Keeping orthodontics on track as students return to school


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By Jason Regan (mouthy) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dr. Michael Ragan

Going back to school can be stressful for parents and children alike, especially if your child recently had a change in their orthodontic treatment.

Being new to braces, retainers, space maintainers, elastics, or any other orthodontic treatment can be a challenge for kids, and going back to school doesn’t make it any simpler. It can be easy for a child or teen to start slacking on their oral hygiene routine, fall into bad orthodontic habits, or accidentally throw away a retainer in the lunchroom.

To avoid common orthodontic mishaps during back-to-school months, here are a few tips to assist parents in helping their children take care of their braces, retainers and other orthodontia during the transition, and throughout the rest of the school year.

  1. Pack orthodontic-friendly lunches

When packing lunch, avoid crunchy foods such as popcorn and chips, sticky foods like caramel and taffy, and foods like corn on the cob or meat on the bone. Although it’s best to avoid them, hard foods like apples and raw veggies should be cut into slices.

Many orthodontists will provide a list of foods to avoid or eat with caution. By following these restrictions you’ll make sure no food gets trapped in their braces, and that no broken wires or brackets disrupt the day.

  1. Prepare a “Orthodontic Survival Kit”

There are several tools to set students up for success at school when taking care of their orthodontic appliances. Items such as interdental brushes help remove food between brackets, floss threaders get under the wires of braces, and fixed retainers and retainer cases make it so nothing ends up in the trash.

Parents can help their children be successful by preparing a kit of useful items for their student to keep in their backpack, desk, or locker. Make sure to fill this with all of the things they may need to care for their braces, retainer, or other orthodontic appliance. Some items you will want to include are:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Floss Threaders
  • Interdental Brushes
  • Braces Wax
  • Extra Elastics (if your orthodontist prescribed them)
  • Pain reliever
  • Lip balm
  • Retainer/Aligner case


  1. Make it a routine

Helping students figure out their morning, lunch, and nighttime routines can help them feel more in control in a time of transition, and put them on a track to orthodontic success. Parents can encourage their students to form a habit of brushing, flossing and caring for their orthodontic appliances in the morning, lunchtime, and nighttime.

  1. Remind them of the end goal

Parents can help ease feelings of frustration by reminding their students to keep the end goal in mind: a beautiful and healthy smile. By putting a little time and effort into caring for orthodontic appliances now, students will have a healthy smile for a lifetime.

If parents have any further interest in finding an orthodontist in Dallas or are looking for more tips about caring for their children’s orthodontic treatment, they can visit

Dr. Michael Ragan is a member of the Texas Association of Orthodontists.