Parenting: Joining the 'metal mouth' club

April 15, 2011 11:17:34 AM PDT
Last Friday was a big day for my 10-year-old, son Micah. He got his braces. For the past several months, he's been wearing an expander in the roof of his mouth and separators between some of his teeth to make room for the hardware that he'll be sporting for the next several years.

But Friday was the day he got his actual braces on, complete with rubber bands. He chose Eagles' teal, though he says next time he's planning on Phillies blue and red.

Both of my older sons wore braces, so we've been through this all before. And Micah saw how orthodontia has improved his brothers' appearances, so he was more excited than apprehensive about joining the Metal Mouth club. His school friends thought his braces were "cool, " which was great to hear, since I do remember kids being taunted for wearing braces back when I was in school (in the Dark Ages).

The orthodontist explained to Micah how he has to be very careful about what he eats (no caramels or sticky hard candy, no chewy soft pretzels or bagels, etc.) and all about how he has to brush his teeth very thoroughly now and make sure he removes any food particles that may become caught in his braces. And so far, Micah's taking all of it in stride.

Whether to go through the expense and hassle of putting your child in braces is an individual decision for parents, of course. But there are many positive reasons for doing so, aside from just improving your child's appearance. In many cases, braces can also correct problems with jaw alignment and bite, which can lead to problems like TMJ and headaches as children grow older.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, children should see an orthodontist by age 7. Treatment won't likely begin then, but it does help to know if your child's like to need braces, so you can plan, prepare them and budget. Most orthodontists offer payment plans, so you can pay for the braces over time.

And my personal advice is to choose an office that's easy to get to, as you will be taking your child there many, many times during the course of their treatment. Make sure you and your child feel comfortable there. One of the reasons I like the practice we use, ( is that they offer early morning appointments, so I can take Micah in before he has to go to school and I have to be at work. They're very kid-friendly - they have monthly contests and note all the patients' birthdays on a special wall - and the wait time for appointments is very reasonable.

As Micah's learning, braces may hurt a little bit, but they don't have to be painful, for either the patient or the parents. Check out the links below for more information in kids and braces.

American Association of Orthodontists: Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on