After months of wires and brackets, the blessed day arrives. Your teen is finally able to good-bye to braces. But too many teens embrace this freedom too readily and they quickly stop wearing their retainer. The retainer is an essential component of smile correction, and very soon after failing to wear it, the hard work done by the braces begins to fail as well.
Because orthodontic procedures represent an investment, parents become concerned when they discover their teen has not been wearing the retainer as directed. Here are some tips that should help your teen stick with it.
1. Silence the naysayers.
Teen are more likely to trust friends and relatives than the direction of a parent or even the dentist. All it might take is one friend who had braces testifying that the retainer is not that important and your teen may be ready to toss it. You can't prevent these stories entirely but you can do what you can. Tell your family members to support wearing the retainer, especially visiting aunts, uncles, and cousins.
2. Find back up.
You will be able to find plenty of testimonials online of teens who thought they didn't need to wear the retainer and regretted it years later when their beautifully straightened teeth shifted back. Do some research online and find these stories for your teen to read. Your word may not mean much, but with some back-up experiences, you may be able to get through.
3. Explain the pain.
Your teen experiences discomfort when wearing braces. The slow correction of the teeth takes gentle and consistent pressure than can be painful at times. Your teen will go through this pain for nothing when he or she fails to wear the retainer. Furthermore, as teeth shift back into their old places, there will be pain again. The only way to make braces worth the discomfort is to continue with dedicated retainer use.
4. Give incentives.
You don't have to bribe your child to wear a retainer, but you can make incentives conditional on your teen choosing to wear it. For example, you might reduce your teen's allowance or restrict vehicle use for failing to wear the retainer. On the flip side, your teen could earn extra perks, like additional screen time or a break from chores, if they are consistent with this essential habit.
5. Ask for payment.
Parents normally foot a good portion of the bill for braces, which can be expensive over the course of a few years of correction. Make a deal when the braces come off that the braces will remain paid for as long as your child wears the retainer. If he or she starts to slip, or skips days at a time, you might "garnish" as a way to pay for the straightening of the teeth that are now being neglected. Don't use this as a punishment -- make it a known deal you both agree on before the brackets come off.
6. Consider a permanent retainer.
These are an option for keeping a smile in place, and they are better than nothing. If you are not able to convince your teen to wear the retainer, talk to your orthodontist about permanent retainers for the bottom and top front teeth. They will at least keep things from moving too badly in some cases, but they cannot be used for all procedures and lifestyles.
Helping you teen adjust to life with a retainer can be challenging for parents -- sometimes, even more challenging than adjusting to braces. For more information and advice, contact a local orthodontic office, such as Cobbe Dental & Orthodontics, in your area.