Did your child receive braces this summer? If so, they will need to prepare themselves for the new school year by learning how to keep their teeth healthy while getting them straightened. The goal is to have a healthy, beautiful smile when their oral hardware comes off. Since they will be spending a good chunk of their time away from home during the week, they should have the tools they need to keep their smiles safe at school. Even if your child isn’t spending their time in a school this year, a toolkit is essential to have on hand.
At-School Braces Toolkit
The first thing we recommend is making sure they have a basic braces care kit that they can keep with them or in their locker. Consider equipping them with the following tools to help them be prepared to maintain their oral health while away from home:
- A brand new, soft-bristled toothbrush to clean their teeth after eating and some fluoride toothpaste.
- A dental flossing tool they like to help remove food particles after a snack or lunch.
- Some orthodontic wax to keep braces from irritating soft tissue in the mouth.
- A tube of lip balm to keep lips moisturized and fend off irritation from the braces hardware.
- A pencil that hasn’t been sharpened to push a poking braces wire back into place.
- A compact mirror to spot food particles stuck on braces after eating.
- Rubber bands in case one breaks while they’re away from home.
- A container to hold their clear aligners (instead of straightening their teeth with braces) or their retainer while they eat.
- Water bottle or reusable beverage container.
- An orthodontic mouth guard to protect them if they participate in P.E. or gym class. These fit over their braces during games and practices no matter what sport they are playing.
Know What to Eat for Lunch and Snack Breaks
School lunches (or even just grabbing a quick snack between classes) can leave oral debris around the braces hardware as brackets and wires tend to trap food particles easily. Along with carrying their braces toolkit in their backpack, they should also be aware of food restrictions while at school. Teach them which items are on the braces-friendly list as well as ones that are not – specifically hard, crunchy or chewy foods. One thing you can do to help them is to keep track of their weekly school lunch menu or simply provide them with homemade lunches in their backpacks. If your child likes to raid the in-school vending machines, let them know which foods are off-limits (such as hard or sticky candy, pretzels and chips).
Braces-Friendly Food List
- Lean meats
- Mashed potatoes
- Pasta like spaghetti & macaroni and cheese
- Steamed vegetables
- Soft fruits like applesauce
- Soft-bread sandwiches cut into bite-sized pieces
- Egg dishes
- French fries
- Yogurt and smoothies
Another essential is having them take a water bottle to school every morning. Water helps them keep their saliva levels at optimal levels, preventing dry mouth and neutralizing acids from foods. Water can also help rinse away oral debris between brushing and flossing at school.
Avoid Sweetened Drinks
Make sure your child knows to avoid sugary drinks like soda, fruit juice, chocolate milk and even Gatorade! These sweetened drinks can trap and feed oral bacteria around brackets and wires, setting the stage for cavities and stains on tooth enamel. If you think your child will sometimes indulge in sweetened beverages while at school, tell them to use a straw (or tuck some in their backpack) to keep the liquid sugar from pooling on their teeth.
Smile With Confidence
As your child adjusts to wearing their new braces, they will feel more confident and willing to smile, knowing one day their smile flaws will be corrected as the braces come off. There are also plenty of other students wearing braces, so they will see that they are not alone. With school pictures coming up around the corner, your child can smile with pride!