One of the challenges that parents of of children or teens in braces deal with on a daily basis is getting the child to wear their elastics, or rubber bands, consistently. I commonly hear, “We know they should be wearing their rubber bands all day and night, but when they go to school or to bed, they take them off or don’t remember to put them on.” The situation can get very frustrating for parents, as they feel powerless as their child’s orthodontic treatment extends much longer than was originally planned. Not wearing rubber bands consistently and as asked by your orthodontist WILL make treatment take longer, which in turn increases the risk of permanent staining of the teeth around the braces (called decalcification), and increases the risk of root shortening and gum disease. What can you do if your child is just not showing interest in cooperating with elastic wear? Here are some tips.
- Remind them of the biggest benefit of wearing elastics as asked. The biggest benefit is usually what kids want about half way through their treatment- to get them taken off! I constantly remind kids that wearing the rubber bands is usually the only way to move teeth as we want, and wearing them close to all day and night makes things go really fast. Parents, remind them of this often.
- Go to google images, download and print out a picture of “braces decalcification”. Tape it to the childs bathroom mirror as a reminder of what may happen if braces are on too long.
- Similarly, tape a paper saying ‘Remember your elastics” to their mirror, refrigerator, or computer so they are constantly reminded.
- Try positive reinforcement- bribery works well for encouraging consistent wear (I know- three of my own children are currently in braces! Reward great elastic wear weekly with a treat from their favorite restaurant, pizzeria, or ice cream. Movies, I tunes points and video games are great rewards to work towards. Every child or teen has specific wants and interests that can be used to your advantage!
- Keep a calendar that you fill out together every day, coloring the day in with blue for great wear (20-24 hours a day), yellow for so-so wear (14-20), and red to indicate insufficient wear (under 14 hours). Make it clear every red day means an entire extra day in braces!
- From my own experience, sometimes taking something away may work well if the above ideas do not work. My oldest daughter responds well to several days without her cell phone. Taking away video game or computer time may work well, as could assigning chores or not being able to attend an event (although offering to take them to a movie or an event for great wear usually works better).
Try these tips, and remember that most parents feel similarly and go through some struggles with motivating their children. It is important to remember that most children and teens do not have a fully developed sense of long term consequences and responsibility as most adults do. Give us a call at any time if you feel you need additional help.
Dr. Dan Rejman is an orthodontist in Castle Rock, CO, and currently has three children of his own in braces!