The parents’ playbook for surviving kids orthodontic treatment every family should read

It’s easy to think kids orthodontic treatment affects just one person. The child (or teenager) who’s been prescribed the treatment.

The reality of kids orthodontic treatment, however, is vastly different.

As a specialist orthodontist, and author of my soon to be released book So Smile, I’ve learnt a few things about orthodontics, including early interceptive treatment. One of the big ones is: when a child commences orthodontic treatment, it affects the whole family.

While that may sound dramatic, it really isn’t. Or at least, it doesn’t need to be.

If braces, or any orthodontic treatment has been recommended or prescribed by your specialist orthodontist, this ‘playbook’ to surviving kids orthodontic treatment will mean smooth sailing – for the whole family.

#1 Use flexible financial arrangements to manage your investment in kids orthodontic treatment

When most parents are staring down the barrel of two years of kids orthodontic treatment, one of the first things that comes to mind is the cost.

As a specialist orthodontist, and mother of two girls who will need early interceptive treatment (my eldest daughter has just started Invisalign First), I get it.

There’s no doubt the financial aspects of orthodontic treatment are a consideration. Kids orthodontic treatment costs must be factored into the family budget and the benefits weighed up.

What I’ve found is that most parents, if they understand the long term benefits for their child, they don’t hesitate to make the investment. When I explain it to parents, I talk about the long term benefits of kids orthodontic treatment. Better health, more confidence, straight teeth, a beautiful smile. Hard to put a price on, these things with the power to transform a child’s life now and in the future, are worth every cent. Some parents even think they’re priceless, and I agree with them. Not least because the long term emotional, physical and financial costs can far outweigh any investment you might make now.

If the financial impact of orthodontic treatment is a stretch for your family budget, talk to your specialist orthodontist. Most now have flexible finance arrangements. Some, like Specialty Orthodontics, offer reduced monthly payments, sibling discounts, and decreased upfront payment. In some cases, payments may even extend beyond the treatment period.

We work with families who all have different circumstances. Some might be impacted by changes in income due to job loss, others have two or three children who require treatment, and others can pay upfront.

Regardless of the family’s financial positions, your specialist orthodontist will work with you to help manage the financial impact of kids orthodontic treatment.

#2 Don’t turn your kitchen into a restaurant during kids orthodontic treatment

The diet of every kid going through orthodontic treatment will undergo noticeable changes. Hopefully, most of these are for the better.

Parents can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that avoiding high sugar foods (such as hard candy) is high on the agenda. You might even cheer on your specialist orthodontist when they reinforce the need for maintaining good oral hygiene during treatment.

But what happens when your child is having difficulty with eating? Do you turn your home kitchen into a restaurant catering to individual needs?

My advice? A big ‘No’.

Here’s why.

Notwithstanding, it will take your child some time to adjust to their orthodontic treatment, I have counselled numerous parents that treatment is manageable, even if a little uncomfortable, but in the majority of cases, this is only initially.

While your child is getting used to their expander, braces or other appliance, it’s a good idea to cook softer foods and balance your empathy with a firm resolve. I often tell parents this is the perfect time to legitimately overcook your pasta! Make it clear, though, it’s not a permanent state of affairs, because after a few days to a week, they should be able to sink their teeth into the foods they’d normally eat. Where appropriate, show your kids how to chop up harder vegetables or fruit like carrot and apple. Apart from being a useful life skill, they’ll also learn to own responsibility for eating well, rather than just relying on ‘the kitchen help’ (aka, you as their parents) to do all the work.

#3 Set realistic expectations about the time commitment for kids orthodontic treatment

Before starting your kids orthodontic treatment, be sure to ask your specialist orthodontist about the time commitment and frequency of appointments.

With most households juggling multiple schedules and commitments, it’s very easy for appointments to be missed. With the potential to extend the overall treatment time taken, even incurring additional costs, there’s a lot to be said for sticking to your scheduled appointments.

I recommend parents build a small buffer around appointment times. This is possible when you book in advance, like before you leave the appointment your at. At Specialty Orthodontics, we do this by default.

As a general rule, expect to see your orthodontist every six to eight weeks during your child’s orthodontic treatment. If they’re punctual – and you are too – the time you’re physically in the practice should be minimal. Unless major work is required, you could be in and out in 20 to 30 minutes. That said, you will need to take into account travel time to and from – a big consideration if you’re doing appointments during the before and after school melee.

Another secret is to reframe your perception around appointments. Rather than seeing them as a hassle, find ways to look forward to them. I know the mum of one patient loves coming to the practice because she has a cappuccino made for her and she gets to read the magazines she wouldn’t otherwise see. The parent of another patient, made a point every visit of reading one chapter of a book sitting in our practice waiting room. With the launch of So Smile approaching, you can do that too and learn more handy tips for surviving kids orthodontic treatment just by visiting us.

#4 Make kids orthodontic treatment fun

Although treatment might seem a little overwhelming at the start, in time, the majority of kids embrace it.

At Specialty Orthodontics, we make kids orthodontic treatment fun.

Our team is focused on making our patients’ experience a memorable, enjoyable and rewarding one. Whether it’s a cheerful greeting on arrival, a conversation during the consult, or a quiet word of encouragement, it’s really not hard at all to get more out of treatment.

Having treated thousands of patients, I am convinced kids orthodontic treatment is about more than the braces. Children and teenagers who get the most out of the treatment, appreciate what their parents are doing, are excited by the progress, and grow confident in themselves. What’s not to like?

We all need reminders to stay positive and focused when we’re on a journey and kids orthodontic treatment is no different. But if you can, keep it light. It will make staying the course that much easier and enjoyable.

Want to know more about how to survive your kids orthodontic treatment?

Your specialist orthodontist is a wealth of knowledge, including about how your family can manage treatment. Working together with you and your child, she can help make the experience one that’s manageable – and fun.

We consider our role is important for educating and raising awareness about how to overcome the challenges of treatment. That’s why we excited to be sharing Dr Sarah Dan’s book SoSmile with our community. If orthodontic treatment is proving a challenge, Sarah’s book is a survival read for all parents. Be sure to ask about it when you visit us next.

Dr Sarah Dan is an orthodontist and advocate for early orthodontic assessment. Her approach to kids orthodontic treatment focuses on improving outcomes for children and parents who are considering orthodontic treatment costs. Through her experience as a clinician and parent, and having adult orthodontic treatment herself, Sarah truly understands orthodontics from the patient’s perspective. She ‘gets’ it and has developed her unique 5-Step Process to help patients navigate the treatment journey to a confident, beautiful smile at any age and stage of life.