Cost and Treatment Options
Most patients are familiar with braces, which are a system of brackets and wires used to straighten teeth. However, you may not be aware of the latest technologies and options that make braces more effective and wearable than ever. Today, brackets are smaller and less obtrusive than ever before, and they can be made from an array of different materials, from clear plastic to colorful ceramic. They can used to correct mild misalignments as well as more serious issues such as overbites, underbites, and crossbites.
Who Is a Good Candidate For Braces?
Braces are commonly applied to kids’ teeth when they are between 10 and 14 years old. Your local Castle Dental dentist or orthodontist can monitor your child’s teeth and their progression to determine when it’s best to begin treatment with braces. It’s ideal to begin treatment during this stage of development because all of the adult teeth have erupted, and yet the head and mouth are still growing and easy to influence.
If you are an adult who has always desired straighter teeth, you may also be a good candidate for braces. Straightening your teeth as an adult can do more than just improve your appearance. It can boost your self-confidence, making it easier for you to reach your goals socially and in the workplace. Straight teeth are also easier to keep clean, which means you’ll have a lower risk of tooth decay and gum disease down the road.
Some adults who had braces as teens may want to return to wearing braces for a “touch-up” in adulthood. This is especially common when patients failed to wear their retainer as recommended after their initial orthodontic treatments during their teen years. Without proper retainer use, the teeth may shift back out of alignment to the extent that they need to be re-corrected with braces.
Braces can be used to correct mildly crooked smiles, but they are also the go-to orthodontic treatment for more serious tooth alignment problems. If you or your teen suffer from a crossbite, where one or more teeth fall inside of the opposite tooth, braces can correct this issue and make it easier to chew. An open bite, where the front teeth do not come together properly, can also be corrected with braces.
Sometimes overbites and underbites require more extensive orthodontic intervention, but the final stage in treating these alignment issues is often a treatment period with braces.
One very common problem that braces are used to address is crowded teeth. Crowding occurs when the jaw is too small to comfortably accommodate all of the teeth, so they come in turned, overlapped, and crooked. Not only do crowded teeth look unappealing, but they are also hard to keep clean and can affect speech. To treat crowding, your local dentist may remove one or more teeth from the mouth before straightening the remaining teeth with braces. Correcting crowding is an important step towards ongoing dental health since it makes the teeth easier to keep clean.
The Treatment Process With Braces
If you or your teen are interested in getting braces, the first step is to schedule a free consultation appointment with an orthodontist. He or she will determine whether you are a good candidate for braces and can also devise a specialized treatment protocol for you. If you do decide to go ahead with treatment, your braces can be applied in a single appointment that generally takes about one to two hours.
Before your braces are applied, your orthodontist will clean your teeth. Then, a special glue will be used to attach a bracket to each tooth. When the brackets are in place, wires will be carefully attached to connect the brackets to one another. Finally, rubber bands may be applied to place additional pressure on certain brackets. Having the braces applied does not hurt, though you may experience some aching and discomfort in the days after this appointment as your jaw adapts to the braces.
Most patients need to wear braces for between one and two years, though you may need to wear them a bit longer if you have a more serious case. Adults who elect to wear braces to correct minor misalignments often only need to wear them for a year or less. Throughout the treatment period, you will return to your orthodontist for adjustments every 6 to 8 weeks. During these adjustment appointments, your orthodontist will slowly tighten the braces, helping to push your teeth closer to their final positions.
Types of Braces
When most people think of braces, they picture traditional metal brackets. While this type of braces is still used for some patients, today’s metal braces are smaller than those used in the past, so they are less noticeable and do not cause as much discomfort.
Many patients now choose braces made from ceramic that has been colored to blend in with the teeth. These are a popular choice among adults who want to maintain their professional appearance while wearing braces.
Some patients are also candidates for lingual braces, which are placed on the side of the teeth nearest the tongue rather than on the outside of the teeth. Lingual braces are less noticeable in the mouth, but they do cause more soreness than traditional braces as they may rub on the tongue.
Living With Braces
The most common concern among patients who are considering braces is that it will be painful. The good news is that while you can expect some discomfort while wearing braces, this discomfort is easily managed. The aching tends to be worst on days following an adjustment since your teeth will be under more pressure. Applying ice packs to the outside of the mouth, sipping on cool beverages, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help ease this pain.
Some patients develop sores on the cheeks and tongue where the brackets rub this soft tissue. Applying wax to the rough edges of the brackets and wires will help keep the braces from rubbing. The rubbing tends to cease after a few months of braces wear; your cheek tissue becomes tougher and more resistant to abrasion.
There are some limits to the foods you can eat when wearing braces. It’s best to avoid very sticky foods, like caramels and gum, since these can become stuck to the braces. Crunchy foods like nuts and hard candy should also be avoided as they can damage the brackets. Foods that you generally bite into, like apples and corn on the cob, can still be enjoyed if you cut them into small pieces before eating.
It’s very important to pay close attention to your oral hygiene when wearing braces. Plaque and oral bacteria can build up around the brackets, increasing your risk of tooth decay. You should always take the time to carefully brush around each bracket, and then finish up with an antiseptic mouthwash to help kill any bacteria left behind.
If you are concerned about your appearance with braces, talk to your orthodontist about less-visible options like Invisalign.
Of course, if you want to show off your braces, there are also colorful and shaped rubber bands to choose from. Some teens opt to show off their style with bright, heart-shaped, or sporty rubber bands that are changed out during each appointment.