Back To School With Braces

It seems like we blinked, and summer was over! Although there’s technically another few weeks until the first official day of fall, school is back in session, which means we’ll be putting our sandals and shorts away before you know it. But before we drag our jackets out of the closet and start getting ready for Christmas (we only have another 100+ days….), this is the perfect time to discuss proper dental care during the school day with our patients who are in braces. This is an especially important overview for children who are returning to school for the first time since starting orthodontic treatment. Wearing braces at school doesn’t have to be difficult, but like any other new adventure, it comes with its own set of learning curves. Dr. Lee wants to help your child get through the first days of school smiling, so keep reading below for a few of our favorite tips on transitioning from summer to school with no stress!

Stay prepared

We always recommend that students in braces keep a basic care kit in their purse, backpack, or locker. This goes double for those who haven’t been wearing them for very long. Having a few common items close to hand can help prepare your child for any braces-related dilemma that might pop up during the school day. Some things they may want to include are:

  • a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • fluoride toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • orthodontic wax
  • lip balm
  • an unsharpened pencil

These items can be useful in a number of ways. Because brackets and wires have a tendency to trap food particles, we encourage brushing after lunch, with a quick floss added if needed, and if your child has the time. It’s not uncommon for the lips, gums, and cheeks to feel mild irritation from time to time, and orthodontic wax is an excellent way to reduce that and find some relief. All it takes is a pea-sized amount placed over the area causing problems. For wires that have strayed and are poking into the cheeks, the eraser end of a pencil can be used to nudge them back into place. Last but not least, lip balm is a must-have for lips that are dry and irritated due to braces-wearing.

Dr. Lee working with a patient

Stay smart

Whether your child is at school, at home, or anywhere in between, all the same rules for braces care to remain the same, particularly when it comes to food restrictions. This can be one of the biggest challenges your child will face while undergoing orthodontic treatment, and school can make it even harder for kids to choose lunches and snacks that are braces-friendly. It’s usually easy enough to manage this at home where you can keep your child away from any foods that are too crunchy or chewy, but it may be a bit more difficult if your child normally buys school lunches or uses a vending machine for snacks.

In order to keep your child’s orthodontic treatment progressing as it should, make it a habit to check the school’s lunch menu every week for options that are safe for braces. This includes things like lean meat, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, mac and cheese, and cooked vegetables. If the choices tend to be limited, packing a lunch can sometimes make things easier for both of you! Try packing pasta, soups, and other soft options into a Thermos, or cut a sandwich into smaller bites the night before. All of these will make eating and chewing easier for students in braces. Don’t forget the snacks! Healthy options such as applesauce and yogurt can be a great addition to your child’s lunch bag, and will help keep them feeling full and satisfied throughout the school day, as well as being gentle on braces.

Food isn’t the only important consideration at lunchtime. What your child chooses to drink at school can also affect their braces! Staying hydrated is always a priority, but drinking water is also a really easy way to keep food particles from sticking to the teeth and braces. Drinking from a water bottle throughout the day will keep your child’s thirst quenched and teeth clean. We encourage our patients to stick to plain water instead of soda, fruit juices, or other sugary drinks, as these can stain teeth and increase the risk for cavities. For the occasional sweet drink, kids should use a straw to keep the sugar as far away from their teeth as possible. 

Stay safe

If you have a student-athlete on your hands, or a child who still has regular P.E. or gym class, we recommend an orthodontic mouthguard. Most people tend to think of sports like football and hockey as the most dangerous to the teeth, but almost half of all sports-related mouth injuries actually occur in basketball and baseball. A properly fitted orthodontic mouthguard is designed to be worn with braces, and is the easiest way to protect your child’s mouth from injury (and their braces from being damaged) if they are tackled, elbowed, or if they fall down. These mouthguards, as well as non-orthodontic models, are generally available at most major sporting goods stores. Dr. Lee is also happy to recommend or order one for your child, if you’d prefer to go through our office instead.

Dr. Lees staff talking with a patient

Dr. Jared Lee will send your child back to school with a smile on their face

For kids who are going back to school with new braces, it’s not uncommon to feel nervous or anxious about what to expect. Even patients who have been in braces for a while might struggle with feeling slightly more stressed than usual about going back to school! The good news is, it really doesn’t take long for life with braces to become just another part of your child’s daily routine. We’re here to help make your child’s orthodontic journey as rewarding and exciting as possible! If either of you have any questions or concerns about how to navigate the new school year while wearing braces, please get in touch with us and we’ll do all we can to set your minds at ease. We wish you and your child a wonderful start to the new school year, and look forward to seeing their straight-A smile soon!