Types of Braces
When it comes to orthodontics, everybody has different needs. That’s why it’s so important that there are many options available to fit a wide variety of cases. Whether braces are being applied for poorly aligned jaws, crooked, crowded and missing teeth or a bad bite, patients can choose between metal, ceramic, or clear braces.
Metal braces are the most common type of braces. Typically made of high-grade stainless steel, they use a combination of metal brackets and archwires to create a perfect smile. The brackets are cemented on each tooth and the wire threads through each bracket. Metal braces are comfortable and give patients the option of individualizing their braces by adding colored rubber bands instead of the normal, clear o-shaped bands.
Ceramic, or “tooth-colored,” braces are an option for patients looking for less prominent orthodontic appliances. The brackets are made from a clear composite and blend in with the patient’s teeth, making them discreet from a distance or in photos. The ceramic brackets do tend to be slightly larger than metal braces and treatment can take a little longer than metal braces.
Invisible braces such as Invisalign use a series of clear, removable and comfortable plastic “trays” or aligning devices to straighten teeth. The aligners are virtually invisible and can be removed while eating, drinking and doing routine oral care.
We use a variety of appliances to craft your perfect smile. Every patient has a unique plan for achieving the desired end result. Some patients may need one, none or a combination of orthodontic appliances such as elastics, headgear or an expander to fit their needs.
Separators are small rubber circles that are wedged between the back teeth to make room for the metal bands used in orthodontics. They are removed before the bands are placed and can be pulled loose if the patient eats sticky food or tries to use a toothpick or floss while they are in place.
Elastics, also called rubber bands, help to improve the fit of upper and lower teeth. Rubber bands can be attached and worn in an assortment of ways, from front teeth to back teeth, from top teeth to bottom teeth or several other combinations. It is important to wear elastics as instructed to stay on track toward a good bite.
A palatal expander is a fixed appliance that widens the upper jaw by putting gentle pressure on the upper molars each time an adjustment is made. How often an adjustment is needed is based on how far the jaw needs to be widened. The patient wears the expander for several months after the desired width is achieved to prevent the mouth from returning to the original position.
Positioners are often used to complete orthodontic treatment, sometimes shortening the overall length of time that other appliances must be worn. The positioner is an elastic device that looks like a mouthpiece used during sports. Imprints of the teeth are in the positioner and have been arranged so as to provide as perfect a bite as possible. The positioner is used after removal of the braces. It guides the teeth into their final ideal position.
Retainers are used after treatment is finished to hold teeth in their new, correct positions. They are typically made of rubber or clear plastic and metal wires that cover the outside surface of the teeth. Retainers can be fixed or removable and are essential in maintaining the archived results.
How can I benefit from orthodontics?
Orthodontic benefits include:
- Easier oral hygiene practices
- A lessened risk of injuring front teeth that are protruding
- A prettier smile
- Possible increases in self-confidence and self-esteem
- Children are less conscious of their physical appearance during key development years
- Better teeth function
- Better wear patterns and force distribution for the teeth while functioning
- Increased long-term gum and teeth health
- The ability to guide permanent teeth into a more desirable position
- Helps optimize other dental treatment
How can I tell if I need braces?
The following are possible indicators that braces are needed:
- Upper front teeth protrude over the lower teeth, creating an overbite
- Bottom front teeth extend over or in front of the top front teeth, which creates an underbite
- Top front teeth cover a majority of the lower teeth when biting together, which results in a deep bite
- The top and bottom front teeth don’t touch when biting together, resulting in an open bite
- The lower jaw moves to one side or the other when biting together
- Teeth are overlapped, crooked or crowded
- The center of the upper and lower teeth fail to line up
- Finger- or thumb-sucking habits which continue after age 6 or 7
- Chewing difficulties
- Excessive or irregular wear patterns
- Gaps are present between the teeth
How old must a person be to have orthodontic treatment?
The American Association of Orthodontists advises that children have an initial orthodontic assessment at age seven. Some orthodontic problems are more effectively corrected if identified prior to the slowing of jaw growth. Early treatment also may eliminate the need for surgery or more serious complications as the child grows.
What is Phase I and Phase II treatment?
