For some kids or teens, orthodontics is a sort of right of passage. Braces mean having straight teeth for life and avoiding jaw-related problems that come from poor alignment. No matter the perfect smile your kid will have in the future, though, sometimes the hardware can be downright uncomfortable. Here’s how to help your child alleviate pain.
Help Your Child Understand What’s Happening
Explaining the procedure – or having your orthodontist explain the procedure – can sometimes ease a bit of pain, especially during a checkup or adjustment. Sometimes pain and discomfort is more a result of fear than of actual pain. By telling your kid what’s being done and the purpose of it, they may be able to relax a bit and alleviate some of their pain.
Keep Ice Packs at the Ready
Just like you’d ice a part of your body that’s sore and achy, you can ice your mouth. When the hardware is new or has just been tightened, your kid’s mouth may be extra sore. Have them put a soft ice pack up to their mouth. The ice will do more than reduce pain, too – it will also bring down swelling.
Offer Them a Pain Reliever (in Moderation)
If your kid’s old enough to take a painkiller, you can decide if it’s the right time to treat the pain this way. If the pain is more severe than usual or if it’s preventing your kid from sleeping (especially on a school night), a small dose of Ibuprofen may be enough to quell the pain and the swelling for the time being. Just be careful to not use painkillers too frequently, as they can become addictive.
Gargle with a Saline Solution
If your kid knows how to gargle (you don’t want them to choke!), mix up a saline solution for them. Saltwater is a natural healer with excellent curing ability. Mix some salt into a glass of warm water and have them gargle with it for one minute a few times a day until the pain subsides. This will be especially helpful if your kid has sores on their cheeks or gums from where the hardware and wires rub.
Treat Them to Yummy, Cool Foods
While you can’t have candy when you have braces, you can treat your children to sweet treats like ice cream, ice pops or milkshakes. The coldness will also soothe an aching mouth by numbing it and bringing down inflammation. Make sure your kids brush their teeth after eating sugary foods, though – skipping this step means your kid is at risk for tooth decay. If your kid isn’t in the mood for something sweet, sucking on an ice cube or drinking chilled water can also provide relief for an achy mouth.
Ask Your Orthodontist for Wax
Orthodontist wax puts a barrier between the mouth and the metal so that your child’s gums won’t get irritated. By putting the wax on your brackets, gums or teeth, you can reduce friction that would otherwise cause sores and pain. To use the wax, break off a small amount, push it between your fingers to make it easier to mold and then put it on whatever part of your mouth is most irritated.
If your child swallows a bit of the wax, don’t get worried – it’s non-toxic. It’s important to remove the wax before brushing or flossing. After eating, you may want to apply a bit more wax because some of it has likely broken down.
Stick to Soft Foods
For the first few days after the hardware is put on the teeth or after a tightening, it’s best to eat only soft foods. Crunchy, sweet or sticky foods can cause further irritation and discomfort. Make sure your kid avoids things like potato chips, gummy candy and steak. Instead, give them yogurt, soups and mashed potatoes as snacks and meals.
Solid foods will hurt and they can also get stuck in the brackets or even knock them off. Warm foods and liquids are good because they can increase circulation, which will ease mouth pain. However, note that when it comes to liquids, steer clear of any acidic drinks, which will only irritate mouth sores and cuts even more.
Use a Topical Pain Relief Gel
Depending on the age of your kid, you may want to give them an over-the-counter pain relief gel. Always make sure to check with your doctor beforehand, though. This type of gel is applied directly to the gums or teeth using either your fingers or a cotton swab. The gel should go on the site of the pain. It will de-sensitive that part of the mouth by slightly numbing it. This is often enough pain relief to get a good night’s sleep.
Massage the Gums
Teach your kid how to massage their gums! It’s super easy to do – just use a finger to gently rub the area around the gums. Before massaging, you can also run an ice cube over the gums to soothe them a bit first. Massage will relax the gums, which can help alleviate pain.
Chew Your Food More
Explain to your kid how chewing their food more than they usually do can decrease pain. When you chew, your mouth is being exercised, which increased blood flow. This blood flow is what supports the mouth and its structures. It’s also what can help lesions and sores to heal more quickly.
Wear the Rubber Bands
If your kid has braces in order to correct a bite, odds are they have rubber bands that attach to the hardware. While the rubber bands can be uncomfortable, they will wrap around the hooks, which means the hooks won’t dig into the skin. Wearing the rubber bands are necessary for correcting bites and they’ll also prevent additional mouth sores.
While clever tricks and quality products are great, the best way to avoid discomfort is by trusting a professional, experienced orthodontist.
KinderSmiles Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
400 Kinderkamack Rd
Oradell, NJ 07649
11 Ways Your Child Can Alleviate Discomfort [with Braces]