If you’ve been thinking about getting braces, you may have some questions and concerns. Knowing what to expect can make the process less nerve-wracking and help you focus on the results – a perfect smile! Even though braces are most often associated with teenagers, there is no age limit for orthodontic treatment. Whether you are an adult or a teen, correcting misalignment can have a positive effect on your self-esteem, and improve your overall oral health. Straight teeth are easier to keep clean, and when you are happy with your smile, you are more motivated to keep it that way by brushing and flossing regularly and visiting your dentist. Of course, the best way to get personalized answers to your questions is to ask your orthodontist, but maybe you haven’t quite made it that far yet. Here are all the things that you wanted to know about braces before making that first appointment.
How Do Braces Work?
Braces work through the application of steady pressure over time to gradually move your teeth into alignment. Brackets and wires work together, and the pressure creates a biochemical response in the periodontal membrane. This “Remodeling” occurs as the stimulation applied to bone and tissue causes new cells to generate and grow, changing the position of the teeth.
The Components of Braces
Brackets are tiny squares attached to the face of each tooth with a special type of glue. Sometimes they are attached to orthodontic bands instead. These brackets function similarly to handles and hold onto the wires that move the teeth. Some brackets are made from stainless steel, while others are white ceramic or plastic, which blends with the tooth, and is less visible. There are also options where the brackets are worn on the back side of the teeth, making them less noticeable.
Bands wrap around each tooth and create an anchor point for the brackets. These bands are created from stainless steel, or clear materials which are then attached to the teeth. Stainless steel bands are the most affordable option while the white or clear bands cost more. These bands are not always required.
Spacers fit between teeth creating tiny gaps before the placement of bands.
Arch wires are attached to the brackets and assist in guiding the alignment of teeth. These wires can be made up of clear or white materials, or metal in certain cases.
Ties are a little rings or wires that attach arch wires to brackets.
Springs are sometimes placed on the arch wires between the brackets to create controlled adjustments to the spacing and placement of teeth.
How Much Will Braces Cost?
Braces typically cost between $5000 to $7000 total. The cost of the braces can vary depending on the materials used, along with many other factors that can vary from case to case. For example, braces made from stainless steel tend to be more affordable than braces that incorporate materials such as ceramic. Another thing to keep in mind is that traditional braces cost about the same as clear alignment trays, such as Invisalign and Clear Correct.
How Long Does Treatment Last?
The total time frame required for braces to do their job varies from case to case. This depends on the degree of misalignment and the overall health of the teeth, gums, and bones, as well as how closely you follow your orthodontist’s instructions. For most people treatment will last between 1 to 3 years. Once the braces are taken off, you will need to wear a retainer all of the time for about six months, and then overnight indefinitely to maintain the results.
Regular Appointments Keep Your Treatment on Track
You will need to see your orthodontist about once a month to make sure the the right amount of pressure is being applied. Too much pressure can be harmful for your gums and jawbone, and to little will not produce results. These visits usually involve making tiny adjustments to the springs, rubber bands, and wires of the braces. Your orthodontist may ask you to wear headgear during the evening or at night to help the braces do their job in certain cases when braces alone are not sufficient to achieve your desired alignment.
Braces can make it more difficult to get your teeth really clean and free of plaque causing bacteria. Regular visits during orthodontic treatment will allow the hygienist to perform more effective cleaning to keep your gums and bone healthy.
Do Braces Hurt?
When you first get your braces there will be some general soreness as your bite adjusts. The inside of your cheeks and your gums can also be irritated at the beginning. This discomfort is usually minor and a pain reliever such as Motrin or Tylenol will only be needed temporarily. Braces wax can also be applied to any areas where the metal is causing abrasions or sores. You should experience only a minimal amount of pain during treatment with braces, and it can be minimized with careful adjustments by your orthodontist.
What if I Play Sports?
If you’re playing a sport that involves the risk of getting hit, such as football or wrestling, you will want to wear a mouth-guard. Most orthodontists tend to recommend a custom fitted mouth-guard, as these fit bit better and provide more protection than the more generic mouth-guards available at stores.
Life After Braces
Once braces are removed, your teeth will be thoroughly cleaned by your orthodontist to remove any residue of glue. They will then take a new set of x-rays and bite impressions to see how well successful the treatment was and make sure all the teeth have gone into their desired positions.
If you have any new wisdom teeth that have broken through during treatment, your orthodontist may recommend they be removed. This is because wisdom teeth can significantly change the placement of teeth and the jawbone and undo all the work that was just completed.
Next you will be fitted for a retainer. Wearing your retainer is important to maintaining the new alignment of your teeth. This is a critical phase of your orthodontic treatment. A retainer will keep your new alignment in place and even continue making small corrections. Your teeth can easily shift out of alignment and back into their old positions if you do not wear your retainer regularly. It is also very important to take care of your retainer properly and not lose it. Consistently wearing your retainer and keeping up with your regular dental visits will ensure that your orthodontic treatment last for many years.