Braces are a common way to correct misaligned teeth, bringing out beautiful, healthy smiles. It’s important to be informed about how braces work and what to expect. At Fox Kids Dentistry & Orthodontics, we’re here to help you understand the process every step of the way.
What Are the Different Types of Braces?
Traditional Metal Braces – Metal braces are the most time-proven method of adjusting teeth. Small metal brackets are attached to the front surface of each tooth, and a thin wire fits inside of each bracket, which runs from tooth to tooth. Elastic bands securely connect the metal wire to the brackets. The tiny elastic bands come in a variety of colors and offer a fun way to “dress up” the braces. They get to be changed at every visit and many patients will coordinate their braces with holiday colors (like orange and black for Halloween), or favorite sports teams (like red and black for the Blazers).
Traditional braces have been refined in the past few decades so today they are smaller and stronger than ever before. In fact, low profile braces are gaining popularity as a way to minimize appearance and make them much more comfortable to wear. Low profile braces are smaller and sit more closely to the surface of the tooth compared to the more traditional style. Metal braces can be used to correct a wide range of orthodontic conditions, from the most minor issues, to the most complex.
Traditional Ceramic Braces – Ceramic braces take the same general form as traditional metal braces, but the brackets are made of tooth-colored or clear ceramic, making them significantly less noticeable on teeth. Usually, the wires used are still metal so it isn’t totally inconspicuous. However, ceramic brackets offer a vast improvement from the more obvious metal brackets.
Lingual Braces – Lingual braces are wire braces that are adhered to the inner surface (back side or tongue side) of the teeth. Other than hiding the braces from view, this treatment modality offers few advantages and several disadvantages. Lingual braces have the same sorts of food restrictions as traditional braces and because of their location they can affect speech and cause more irritation in the mouth. Of all the types of braces, lingual braces’ capacity for adjusting teeth can be limited, due to more difficult access.
Removable Aligners – For mild-to-moderate adjustments, removable aligners provide a flexible, discrete option. Custom molded clear plastic alignment trays are placed over the teeth to guide them into their correct position. The aligners are also removable so there are no eating restrictions or special cleaning guidelines. Every 1-2 weeks, new alignment trays are provided to gradually adjust the teeth. Aligner trays are see-through, making them hardly noticeable visually. Sometimes tooth colored attachments, which serve as little handles for the aligners to grab onto, are glued onto the teeth to help the teeth move smoother. Invisalign is a common brand of clear aligners that orthodontists commonly use.
Will Braces Hurt?
Braces move teeth in gradual increments, putting pressure on the teeth to reposition them. All forms of braces require periodic adjustments to keep the teeth on course. In the first few days after an adjustment the new pressure on the teeth can be uncomfortable, but the mouth adapts to the new positioning quickly and the discomfort subsides.
With traditional braces the edges of the metal or ceramic brackets can rub against the inside of the mouth, creating small areas of irritation. Furthermore, the wires used to straighten the teeth can sometimes poke into the cheeks as the teeth start to align. Patients can use orthodontic wax and press it against the braces or wires that are causing problems. When wax doesn’t work, the orthodontist can also clip the wire that is causing discomfort.
Do Braces Require Special Care?
Braces that are adhered to the teeth require special cleaning and make certain foods unadvisable. Sweets, sugars, gum and candy can all get easily trapped in the crevasses of braces and can produce rapid tooth decay. Likewise, foods that are small and hard like nuts or popcorn can get easily stuck. Teeth undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces should be thoroughly cleaned after every meal to prevent damage to the teeth and gums.
Removable aligners make eating and cleaning much easier. Aligner trays, such as Invisalign, are removed for eating and cleaning the teeth so there are no dietary restrictions or specialized cleaning requirements. An important thing to remember with removable aligners is that although they can be conveniently removed, in order to work they must be worn for most of the day, preferably at least 22 out of 24 hours.
How Long Does It Take?
The length of time braces are needed will vary for each individual case, but it’s important to remember braces are temporary. Most people will only wear braces for a year or two, although some teeth may take longer to straighten. For people who want to try to speed up the process, orthodontic treatment may be accelerated with the use of a gentle vibrating device that can help improve tooth movement. Furthermore, while using the device, some patients have reported less discomfort with tooth alignment.
Braces For Better Smiles