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Parental guidance: Encouraging kids to wear retainers

Madison Petrusa, 7, of Commack, shows off her

Madison Petrusa, 7, of Commack, shows off her braces at the Huntington orthodontic practice of Dr. Inna Gellerman. (March 30, 2011) Photo Credit: John Paraskevas

My son got his braces off recently, and I'm fighting with him about wearing his retainer. Do orthodontists have suggestions to encourage compliance?

For the first six months to a year, it's critical to wear the retainer because otherwise the teeth may slowly migrate back to the original positioning. To make this point to your child:

--Ask your orthodontist for the picture taken of your child's teeth before braces and put copies on his bathroom mirror, suggests Dr. Richard Bach of Bach Grazina East End Orthodontics in Riverhead and East Hampton. "By staring at that, he'll know what his teeth are going to go back to," Bach says.

-- Put the retainer on the child's pillow every morning so he can't lie down to sleep without putting it in, Bach says. (Don't do this if you have a dog, however; dogs love to chew retainers, Bach warns.)

-- Consider a permanent retainer, says Dr. John Roche of John J. Roche Orthodontics in Center Moriches and Southampton. The orthodontist glues a wire on the tongue side of the teeth. The downside is that it may cost extra and make it harder for kids to floss adequately, Roche and Bach both say. But Roche says he'd prefer to monitor oral hygiene for the year than to see his patient's teeth shift back to square one. If the child is really having a hygiene issue, the permanent retainer can be removed and he can return to wearing a removable one, Roche says.

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