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Freedom! That’s the word we hear from so many of our young patients when they get their braces off. First, there’s the celebratory selfie–and then the snacks! Kids often want to celebrate by eating all the foods they couldn’t eat with braces like bubble gum, sticky candy, hard candy, and popcorn. But it’s important to remind them that braces are really just the first step in the orthodontic journey. And while there’s certainly room for a little fun food every now and then, once the braces come off, dental maintenance is more important than ever.
My Child Got Their Braces Off, Now What?
Sometimes there’s a tendency to want to go crazy, and that’s something we want to discourage gently. There are a couple of reasons why. First, your child’s teeth are going to be sensitive after their braces get removed. And more importantly, we want to help them understand how important it is to maintain all the progress they’ve worked hard to make! This means wearing their retainer, wearing a mouthguard for sports, keeping up with dentist and orthodontist appointments and keeping those healthy eating habits. The first thing you want to do is make an appointment with your child’s dentist for a good cleaning and check-up to make basic dental hygiene hasn’t been ignored while your child has been focused on orthodontic care. And here’s a hint: when the dentist and orthodontist are in the same practice, it makes things super easy.
What Foods Should My Child Eat After Their Braces Come Off?
We totally get it–kids miss their favorite fun foods during their orthodontic treatment. And there’s nothing wrong with savoring some of those much-missed favorites after getting your braces off! It’s also fantastic to see kids enjoying those healthy treats like crunchy fruits and vegetables that may have been off limits while braces were on–like corn on the cob and eating apples the old fashioned way! But it’s important to remind young patients not to go nuts on crunchy or chewy foods since teeth are still adjusting to their new positions. They may also be extra sensitive to hot and cold foods. Remind them to take things slowly and reintroduce those formerly forbidden treats one at a time instead of all at once!
How Important Are Retainers After Braces?
Orthodontists agree that retainers are the most essential element in preserving the positive impact that braces have made on your child’s smile. It’s important to remind children and teens that while having a retainer can be annoying or inconvenient, it’s the key to making all of the sacrifices they’ve made worthwhile in the long run!
Over the course of your child’s orthodontic treatment, their teeth have shifted in line with a plan carefully developed by their orthodontist. The role of the retainer is to keep your child’s teeth in place while the bone tissue rebuilds around them, helping make your child’s new smile a long-lasting change.
Your orthodontist creates a retainer–either fixed or removable– molded to the shape your child’s new bite. It has to be worn as directed to keep that new bite fixed while the jawbone and attaching ligaments adjust, which can take a year or more. Removable retainers can be traditional metal and plastic devices or newer transparent material (similar to the increasingly popular clear plastic aligners). Fixed retainers are custom-fitted wires bonded to the inside of your teeth to keep them in place and are often used on the lower teeth.
Retainers usually need to be worn all the time for the first few months and then at night for a year or even longer depending on your orthodontist’s assessment. The most important thing is making sure your child follows her orthodontist’s directions about when and how long to wear their retainer! If your child doesn’t wear their retainer, the teeth will likely shift again–erasing some of that hard-won progress. As the American Association of Orthodontists puts it, they can only do their job when they are in your mouth!
How Necessary are Mouthguards After Braces?
We recommend mouthguards for all children who participate in a range of contact and non-contact sports. They have a proven impact on reducing facial injuries and keeping teeth safe. And mouthguards are even more important for children who have had orthodontic work. The constant pressure of braces put a strain on the teeth by design. This pressure is key to adjusting and improving the bite but also makes teeth more susceptible to damage from external impact. Talk to your orthodontist about a custom sports mouthguard explicitly designed to fit your child’s new bite.
How Important is Dental Maintenance After Braces?
Orthodontic treatment makes a huge difference in the well-being of young patients. But in some cases, routine dental care can actually get overlooked while families focus on orthodontic treatment. Braces can make teeth and gums harder to clean, and tartar can build up in those hard to reach spots. That’s why it’s important to get a good dental check-up and cleaning shortly after braces are removed and schedule regular dental visits every six months. The post-orthodontic period is a great time to remind kids to keep up with those great flossing habits they developed while wearing braces. And be sure to clean your retainer as directed by your orthodontist to keep bacteria away!
Life After Braces: Enjoy But Follow Through!
As we tell our young patients, go ahead and celebrate–you’ve earned it! But be sure to hang on to the great habits you’ve cultivated over months and years of orthodontic treatment. And follow your orthodontist’s directions–including wearing those pesky retainers– to avoid backsliding. It’s the best way to hang onto those terrific results and your beautiful new smile!
If you have more questions and we’ll be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you have after your braces are off.