A Dental Guide to Braces
A nice smile has a number of benefits, some of which are purely cosmetic and others that are more serious. Poor alignment of the teeth is a common problem and is called malocclusion. When a person with malocclusion closes his or her mouth, the teeth do not come together as they should. This can create problems with chewing, swallowing and the pronunciation of certain words. Other people may have teeth that overlap or that are overly crowded. While this is problematic in terms of appearance, it can also promote tooth decay as overly crooked or crowded teeth can be difficult to clean. In order to correct these problems people may go to see an orthodontist for braces. Braces are an orthodontic treatment that lasts roughly two years and is meant to help straighten crooked teeth. Because it is a serious and long commitment, parents and adults who are considering braces for themselves should learn about all aspects of getting braces.
Preparing for Braces
Most often people get braces in their youth, starting around the age of eight; however, a person can choose to get braces even when they are an adult. In fact, roughly twenty percent of the people who wear braces are adults. Adults get braces for a number of reasons that range from never having braces to straighten their teeth as a child, to experiencing pain in the jaw. For other people, a natural shifting of the teeth as they age can make them crooked, even if they’ve already worn braces as kids. Regardless of age, choosing the best orthodontist is a crucial part of getting braces. People should ask for recommendations first from their dentist and second from friends, family, and acquaintances who’ve used the services of an orthodontist.
The dentist will discuss the different types of braces and will help determine which type is best for the individual in question. There are several options to choose from with the most common being traditional braces, ceramic braces, and lingual braces. Traditional braces are metal braces. These are the most noticeable type of braces, however they are also the least expensive. Ceramic braces are less noticeable than metal braces as they are tooth-colored and blend well with one’s natural teeth. A significant downside of ceramic braces is that they can stain if not cared for properly. Lingual braces are metal, like the traditional braces, however they are placed behind the teeth so that they are not visible when a person smiles or talks. While this is an obvious benefit in terms of appearance, they are difficult to maintain and can be uncomfortable. Cost for braces will vary depending on various factors including the type of braces and where one lives. On average they may range from as low as $3500 for traditional braces to as much as $10000 for lingual braces.
The procedure for traditional and ceramic braces can take as little as one hour, to as long as two hours. The process involves cleaning and then applying bonding glue to the teeth, and attaching brackets. The last step in the process involves placing arch wires in the brackets and securing them in place with elastic bands. While this doesn’t hurt, it can make the mouth sore for about a week after the procedure. Once the braces are in place it is important to have the right supplies on hand for their care. These supplies include fluoride toothpaste, dental floss, and a regular or powered toothbrush. The dentist may also recommend the use of an inter-dental brush or an irrigation device.
Taking Care of Your Braces
Proper cleaning is important to the care of one’s teeth and braces. Food easily becomes caught in the braces and can easily trap bacteria and plaque. As a result, brushing the teeth and the braces after every meal, or at least three times daily, is required. To begin, remove elastic bands and, if applicable, headgear. Brush at a forty-five degree angle using gentle pressure. A good rule to follow is to clean each tooth for approximately ten seconds. Clean around the braces very gently, taking care not to bend or otherwise damage the wires or the brackets. While cleaning the braces clean from both the top and the bottom. At least once a day flossing is necessary with braces as it helps to get food and plaque buildup from the gum line and between the teeth. Irrigation devices, such as a water pik, are also helpful in cleaning around braces and the gum line. Any removable parts, or appliances, should also be cleaned using toothpaste and the toothbrush.
People can make cleaning the teeth easier by avoiding certain types of food, like items that are sticky, chewy and/or hard. Examples of food to avoid include apples, popcorn, corn-on-the-cob, caramel and hard candies, chewing gum, etc. These types of foods can be damaging to the braces and increase the risk of cavities. Choosing the right foods to eat and proper cleaning are just some of the ways that people must care for their braces. Care must also be taken to protect them at all times. For example, people who participate in sports and other activities will want to protect their teeth and the tissue of their mouth by wearing a mouth guard. Mouth guards worn by people who wear braces are often specifically designed to comfortably fit over the braces.
Life After Braces
After the braces are removed the newly aligned teeth are still not set or stable. The gums, bones and muscles in the mouth must adapt to the changes that have occurred before the straightened teeth are set permanently. Until then there is still the risk of the teeth shifting and returning to the state that they were in prior to the braces. To keep this from happening a retainer is used. A retainer is a orthodontic appliance that is made of either rubber with wires or clear plastic. They are typically worn full-time for approximately six months followed by several months of night-time wear. The exact time frame varies and depends on the individual. In addition to the retainer, the orthodontist will also likely want to do an x-ray to check for wisdom teeth and how they are growing. If they are growing in crooked, removal may be recommended as wisdom teeth can crowd the mouth and force straightened teeth to shift and become crooked once again.
- Preparing for Braces
- Caring for Teeth with Braces and Retainers
- Oral Care and Braces (PDF)
- Are You Too Old for Braces?
- All About Orthodontia
- Protecting Your Healthy Smile While Wearing Braces
- Treatment: Braces and Retainers
- About Malocclusion of Teeth
- Tips For Taking Care of Your Braces (PDF)