Dental Braces: Guide to a Perfect Smile

January 25, 2024

Contrary to popular belief, dental braces are not a cosmetic treatment to help your teeth look better. Dental braces align your teeth to improve oral hygiene, rectify bite problems, and correct jaw alignment to help you eat better and live healthier lives. A few decades ago, people associated dental alignment treatment with unsightly metal braces, which covered your teeth with wires and caused significant mouth discomfort for months.

However, modern orthodontia offers much more comfortable, quick, and aesthetic solutions for dental alignment. So, don't be alarmed if your orthodontist recommends teeth alignment treatment. Read till the end to know more about what dental braces are, how they work, and the process of getting braces on and off.

How Do Braces Work?

Traditional braces combine brackets, wires and elastic bands that pressure your teeth and jaws in the proper direction to align them as needed. Orthodontists also use enamel-coloured ceramic brackets to correct your bite. Latest teeth alignment techniques also include advanced self-litigating brackets, which offer unique benefits and comfortable alignment treatment.

Types of Braces

If your orthodontist recommends braces, they will specify the ones most suit your alignment needs. It is best to remain informed about the braces available to understand your orthodontic treatment better. Here is a look at the different types of braces:

  1. Metal/Traditional Braces – Traditional braces are made of metal and have brackets, wires, and bands attached to your teeth. The wires and bands link the brackets together and help create the proper pressure to push your teeth into alignment. 
  2. Ceramic Braces – Sometimes, traditional braces are combined with tooth-coloured ceramic brackets. It makes the brackets less conspicuous and more comfortable. Brackets can be made of metal, ceramic, or plastic.
  3. Lingual Braces – Lingual braces are also made of metal but are affixed behind the teeth, facing your tongue. It makes them less visible, so they don't alter the wearer's appearance too much.
  4. Clear Aligners – Clear or invisible aligners are made of clear plastic and are customised to fit snugly on your teeth. They are made to pressure your teeth in the proper direction for alignment. The best thing about invisible aligners is that you can take them out to eat, sleep, or clean your teeth.

Do I Need Braces?

The best way to know if you need braces is to consult an orthodontist. The orthodontist will examine your teeth, jaw, and mouth to determine if you need help with alignment. They will ask you if you have noticed the following symptoms –

  • Visibly crooked or crowded teeth
  • Irregular loss of baby teeth in childhood
  • Underbite or overbite
  • Problems in brushing or flossing
  • Discomfort in chewing
  • Frequent biting of the tongue or inside cheek
  • Jaw discomfort or frequent clicking sound
  • Delayed eruption of adult teeth
  • The presence of extra teeth or missing teeth

The Process of Getting Braces

Discuss the process of getting your braces with your orthodontist. The common steps followed for getting braces are given –

  1. Initial Consultation – In the initial consultation, your orthodontist will examine your teeth and the x-rays of your teeth and jaws. The orthodontist will explain the process of getting the braces in this appointment. This consultation is the best opportunity to ask questions and clarify your doubts.
  2. Getting Your Braces – Usually, the bonding process takes two hours. Ensure you brush and clean your teeth as best as possible before the appointment. As the procedure takes time, bringing music or audiobooks is better to help pass the time. Here is a look at what your orthodontist will do in this sitting -
    1. The orthodontist will insert a device in your mouth to keep it dry and your tongue in place.
    2. They will dry your teeth and apply an etchant on the teeth' surface to prepare the enamel for bonding.
    3. The braces are placed on your teeth, and an adhesive is applied to hold them.
    4. The orthodontist may use a curing light to strengthen the adhesive and strengthen the bond.
    5. In the final step, the orthodontist puts the archwire through the braces and tightens them with ligature bands.
    6. Based on your alignment needs, the process may differ.
  3. Follow-Up Appointments – Four to eight weeks after getting your braces, your orthodontist may call you for a follow-up appointment to check your progress. In this examination, the orthodontist will tighten the braces, change the bands, or change the archwire as needed. Follow-ups are short sittings but are essential for best results in alignment treatment.
  4. The Last Appointment – The last appointment is when your orthodontist removes your braces and polishes the enamel. Removing the braces takes only a few minutes and is completely painless. Your orthodontist will advise you on the next steps and tell you if you need a retainer to help complete your perfect smile.

Treatment Timeline: What to Expect

Before you begin an alignment treatment, visiting your dentist and taking stock of your teeth' health is best. If you need cleaning or treatments for cavities – it is best to get it done before getting your braces. Once your teeth are ready, here is the expected timeline –

  • Consultation and diagnosis take one or two visits to your orthodontist.
  • Brace fitting/placement is done in one visit.
  • Regular adjustments or follow-ups will be made every four to twelve weeks, depending on your progress.
  • Usually, the entire treatment lasts twelve to twenty-four months, depending on the patient's age and the required alignment.
  • You may need to wear a retainer for some months after completing the treatment.

