Brace yourself…

Moodswings, meltdowns, eye-rolling, door slamming…
We all expect to spend time dealing with problems like these when our children hit their teens. Yet there’s another very time-consuming matter for us parents which happens when the kids reach about this age. But it’s one I hadn’t really been warned about, and it took me a little by surprise. Braces.
Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely grateful for the expert orthodontic treatment my children are receiving, which will ensure they end up with lovely, straight teeth. But with our orthodontist situated a fair drive from home (and I know many other parents face the same problem), and with teenager and daughter both undergoing treatment at the same time, I just wasn’t prepared for how much time would be taken up ferrying them to and from appointments for impressions, adjustments and new fittings, not to mention the emergency bookings when a wire unexpectedly comes loose. Nor was I ready for some of the practicalities of braces and the impact they would have on general family life.
So here is my mini guide – THE JOYS OF BRACES – for parents of other children who are having, or are about to have, their teeth straightened.

Toothbrushes – you will need to buy a whole range of different toothbrushes for all that brushing, interdental cleaning, gum cleaning. Oh, and don’t forget the plaque disclosing tablets, fluoride rinse – and cleaning tablets for removeable braces.
Haribo-type sweets – strictly off limits, as is toffee, chewing gum, and any other hard foods. Back to those days of eating apple and raw carrot chopped up really small, but hopefully you won’t be doing the chopping yourself this time round!
Embarrassing – there’s nothing like food getting stuck in braces. The secret – so I have been told – is for the brace wearer to keep a travel toothbrush and travel mirror with them at all times!

Jitters – lots of these in our house when it came to thinking about braces, especially just before they were fitted. Questions like “What will my friends say?” “Will I still be able to talk?” “Will I get teased?”
Over-the-counter pain killers – definitely stock up on these, just in case the aches and pains get really bad, especially when the braces are first fitted. It’s amazing how a tablet, a few sympathetic words and a hug can usually make everything seem a bit better.
Yellow, pink, purple, blue? – a big dilemma, especially among girls, is what colour to choose for the fitted brace.
Straws – the only way to drink pure orange juice without ruining your teeth when you have braces on is with a straw, so we’ve been told. Currently, we’ve got striped straws, spotted ones, fluorescent ones, shimmery ones in our cupboard. Youngest child, aged four, loves it…

Oh no, how are we going to make that appointment? – a common question parents ask themselves when their children have braces. Especially if the only slot available for the day you want is slap bang in the middle of it. How on earth do you get time off work again, never mind the issue of your child missing lessons?
Fizzy drinks – sorry, but these are off limits too, apart from the odd sneaky can when the going gets really tough.

Boredom – my children’s, when waiting for an appointment. I, meanwhile, am usually found slumped in a chair trying to calm my nerves, having got stuck in traffic, spent ages trying to find a parking space, and then legged it to the surgery, convinced we were going to miss our precious slot.
Rubber bands – usually found on the side of plates, under the sofa, in the bath, in jean pockets. These tiny little white bands, which often come with fixed braces, seem to be everywhere…except actually on the teeth.
Adjustments – you just have to accept that sometimes you may have to make an hour-long round trip to the orthodontist for a minute-long brace adjustment.
Calendar – you need a big one, with lots of space to write in all the appointments. We’re lucky enough to have text reminders as well, but don’t forget to check your phone.
Extractions – be prepared that your child may not only need to wear braces, but may also have to have teeth taken out at some point if their mouth is too crowded. But best not to tell them that bit until you really have to.
Saying thank-you – we moan, we swear, we scream. Us parents, I mean. But how quickly we forget those countless trips once our children have had their braces removed and their fantastic, straight teeth are revealed. We then spend ages writing long thank you cards to our orthodontist, which are pinned up in the waiting room for the next lot of frazzled parents to read. Now it’s just the retainers we have to deal with…