
  • Straightness. Even children who have straight teeth should still be evaluated by an orthodontist. There may be a problem with their teeth that can be detected by the doctor. Early treatment helps to guide proper jaw growth, correct harmful habits, and help guide teeth, and even shape one’s face.
  • Cost. With an average cost for metal braces being around $5,000-$7,500, many parents may feel they can’t afford the treatment. However, some orthodontist offices offer payment plans, making it worthwhile to check into what options are available. There are various types of braces available, so discuss them with the orthodontist to determine the best one for your child and invest in their future smile.
  • Clean Teeth. If your child’s teeth aren’t sufficiently clean before getting braces, your orthodontist will have to clean them with a polishing paste so that the braces can properly be cemented to your teeth. If possible, schedule a regular professional cleaning appointment with your dentist a few days before you get your new braces so the teeth will be plaque-free prior to your braces appointment. Then, brushing with a high fluoride toothpaste — along with flossing and gargling mouthwash before your appointment — can help make you feel more confident and will speed things along with the orthodontist.
  • Expect discomfort. Getting braces is going to create some discomfort, especially once your child first gets them. They can cause sores in the mouth. To help, choose soft foods, such as soup, pasta and bananas for the few days following getting braces. If there is still a high level of discomfort after a few days and it doesn’t go away with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, call the orthodontist.
  • Regular care. Talk to your orthodontist about proper care of your braces. You’ll need to brush regularly and use a Waterpik to flush out the food particles that can get caught between braces and teeth; you should also avoid sticky foods. With proper care and by seeing your orthodontist regularly for checkups, you can keep your teeth healthy while your braces are in place.
  • Foods. There are some foods that should be avoided when having braces because they tend to get caught. These include chewy foods, crunchy foods, sticky foods, and hard foods. Specific foods to avoid include sticky peanut butter, popcorn, caramel, taffy, and gum. Also, things you have to bite into, such as an apple or corn on the cob.
  • Choosing a doctor. Opt for an orthodontist, since they are specialists in straightening teeth and have had two to three years of additional training beyond dental school. Meet with the doctor to determine whether or not it will be a good fit for your family.

I’ll also add when meeting with the doctor, ask these questions:

Where should the doctor be located? Do you want a doctor that is close to home or close to school? This especially matters if you have a child going to a school not close to your home.

What are the hours? What are the doctor’s hours, specifically after and before school? How available are those after school or before school appointments? Realize your going to be pulling your child out of school a lot during and after treatment if your orthodontist can only do treatments during the school day.  I’ve often said that the orthodontist that is open nights and weekends would make a killing.

What happens in an emergency? Can they get you in that day or are you going to have to wait weeks with wires poking at you?

What is the treatment plan? How many stages, how long will the stages be, what type of braces, will any surgeries be needed, what will the post-braces treatment plan be — all things you should discuss before starting.

What is the payment plan? Will your insurance cover anything (usually it’s your medical insurance not your dental)? Will your doctor take monthly payments? What are the fees for things like a broken bracket, a lost retainer? What if you miss an appointment?

What is the staff turnover like? If your orthodontist is always having to train staff, you might not want that staff training in your mouth.

Do you feel comfortable and does your kid feel comfortable? You’re going to be spending a lot of time there. Do you feel welcomed or do you want to run screaming from the building?