Braces Fun

According to Humana, nearly 4 million children in the U.S. are orthodontic patients. Odds are good that your child may be one of those kids. Braces are used to correct malocclusions, or poor alignment of the teeth and/or jaw. There are three types: crooked/crowded teeth, overbite, and underbite.

So many kids get braces these days that they aren't unusual. Kids as young as 9 years old are getting braces, and so are many of their friends. For many children, braces are a rite of passage, and teasing is kept to a minimum. However, no matter how many kids get them, braces are not any kid's idea of fun. Here at Dr. Beanca Chu’s Children's Dentistry, we have ideas for ways to make braces more fun for kids. Keep reading to learn how.

The History of Braces

It might be fun for kids to learn all about where braces began, especially since the first evidence of attempts to correct teeth was from more than 3,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptian mummies were found with crude braces on their teeth. These were made with cord derived from animal skin. Known as "cat gut," these cords were attached to teeth in much the same way as modern braces. Archaeologists have discovered that in 1,000 BC, ancient Greeks practiced orthodontics. They placed a device similar to a mouth guard over the teeth of the recently deceased to allow their teeth to remain in place over time.

In ancient Rome, Aulus Cornelius Celsus attempted to use his hand to push his teeth over time to straighten them. While there's no evidence that it worked to push your teeth, ancient Romans have been found with gold wire around their teeth. Perhaps that was more successful than using your hand. Not much happened in orthodontics again until the mid-1700s. In 1728, French author and dentist Pierre Fauchard wrote a book in which he talked about orthodontics. He wrote about a "Bandeu," a mouth-guard-like device meant to straighten teeth. In 1757, another French author and dentist, Pierre Bourdet wrote his own book, which referenced Fauchard's Bandeu guard. Bourdet was able to improve upon the device, and he even discovered that wisdom teeth could be removed to make more space inside the mouth. There was much more to come.

Modern Braces

In 1819, Christophe-Francois Delabarre created a wire crib to be placed over teeth to straighten them. In 1843, Dr. Edward Maynard added elastics to these wires to better align the jaw. A few years later, E.J. Tucker made this wire-and-elastics combo more comfortable for wearers. These were the devices which led to modern braces. From the mid-1800s, braces went through many changes which improved the look and efficacy of the appliances. Today, braces consist of small brackets attached to each tooth connected with wire. Small rubber bands attached to the brackets help shift teeth into a proper alignment. Improvements over the years have meant that it doesn't take quite as long as it used to for teeth to straighten and the jaw to be realigned. On average, it can take about two years for braces to get the job done.

Personalized Braces for the Win!

Two years may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it can still be a hard time for kids. Getting braces put on is uncomfortable and braces maintenance is a chore. There are frequent visits to the orthodontist and rubber bands to switch out and manage. For some kids, the change to their diet necessitated by braces can be the most difficult part. None of these can be changed. They are all necessary to get the most out of the procedure. However, there are lots of things that can be done to make the process of braces more fun for kids.

There are different types of braces we provide at Dr. Beanca Chu’s office. Traditional braces with metal brackets and wires are still the most common. To personalize how they look, kids can pick colorful elastics to use. Elastics come in all the colors of the rainbow. Kids can pick their favorite colors or combine colors to celebrate holidays (red and blue for the 4th of July or red and green for Christmas). The options are endless, giving kids a chance to reflect their unique personalities. If kids are self-conscious about the idea of wearing metal braces, clear ceramic braces may be the answer. These do the same job while being much less visible. Keep in mind that ceramic braces are more brittle than metal braces and will require more intense care.

Making Braces Fun

In addition to the frequent need for adjustments, braces need special care in between visits to the orthodontist. Kids may well push back against the whole process, but with some fun activities in place, the process may be a whole lot easier. Every six to eight weeks, kids will need to visit the orthodontist for a check-up and adjustments to their hardware. For a successful appointment, offer kids a reward, perhaps a special lunch out or a trip to a favorite place. This reward may make the idea of their appointment seem less of a thankless chore. Taking care of braces is no fun. There are many foods which become off-limits, including kid favorites like popcorn and chewy pizza. And after eating, braces need to be thoroughly cleaned.

Have braces-friendly cooking sessions where kids get to make foods they can eat, such as cupcakes or soft cookies. Not only will they get to eat yummy treats at the end, but this can be fun family time for everyone. To ensure kids are properly taking care of their braces, have a dance party while they brush. Put on some fun music and dance for two minutes while leftover food is cleared away from in between the brackets and wires. A reward system for proper care can also ratchet up the fun. Kids can collect stickers for good appointments and proper cleaning. These stickers can lead up to a fun reward like a shopping trip for a fun new toy or a trip to the zoo. With a little creativity, two years of braces can go by in a flash.

First Steps to Take

Check with your child's dentist to determine whether or not your child needs braces. Some pediatric dentists can do the work right there at their office, such as Dr. Chu’s office. We have an in-house orthodontist, Dr. Shawn Yu. Other dentists may refer you to an orthodontist.

If your child does need braces, make sure to let them know how important this process is for a healthy mouth. Allow them to be part of the process, choosing which type of braces they want and setting up a fun system for taking care of their braces properly.

If you're in the Huntington Beach area and you think your child may need braces, Dr. Beanca Chu’s office is here to help. Contact us for a consultation today.