Dental braces are devices used to correct crowded or crooked teeth, or a misaligned jaw, known as malocclusion.
Braces are most often used during adolescence, but more and more adults are getting corrective dental braces later in life.
Braces are made of metal or ceramic, wires, and bonding material that attaches them to your teeth. An orthodontist is a doctor who specializes in this kind of device and treatment for misaligned teeth.
Success rates of braces vary depending on your age when treatment begins and what your treatment goals are.
The type of braces that your orthodontist recommends will depend on several factors, such as your age and whether you have an overbite in addition to having crooked teeth. Braces are custom-made and individual to the needs of each person.
Classic braces that come to mind for most people are made of metal brackets that are glued individually to each of your teeth. An archwire puts pressure on your teeth and jawline, and elastic O-rings connect the archwire to the brackets.
The archwire is adjusted periodically as your teeth slowly move into the desired place, and the elastic bands are switched out at orthodontist appointments.
Other types of braces include:
• ceramic “clear” braces, which are less visible
• lingual braces, which are placed completely behind your teeth
• invisible braces, also called aligner trays, which can be taken off and placed back on throughout the day
After you get braces, you’ll also need to avoid certain foods that can become trapped between the braces and your gumline. These foods include:
• hard candy
• chewing gum
When you have braces, your teeth are more inclined to trap foods that can cause tooth decay. Be mindful of how often you consume sugary beverages and starchy foods that can eat away at tooth enamel.
While you have braces, you’ll need to visit the orthodontist for an adjustment every 8 to 10 weeks. Your orthodontist will check to make sure that you’re maintaining your oral health and taking care of your braces well. Your orthodontist will also change out O-rings when necessary
It’s important to be extra mindful about your oral care when you have braces. Brushing after meals will keep food from becoming lodged in between your braces and your teeth. Special floss from the orthodontist will make it possible to floss around the braces twice per day.
You may want to purchase a Waterpik flosser that can navigate easily around your braces and help reach areas that are hard to clean. A special device called an interdental toothbrush can be used to clean underneath and around archwires and brackets.
While you have braces, you should still schedule an appointment with your dentist for a cleaning every six months to a year.
Cleaning and flossing your teeth when you have braces is vitally important to your smile and your health.
Flossing, or using wax-covered thread to clean between teeth, scrubs the hard-to-reach places that are easily missed by brushes, especially with brackets and wires in the way. Floss between each tooth once a day, and use a small interproximal brush to clean around the brackets and under the wires.
Don’t skip flossing, even if it takes more time with your braces. These flossing techniques may make the process faster and easier. No matter which method you choose, it’s important to floss regularly to prevent gum disease and tooth decay while braces are working to align your teeth for a more confident smile.
• Cut an 18- to 24-inch piece of floss.
• Thread the floss between the main wire and your teeth. It helps to be in front of a mirror so you can watch the thread to make sure it’s going where you’d like it to.
• Wrap the ends of the floss around your index fingers to make handling the floss easier.
• Gently press the floss between the two teeth, and slide the floss up and down along the sides of both teeth. If you’re doing the top teeth, make an upside-down U shape: Go up the side of one tooth to the gumline, and then go down the side of the other tooth.
• Remove the floss, and gently unthread it from behind the wire. Be careful to not pop the floss out of the tooth. You might accidentally knock the wire and pop it out of the bracket.
• Move to the next pair of teeth, and repeat the process.