I’m seeing a lot of kids these days with braces. Not that there’s anything new about that — history is filled with teenaged orthodontics. Not mine, however. I had my braces taken off at Christmas 2005, after having been on for just under 18 months. As a teen, I decided I didn’t want to be trapped into having metal in my mouth for years on end, with no input into the process. The number of times I heard a friend say, “Yup, I’m getting my braces off this week,” only to come back to school with them still on and say glumly, “No, my orthodontist says I have to have them on for another six months/year/indefinitely.” And this seemed to repeat every time a removal deadline loomed. It seemed as though all my classmates were doomed to stay stuck in braces forever. No, thanks.
But as an adult, I realized an important truth: if you have braces as a teenager, your parents pay for them. If you have braces as an adult…not so much. You’re on the hook now.
Kids are often reluctant to get braces, worrying about their appearance or the amount of upkeep. (Let’s put this into perspective, though: if you think you feel self-conscious about braces as a teenager, try having them as an adult!) But people generally find that after a few days of discomfort and getting used to them, the braces fade into the background and become fairly unobtrusive. And the relief you feel at getting them off? Ahhh…totally worth the trouble.
But don’t try to force the issue. Include your teen in the decision-making process, and respect his concerns. If he’s having a specific problem, meet with the dentist or orthodontist, and try to work together to find a solution. Sometimes there may not be one, but it helps to reduce the agitation if you’ve at least looked into it.
The reality is, braces are like lots of other things in life: not always necessary, perhaps, but a minor inconvenience for a long-term gain. Help your child put the whole experience in perspective, and remember the important role you play in helping to keep everyone rational in those moments of frustration and pain.