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7 Un-Fun Health Milestones

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Getting Braces

Her gap-toothed, crooked smile might be cute for a little while -- but not so much when she grows up.

The Ouch Factor Holding still can be a challenge during the x-rays the orthodontist will take of her jaw and skull. To keep her from moving, tiny rods are placed on the outside of her ears -- awkward but painless. Gagging may kick in during the next phase of the process: impressions. The child must bite into molds holding a plasterlike material. The braces don't hurt when the orthodontist puts them on, but -- as my 11-year-old daughter unhappily discovered -- the pressure of teeth shifting causes achiness (sometimes severe) several hours later and for days after.

On-The-Spot Soothers If your child's a gagger, ask the orthodontist if he can use a numbing spray on the back of her throat prior to taking the impressions, says Bob Bray, D.D.S., president-elect of the American Association of Orthodontists. It can disable the reflex. If it's allowed, just holding her hand and reminding her to breathe deeply through her nose (some kids may feel like they can't breathe well with the trays in) can help her relax. And after the braces are applied, some orthodontists offer a special wafer to munch. "Chewing stimulates blood flow to the nerve sockets, which lessens the pain," Dr. Bray says. If yours doesn't, ask about using sugarless gum. Be sure to have an over-the-counter pain reliever for when you get home, and plan on having soup and applesauce for that first night's supper.

Thinking Ahead Just give your child a heads-up about what's going to take place. If she's worried about her appearance, it can help to remind her that all her friends will probably have them soon, too -- and that the payoff will be well worth it: gorgeous teeth for life!

Next: Swallowing a Pill

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