A new school year is underway. For kids and teens, that means keeping tabs on assignments, activities, and, yup, removable orthodontic appliances. If you’re worried the hustle and bustle of fall will lead to a lost retainer or Invisalign® Teen aligner, have no fear.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some simple ways to help your child or teen get into the habit of wearing and storing their orthodontic appliance. This way, they can achieve fantastic results and you won’t have to spring for any replacements.
Wearing Invisalign Teen Aligners
Invisalign Teen and Spark™ Aligner treatment involves a series of clear plastic aligners printed based on my treatment plan. Each set of aligners is designed to achieve specific tooth movements, so teenagers have to wear the trays in the correct sequence for the right amount of time to get the desired outcome.
You’ll want to encourage your child to wear their Spark or Invisalign Teen aligners for 20 to 22 hours per day. They’ll take their aligners out to eat and drink anything aside from plain water, brush and floss their teeth, and wear a mouthguard while playing sports. When they take their clear aligners out, have them store the aligners in their Invisalign case.
Wearing Removable Retainers
The two main types of removable orthodontic retainers are Hawley retainers (the conventional kind with an acrylic base and a wire that wraps around the teeth) and clear plastic retainers, or Essix-style retainers.
Essix retainers, sometimes also referred to as Invisalign retainers because they’re similar to aligners, are the most popular retainer for teens at Fresh Orthodontics, because they’re less noticeable.
Wearing a retainer after braces or clear aligner treatment is the only way to maintain results for a lifetime. I’ll provide specific retainer instructions that include how many hours per day your child or teen should wear their appliance. Generally, it’s more often at first, before transitioning to wearing the retainer just at night, and, eventually, a few nights per week.
Just like with aligners, your child will need to take their retainer out before eating or drinking anything aside from plain water, brushing and flossing their teeth, and wearing a mouthguard during sports. Keep the retainer in its case when it’s not being worn.
6 Tips for Helping Kids Develop Good Appliance Habits
- Set the Ground Rules
Talk with your child about why wearing a retainer or aligners is important. Discuss when they should take their appliance out, how many hours per day they need to wear it, and the necessity of putting it in its case when it’s not in their mouth. Having a conversation about the instructions and your expectations will ensure everyone is on the same page.
If your child is one of my Brooklyn Invisalign Teen or braces patients, my team and I are always happy to help! Let us know and we can give your child or teen a refresher on their aligner or retainer instructions and offer personalized tips for success.
- Go Bold With Their Retainer or Invisalign Case
Kids are a lot less likely to forget their Invisalign or retainer case somewhere, or not use it at all, when it’s highly visible. Have them personalize their case with fun stickers to make it more eye-catching. For added insurance, you can also put a sticker with your name and phone number on it in case they leave it behind.
- Store Their Case in a Bigger Case
Your teen’s retainer case is fairly small. If covering it in stickers isn’t enough to make it stand out in their book bag or on the lunch table, try keeping it in a larger toiletry or cosmetic case. A bigger case is harder to lose.
- Set Up a Temporary System of Rewards
Rewards, or incentives, can be a powerful tool when trying to develop a good habit (i.e., putting in a retainer every night, wearing aligners for 22 hours per day, storing appliances in their case when not in use, etc.).
The reward system is temporary and it doesn’t have to cost anything. For example, maybe your child earns tokens every time they wear their retainer according to the orthodontist’s instructions. When they reach a predetermined amount of tokens, they cash them in for an extra hour of screentime.
Or, for each week they’re diligent about putting their aligners in their Invisalign case, they get to go to their favorite place.
It can take some trial and error to figure out what motivates your child. But, once you decide on the goal and reward, keep it going until a positive habit is formed. How long does it take to establish a habit? It depends on the individual, but within a few months the habit should stick even without the incentives.
- Use Reminders
Another important factor in developing a positive habit is repetition. The more often your teenager repeats the habit of putting their retainer in its case or putting their Invisalign aligners in after eating, the more quickly it will become second nature.
But, in order to repeat the behavior, kids have to remember to do it first. That’s where reminders come in. Put a sticky note on their gym bag that reminds them to put their retainer or aligners back in after practice. Slip a note in their lunchbox to put their appliance in its case while eating. Have them make a sign to display next to their bed reminding them to pop in their retainer before going to sleep.
You can also have your child set up reminders on their phone. Or, use an aligner tracking app. The tracking app works great for both Invisalign Teen aligners and retainers.
- Decide on Designated Spots for Keeping Appliances
Treat your child’s retainer or aligners like your car keys, and get kids into the practice of putting their appliance (in its case, of course) in the same place every time.
When they’re at school, perhaps they have a specific pocket of their book bag for their appliance. At home, you could choose an area of the kitchen or their bedroom that serves as their designated retainer or aligner spot.
If your child is only wearing their retainer at night, have them keep it in the bathroom or by their bed so they see it before going to sleep.
Connect With a Brooklyn Orthodontist
Have more questions about getting kids to wear and keep track of their appliances? Reach out and a friendly team member will help.
If your child or teen isn’t a patient yet, let’s change that! Schedule your complimentary consultation at Fresh Orthodontics in Park Slope. We offer a variety of treatment options, including Invisalign Teen, Spark Aligners, metal braces, and clear braces for teens and kids.