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Everything You Need to Know About Dental Braces

Though there's nothing out of the ordinary about getting braces, many patients are curious about the process. Because orthodontic treatment is a big investment for today’s families and patients, it’s important to learn about braces, how they function, what treatment is like, and alternatives to conventional metal brackets and bands.
How Braces Work
Dental braces apply pressure to the teeth and the surrounding bone structures. With time, the pressure changes the positions of teeth and bones, bringing them into alignment. In many instances, patients must affix elastics, or rubber bands, to the upper and lower braces to assist with realignment. Additionally, some patients must wear external, removable headgear that attaches to the braces inside the mouth.
How to Get Braces
Your dentist will tell you if you need dental braces and how to get them. They can also tell you about the dental issues you’re dealing with, and they will refer you to a local orthodontist who will perform an in-depth assessment and recommend treatment options.
Why Do Patients Need to Visit an Orthodontist for Braces?
An orthodontist is a dentist who has undergone extensive, additional training in assessing patients’ jaw and bite alignment. Orthodontists have the skills needed to manage cases so patients can get the results they seek from braces and other treatments.
A Guide to Different Kinds of Braces
There are a few different kinds of braces and appliances that orthodontists can use to straighten patients’ teeth. These include:
  • Metal braces. Conventional metal braces are bands and brackets that an orthodontist will attach to a patient’s teeth with dental cement. These braces are connected by wires and used to shift the teeth into proper alignment.
  • Ceramic braces. Much like metal braces in terms of function and design, ceramic braces can be dyed to match the appearance of a patient’s tooth enamel. These braces aren’t as noticeable as their metal counterparts, and many patients find them to be easier to wear.
  • Lingual braces. These are installed on the back of the teeth, making them difficult to detect. While these braces are a bit uncomfortable for some patients, they’re a viable option for those worried about their appearance.
  • Invisalign. This is is a new alternative to conventional braces. Plastic trays, also referred to as aligners, are custom fitted to a patient’s mouth. During the treatment process, you’ll change trays regularly to move your jaw and teeth into alignment. Many dental patients like Invisalign because the plastic trays aren’t very noticeable, can be removed when eating, and are much more comfortable than regular braces.
Not all these options are right for every patient. Your orthodontist will consider the complexity of your case before recommending alternatives. For instance, Invisalign and lingual braces are typically recommended only for patients with simple alignment issues.
How Long Does the Process Take?
The installation process takes an hour or two, depending on the nature of your case. You will also have to return to the orthodontist’s office for regular inspections and adjustments.
How Long Does it Take for Braces to Work?
The length of an orthodontic treatment plan depends on various factors, including the severity of the misalignment and the methods used to resolve the issue. Many patients wear braces for 18 months to two years, though the timeframe may be longer for those with complex cases.
Another factor determining the length of a treatment plan is the patient’s level of cooperation. It’s important to attend all your adjustment appointments, and to follow the orthodontist’s instructions on the use of elastics and headgear. Failure to follow directions may extend treatment time.
Do Dental Braces Hurt?
The installation process isn’t painful as it’s happening, but many patients report feeling slight discomfort soon afterward. It typically arises due to the additional pressure on the jaw and mouth, as well as the presence of internal brackets and wires.
Your orthodontist will give you a non-toxic, safe wax to coat the wires and brackets that cause the irritation. Additionally, many patients use over-the-counter pain relievers and numbing gels to ease their discomfort. In most cases, the pain diminishes after about a week. Some patients experience discomfort after an adjustment, but it’s usually mild and easy to manage.
Taking Care of Your Teeth After Braces are Installed
Proper oral care is crucial during the treatment process. Your orthodontist or dental hygienist will show you how to floss and brush with braces so you can preserve the health and cleanliness of your gums and teeth. Most dentists suggest brushing after each meal, as it’s easy for particles to get trapped inside dental braces.
It’s crucial to visit your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups while wearing braces. Your orthodontist and dentist can tell you how frequently these checkups are needed.
Dental Retainers
A dental retainer is a customized mouthpiece that holds the teeth in alignment after braces are removed. The timeframe for which a patient must wear a retainer will depend on their specific circumstances, but it may be up to two years. Reinstallation of braces after retainer usage is rare, but it may be necessary if teeth start shifting back after the treatment plan is completed.
Foods to Avoid With Braces
If you are wearing conventional braces, you’ll have to avoid foods that could get caught or cause damage, which may lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Here are a few tips:
  • Avoid gum, caramel, and other sticky foods.
  • Don't eat hard candy or ice. Even if you typically suck on these items, it’s tempting to bite down, which may damage brackets and wires.
  • Don't eat corn on the cob; remove the kernels with a knife before enjoying.
  • Stay away from orange juice and other acidic beverages, which may irritate the mouth.
  • Because it’s harder to clean your teeth with braces, minimize the consumption of starchy, sugary foods that increase the risk of plaque development.
By following these tips, you’ll keep your mouth healthier and your braces in great condition.
In Closing
If you believe that you or someone in your family needs braces, consult a dentist who can refer you to an orthodontist for further evaluation. Most offices schedule consultations at convenient times, including weekends and evenings. With proper care and regular checkups, those with braces can enjoy healthier, straighter smiles.
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