A Beginner’s Guide to Braces

You’ve decided to get braces. Now what? Here are some answers to some common questions.

There are so many benefits to orthodontic treatment. From relieving headaches, earaches, and jaw pain to moving teeth into their ideal position, there isn’t much that orthodontic treatment can’t help.

While treatment varies from case to case, there are some constants during orthodontic care, and many patients have questions even before the first impression is taken.

How Do Braces Work?

Braces use force from wires and small rubber bands secured to surrounding teeth to help shift a tooth into a more functional position. This process works on several teeth simultaneously and is repeated during treatment until all the teeth affected are where they should be.

How Are Braces Put on Your Teeth?

While each case is different, brackets are usually cemented onto your teeth with a special glue cured with a blue light. Sometimes before brackets are cemented on, your doctor will put special spacers on your back teeth to make room for the bands that will be applied later. Once all the brackets are in place, a wire is slid through grooves in the bracket and secured with a special rubber band. This process usually takes one to two hours, depending on how complex your treatment plan is.

Do Braces Hurt?

Each month during your adjustment appointment, pressure is placed on the teeth that will create some discomfort. It will usually go away in a day or two. Sometimes the edge of a wire or a bracket may rub your cheek or lip, making a sore spot. Wax can be placed on the bracket or wire to keep this from happening. Check with your doctor if numbing gel and over the counter pain medication may also help.

How Long Do I Need Braces?

The length of your treatment varies depending on how complicated your case is. Most patients wear braces between 18 months and two-and-a-half years. Once the braces come off, you will have to wear a retainer to ensure your teeth don’t shift back into their original position.

How Do I Clean My Teeth with Braces?

Brushing and flossing after each meal is a must. Your local drugstore has special floss threaders that can be used with an orthodontic floss to get underneath the bracket and in between the teeth. If you absolutely can’t brush, be sure to rinse your mouth with water to remove food stuck in your teeth and brackets. Food and plaque that aren’t removed can cause white spots on your teeth and cavities. A good mouth rinse can help keep tooth enamel strong, too.

While you have braces, you need to pay special attention to your diet. Sticky, chewy food should be avoided because it can get trapped and cause tooth decay. Hard candy, nuts, ice, and popcorn are also big no-no’s because they can break wires or loosen the bracket’s seal on the tooth. Fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots should be cut into bite-sized pieces, too.

Regular cleanings and exams with your hygienist are doubly important when you have braces. In fact, you may need extra cleanings if your homecare skills are lacking or you happen to build up more plaque than others.

If you have any other questions about braces or your treatment plan, we have the answer!

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