Costing & Financing Braces

Although we all would love to invest in our smile, it is critical to manage the expense properly. Depending on the type, complexity, and duration of the treatment, your cost may vary. Here are some points to keep in mind –

  • Many orthodontists offer discounts. Talk to your orthodontist to see if they can give you a discount on the total cost of the treatment.
  • Every orthodontist has a different way of charging their fees. Some may offer zero-interest in-house financing with monthly payment plans. It will allow you to spread out the cost of the braces and make them more affordable.
  • Health insurance companies sometimes cover the cost of alignment treatment, especially for children under 18. Contact your insurance provider and discuss the nuances of dental treatment costs in your policy.
  • If you qualify for Medicaid, go through the terms and conditions of your Medicaid to see if they cover dental alignment treatment. In some states, if the alignment is deemed medically necessary – it is covered in the program.
  • Use your pre-tax dollars from your Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Amount (FSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), or Medical Savings Account (MSA) to pay for your braces.
  • Several medical charities, like the AAOF Donated Orthodontic Services, can help you afford dental care.

Maintenance Tips: Keeping Your Braces in Top Shape

Braces or any alignment treatment is made to help you improve your dental health and hygiene. However, ignoring hygiene and maintenance during alignment treatment can harm the cause. Here is a look at how to maintain your braces –

  • Daily Cleaning – Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth twice daily. You should also use a water flosser, proxy brushes, and other dental hygiene products to clean the hard-to-reach areas.
  • Foods to Avoid – Avoid sticky and hard foods such as candy, taffy, and nuts. Choose soft foods that are easy to chew and leave less residue in your mouth. Fruits and vegetables are recommended.
  • Emergencies – See your orthodontist immediately if you notice a broken wire or bracket in your braces. It would help to keep orthodontic wax handy to cover any sharp edges.
  • Regular Check-Ups – Your orthodontist will give you a schedule of follow-up visits. It is imperative not to miss these check-ups. It will help your orthodontist monitor your progress, make timely adjustments, and clean your teeth as needed.

Process of Getting the Braces Off

The braces removal process is simple and usually painless. Ensure to brush your teeth and clean your braces before the appointment. Here are the steps followed to remove the braces –

  1. To begin with, the orthodontist will use a metal device to cut and loosen the brackets on your teeth and pop the braces, including the brackets and wires, off your teeth in one piece. If you have a molar band, the orthodontist will take it off, too. 
  2. The next step is cleaning the teeth. The orthodontist will thoroughly clean all your teeth as the braces may have trapped food or plaque around them. Following the cleaning, the orthodontist polishes the teeth with a hard grinder to remove any adhesive they used to fix the brackets to your teeth.
  3. The orthodontist thoroughly examines the teeth using X-rays, bite impressions, and digital photographs to check if the braces have done their job. In this step, they ensure the correct alignment and take measurements to make a retainer. A retainer is an orthodontic device that maintains the work done by the braces until the bones heal. The orthodontist may instruct you on wearing the retainer and the required precautions.
  4. Finally, the orthodontist checks your wisdom teeth. If they are coming in, the dentist will advise you to get them removed to prevent your teeth from changing their position again.

A perfect smile is a long-term investment in your appearance, health, hygiene, and well-being. If you think you or your child may need braces, talk to an orthodontist immediately. At Central Park North Orthodontics, we offer world-class professional care. Our experienced doctors understand the unique needs of every patient and guide you through this transformation. Everyone deserves a perfect smile. Call our experts today.

Frequently asked questions

The duration of your alignment treatment depends on –

  • The severity of your misalignment
  • The distance your teeth must travel
  • The health of your teeth, gums, and the supporting bone
  • The shape and size of your mouth/jaw
  • How well do you follow the doctor's instructions

Usually, alignment treatment can last anything between one to three years. After the treatment is completed, most people need to wear a retainer for six months, then you may take it off at bedtime, but you may need to wear the retainer for a year or more.

Initially, everyone feels a modicum of discomfort as their mouth adjusts to the braces. Every time the braces are adjusted, you may feel some pain. You can take some over-the-counter painkillers to manage the pain. Talk to your orthodontist if the pain is unbearable; they will change how they adjust the braces or apply soft wax to cover any pointy wires that cause discomfort.

If you are allergic to the metal used to make the braces, such as nickel, inform your orthodontist. They will use some other material to make the braces. After wearing braces, it is common to experience swelling, bleeding, or irritation in the mouth or gums. These symptoms are not an allergic reaction. Talk to your orthodontist if you experience too much irritation, swelling, or bleeding.

If a bracket or wire breaks, it may hurt your tongue, gums, or cheeks. Visit your orthodontist urgently and get the broken bracket or wire fixed before it can cause more damage. They will check the damage and repair the braces accordingly. Loose brackets may be fixed with orthodontic wax; loose bands can be replaced; broken wires can be fixed using wax, and loose spacers need replacement.
Dr. Patel

Dr. Patel is an orthodontist and maintains a private practice in Rome, NY. He completed his undergraduate education at the Ohio State University. Then, he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia. After earning his doctorate, Dr. Patel attended a three-year, dual-degree residency at Columbia University in New York City. Here, he earned his certificate in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics as well as earning a Masters in Oral Biology. During his time off, Dr. Patel likes to stay active by jogging, biking, and hiking.

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