Phase I treatment is also known as early interceptive treatment. It is a limited orthodontic treatment that traditionally is performed on children between ages 6 and 10. This treatment involves aligning the front permanent teeth to provide room for the remaining permanent teeth that erupt at age 12. It is used to correct jaw growth problems, overbites and underbites, too. Taking part in Phase I treatment reduces the likelihood that adult teeth will require extraction in the future. Phase II treatment- also called comprehensive treatment- involves full braces when all of a child’s permanent teeth have erupted, usually at 11 to 13 years of age.
Can adults benefit from orthodontics?
Yes! Orthodontic treatment can be as successful for adults as it is for kids. These days, more than 25 percent of orthodontic patients are adults.
How long does orthodontic treatment take?
Treatment time varies among patients and depends on the type and severity of problems. Generally, treatment takes 12 to 24 months to complete. The length and success of treatment is partially determined by patient compliance.
Do braces hurt?
Placing appliances on the teeth isn’t a painful process. Once the brackets and archwires are secured, patients might experience some tenderness for a few days. It also can take a couple of weeks for the lips and cheeks to grow accustomed to the braces.
Can you play sports if you have braces?
Yes, but wear a mouth guard when participating in sporting events. Mouth guards serve as shock absorbers to protect teeth from fracturing and hardware from breaking.
Can you still play musical instruments if you have braces?
Yes, but adjusting to braces may take time. And practice!
Should I see my general dentist while I have braces?
Yes. Routine, biannual, professional cleanings and exams are recommended to maintain optimum health.
Life with Braces
Eating when you have braces
During the first few days of having your braces, you should stick to soft foods that are easy to bite and chew. You should avoid tough meats, raw vegetables and hard breads. But don’t worry! Before you know it, you’ll be able to eat whatever you did before you had braces.
There are some foods you should avoid during your orthodontic treatment:
- Crunchy foods: ice, chips, pretzels, popcorn
- Sticky foods: gum, caramels, licorice
- Hard foods: nuts, candy
- Chewing on hard things such as pencils, pens or fingernails can damage braces and treatment may take longer than originally anticipated.
- Foods you have to bite into: carrots, apples, peaches, corn on the cob
Loosening Before Moving
As your braces prepare your mouth for that perfect smile, they will work to loosen your teeth. This is a normal part of the correction process. Once the teeth are loosened, they can then be moved into position.
Soreness and Mouth Irritation
For the first three to five days with your braces, you may experience soreness in your mouth and your teeth may be more sensitive when biting various foods. By simply rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater, you can find temporary relief. To make a saltwater mouthwash, dissolve one teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water. While still warm, rinse your mouth with the mixture vigorously.
If the tenderness does not subside, take a pain reliever or anti- inflammatory similar to what you would normally take for a headache. As other parts of your mouth become accustomed to your braces, you may notice your lips, cheeks and tongue growing irritated the first few weeks you have braces. By putting wax on your braces, you can lessen the irritation and soreness you experience.
Irritating Band or Wire
Occasionally, a band or wire on your braces may loosen. If a protruding wire becomes irritating, you can use a pencil eraser or the back of an eating utensil, you can gently push the irritating wire under the archwire. If the wire continues to cause irritation, place wet cotton or wax over it. This quick fix may relieve the irritation until you can make an appointment to see your doctor to repair the appliances. If any wire or piece of the appliance comes off, take it with you to your next appointment.
Dental Care and Brushing
Now that you have braces, it’s more important than ever to brush and floss regularly. This will ensure your gums and mouth are healthy when your treatment is complete—after you have invested time and money into your teeth. Those who do not keep their teeth and gums clean may require additional visits to the dentist for professional cleanings.
Following the Plan Consistently and Caring for Appliances
For the teeth and jaw to move toward their corrected positions, patients must work with us consistently and follow the prescribed treatment plan. By wearing rubber bands and any other appliances as recommended, you will be able to get your braces off in the minimum amount of time possible. But, if you damage your appliances or wear them on an inconsistent basis, your treatment time could lengthen.
Contact Sports and Athletic Activity
If you play contact sports, ask about using a protective mouth guard to protect your appliances. If you are involved in any type of accident during athletic activity, check your appliances and your mouth immediately. If the appliances appear damaged or the teeth loosened, schedule an appointment with us right away.
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