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Sensory processing issues can affect 5% to 16% of school-aged children, with some children being hypersensitive to sounds, sights, and touch, and others have a low sensitivity to sensory stimulation. Children who are sensitive to touch or who have anxiety can dread visits to the orthodontist since the feeling of braces being placed in their mouth can trigger fear, worry, and in severe cases, panic attacks. If your child needs an apparatus and they are scared about their appointment, there are many ways that you can make the process easier and less stressful for them.
Braces Aren’t Forever
Let your child know that braces, despite being uncomfortable and (to an extent) limiting the foods one can eat, are a temporary ‘accessory’ that are worn for a very short time in life, with many long-term positive consequences for one’s health. Explain to your child that when teeth are too close together, they can be harder to clean and cavities may arise. Show them a few cool ‘before and after’ photographs of orthodontic work and point out how beautiful a perfect smile can be. Finally, let them know that they can still enjoy many foods while wearing braces. These include softer foods that won’t damage their brackets or stain their teeth. Treats you might like to mention include ice-cream, soft fruits, smoothies, grains, cakes, soft proteins, bread, dairy, and their favorite protein sources (soft meat and chicken is permitted, as is any type of meat that is not too chewy).
Consider Alternatives to Brackets
There are many new orthodontic apparatuses that are less visible – including Invisalign, comprising clear trays that your child wears all day. The trays are removable, meaning that children can give teeth a good clean and floss their teeth – thereby helping to keep cavities at bay. Children who are anxious about brackets may feel much more ‘in control’ when all they need to do is pop on and take off trays at home instead of having to go to the dentist frequently to fix broken brackets, have them tightened by the dentist, and the like.
Impressing Children with Technology
Currently, orthodontists have a wide array of technology at their hands that they can use to show patients the results of their work. Thus, scans are taken of a child’s mouth and a simulation video is often made of how their teeth will move over time if they wear orthodontics. Seeing the positive effect that braces can have on their smile can be highly motivating for children and it can help reduce some of their anxiety.
Choosing a Dental Office that Accommodates Your Child’s Needs
If your child has sensory processing disorder or they are otherwise sensitive to loud sounds and bright lights, consider visiting a dental office or orthodontics clinic that accommodates specific spaces for kids who are sensitive to sensory overload. Some clinics have child-friendly spaces that specifically aim to ease visits for kids with specific conditions or disorders – including autism. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, for instance, have created a ‘sensory smart’ dentist office for kids with autism that removes bright lights, loud noises, and the smells of oral care products from the spaces where kids are attended to. Soothing music is played, seat covers on dental chairs look like butterflies, and overhead office lights are turned off.
Visiting the orthodontist or dentist can be stressful for anyone but it is especially difficult for kids with sensory processing issues. To ease the burden on your child, try to find a clinic that accommodates their needs. Motivate them to go to appointments by pointing out the many foods they can still enjoy, showing them video material displaying what their mouth will look like in a few months, and considering bracket-free options that are less obvious.
About Jane Sandwood
Children who are sensitive to touch or who have anxiety can dread visits to the orthodontist since the feeling of braces being placed in their mouth can trigger fear, worry, and in severe cases, panic attacks. If your child needs an apparatus and they are scared about their appointment, there are many ways that you can make the process easier and less stressful for them.