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The wonderful world of braces and retainers!

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Throughout your child’s development, a dentist may suggest your child see an orthodontist. Orthodontic care is not only to help correct crooked teeth, but to prevent issues later in adulthood. Read on to see what you can expect if your child needs orthodontic treatment.


Why your child might need braces or a retainer

During teeth cleanings and routine examinations, dentists look in the mouth to check on teeth and jaw alignment, signs of disease or health conditions, and overall development and condition of the mouth. A dentist may suggest an orthodontist for the following reasons:

  • Make sure teeth will function properly (if teeth or jaw are misaligned)

  • Help your child create a healthy, attractive smile and facial structure

  • Maintain a good bite to make it easier to chew and speak

  • Avoid tooth decay or loss by making teeth easier to clean

  • Avoid expensive dental procedures that could result from untreated orthodontic issues

When your child would start braces

Braces or retainers can be done at any age, but generally produce the best results if done in childhood. Abnormal bites typically become noticeable between the ages of 6 and 12, with orthodontic treatment beginning between ages 8 and 14. Most people have braces from 1 to 3 years followed by a retainer to hold teeth in their new position.

Brushing and flossing with braces

Brushing: When brushing with braces, carefully clean around wires and pins by moving top to bottom and all the way around upper and lower teeth. Brush for two minutes, twice daily with each quarter of the mouth getting 30 seconds. Lastly, rinse and check in the mirror for any leftover food particles.


Flossing: Start with waxed floss (unwaxed floss can get caught and shredded in braces). Thread it carefully under the main wire before passing between two teeth. Don’t snap it. Move up and down gently, remove, and move on to the next pair of teeth. About 18 inches of floss should suffice. Parents: Floss your younger children’s teeth; they may not be able to thread floss correctly for braces.


Retainers after braces

Throughout life teeth move, even with orthodontic treatment, which is why retainers follow braces. Removable retainers should be worn full time for the first 4 to 6 months after braces are removed, except for mealtimes and cleanings.


A removable retainer should be cleaned with lukewarm water every time it is removed. Rinse the retainer right after taking it out of the mouth to keep food from hardening on it. You can also use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste to carefully brush every part of the retainer once per day.


Plan for regular visits with your orthodontist and dentist to keep teeth healthy and clean!

Dentists and orthodontists work together to keep teeth healthy as the braces straighten and align. By scheduling regular dental cleanings, orthodontic visits, and consistent at-home dental care, you can support their efforts as your child grows into adulthood with a beautiful smile!


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