Tips on How to Prepare Your Child for the Orthodontist
It is not uncommon to sense or even hear some anxiousness coming from your child when they find out they have an appointment with an orthodontist soon. They may respond with a variety of emotions, including fear, confusion, and sometimes even shame. This is totally normal.
Communication and understanding are both keys when it comes to how to prepare your child for the orthodontist and help them be less fearful. The more reassurance, education, and support you can provide the better.
Of course, the exact conversation you have with your child and how in detail you go will greatly depend on their age and what treatment you anticipate them needing.
It is recommended that children come in for their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7. This is a great way to get ahead early and start dealing with issues like malocclusion (bad bite) and overcrowding. Generally, between ages 11 and 13, when most of the permanent teeth have come in, is when braces and other appliances are placed.
In this article, we’ve broken down exactly what you can do to help your child be comfortable and prepared for the visit.
Be Ready to Answer Their Questions
We’ve previously talked about the questions you should be asking at your child’s first orthodontist appointment, but chances are your child has some valid questions too.
One of the best and easiest ways to ease their concerns is to answer any questions they may have. Make an effort to ask your child if they have any questions or if there’s anything they want to know about the orthodontist or what is going to happen.
Regardless of their age, if you’re armed and ready to answer your child’s questions and provide ample emotional support, their first appointment and every checkup afterward, will go much smoother.
Here are some of the top questions your child may have:
Why do I have to go to the orthodontist?
For some children, just going to the regular dentist can be scary. So finding out they need to go to a specialist like an orthodontist can bring a whole new level of fear. Your child may think that it means that something is very wrong with their mouth. They may also assume that it’s going to be painful.
Talk through with them why they are going and how the orthodontist will help make their smile as great and healthy as it can be. With older children, it can be helpful to explain that they’re not the only kids who need to go to the orthodontist. Close to 5 million people in the U.S. wear braces or other orthodontic appliances and 65% of them are kids.
What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?
All orthodontists are dentists but not all dentists are orthodontists. Orthodontists are very similar to dentists in that both want to help ensure your mouth and teeth stay as healthy as possible. But orthodontists have further specialized training in treating issues like teeth and jaw misalignments, crowding, large gaps between teeth, overbites, and underbites. They are the experts in helping develop beautiful and healthy smiles.
What’s going to happen at my appointment?
In most cases, the first appointment at the orthodontist’s office is going to mainly be a consultation. The orthodontist will examine your child’s teeth and bite alignment, take x-rays, make impressions (usually by having them bite into a mold), and devise their orthodontic treatment plan. The main goal of the first visit is to decide on the best plan of action for your child’s teeth, while also making sure everyone is clear on what the plan entails and everyone feels comfortable with that plan.
This is also a chance for your child to meet the rest of the staff and get a feel for the environment of the office.
Usually, the next visit will be when your child is fitted for their orthodontic appliances, whether that is braces or another type of treatment. Then, follow-up visits will be done to periodically check the treatment progress and adjust the appliances as needed.
What kind of treatment am I going to need?
While it is true that braces are one of the most widely used orthodontic treatment options for kids, there are a variety of other treatment options for early intervention that orthodontists can provide. This includes clear aligners like Invisalign, palatal expanders, custom retainers, and more. Again, the first visit to the orthodontist will usually be when the best treatment option for your child’s case will be determined.
Encourage your child to ask any questions they may have about their treatment options, the recommended course of treatment, or what the process is going to look like. Also, make sure they understand why a certain orthodontic treatment method was recommended. The more understanding they have about the whole process, the more comfortable they will feel.
Is this going to hurt?
This is undoubtedly the hardest question to answer because it is important to be honest with your child, without scaring them of course. And the honest answer to this question is that yes, it might hurt. But usually, any pain or discomfort is minimal and does not last long.
With braces, there will be some aching and discomfort during the first week and after the braces are tightened or adjusted at follow-up visits. Over-the-counter pain relievers are very helpful during these times and dental wax can help cover any sources of irritation or poking.
Check out our article on ways to help make the first week in braces as tolerable as possible.
Additional Tips to Help Your Child Be Comfortable With Going to the Orthodontist:
Answering any questions your child may have will be extremely helpful. Doing so will ease some of the stress and worry they might have, clear up any misconceptions, and help them know what to expect. The more you can talk about the process, the smoother things will go.
Here are some additional tips you can use to help ensure your child is as comfortable as possible with going to the orthodontist and starting treatment:
- Establish basic expectations: Make sure your child is clear on what to expect for each visit, what is going to happen, and roughly how long it is going to take.
- Involve them in the process: The more your child feels like they have a say in what’s happening the more comfortable they will be. For example, if they are getting braces, ask them what color they would like.
- Emphasize the positives: Needing to go through orthodontic treatment for a year can seem like an eternity to a child. Make sure to continue to emphasize all the good things that will come out of finishing treatment and the benefits of orthodontic treatment. You could even do a little research and mention any of their favorite actors, actresses, musicians, or other famous people who have had braces.
You Can Successfully Prepare Your Child for Orthodontic Treatment
It’s totally understandable and normal if your child is worried or afraid of going to the orthodontist and starting orthodontic treatment. But, don’t despair. By being open, communicating with your child, answering their questions, and following the tips above, you can help prepare your child for the orthodontist. The whole process can be a smooth and enjoyable one for everyone.
If you or your child has questions about orthodontics or the different types of treatment options that you don’t know the answer to, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our caring team at Cook & Gutsche Orthodontics in Springfield is here to help!