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Are you or your child about to embark on a course of treatment with braces? You may have questions about how long your treatment will last, what kind of braces you’ll be getting and what investment is required for this kind of dental treatment? These specific questions are best explored face-to-face with your dentist who understands your current alignment and how long it will take to achieve your alignment goals. Your dentist can speak to the brand of braces that will be installed and how they will look. Still, braces can feel overwhelming at first – but they don’t have to be. Here’s what you need to know when getting started with braces.
What are Braces?
When we refer to ‘braces’, we typically mean traditional metal braces. Other alignment systems, like Invisalign®, do not have any metal components and are used in cases where required changes are minimal. More complicated cases require the strength and structure of metal braces which can be used along with tools like head gear and elastics to turn, tilt or shift each tooth as needed. Although braces are required to correct an inefficient bite that is impeding comfortable functioning of the jaw, dentists regularly fit braces on cosmetic cases, as well. In these cases, braces are being used to perfect the alignment of the dental arches.
How Braces Work
Braces work by using brackets and wire to exert pressure on the teeth in order to train them into alignment. In order to achieve this, your dentist will prepare the surface of the teeth before using dental cement to adhere brackets to each tooth. These brackets hold an arch wire which is strung through each and allows pressure to be exerted on the teeth.
In order to move teeth, braces put constant gentle pressure on each tooth. As teeth begin to exert pressure on the bone socket, bone is naturally eroded to make room for the tooth to move with the pressure. In its wake, the body backfills the bone until it is no longer being pushed by the wire and brace. This means that it’s time for an adjustment to keep pressure on those teeth. With time, teeth are coaxed into alignment and settle-in with the support and structure of the braces.
Adjustments can cause some inflammation and soreness in the teeth in the day or two following an adjustment as they acclimate to the increased pressure. If you experience discomfort, we recommend an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen, and cold drinks to soothe the tissues. As your treatment progresses, you should experience less discomfort with adjustments.
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Eating with Braces
Since the success of your treatment relies on maintaining proper pressure on the teeth, it is important not to stress the bond between your tooth and its bracket. Crunchy foods, hard foods and foods that are bitten into (like apples) are notorious for breaking brackets, but perhaps none more than sticky candies. Eating gummy candies or toffees with braces is a recipe for a trip to the dentist. Good news remains, however – meltaways like chocolate dissolve quickly and do not bind to brackets or wire.
We recommend that patients decrease or eliminate the ‘stainers’ in their lives. These are things that stain the teeth over time like coffee, tea, red wine and smoking. When brackets are adhered to the teeth, the teeth will stain unevenly. In order to get the best results, we recommend protecting the rest of the tooth from stainers, too. When your braces are removed at the end of your treatment, your dentist will clean and polish the teeth to eliminate any natural surface staining.
Your first few days with braces will take some time to get used to – especially brushing and flossing. When you have braces, there are more places for bacteria and decay to hide. Not only is there more surface area, but there are more crooks and corners to get between. Brushing your teeth regularly (preferably after each meal) is important for this reason. Brush teeth at a 45-degree angle from the top and bottom to ensure that plaque is not building up around your brackets. Flossing requires that you pass the floss behind the arch wire before going between each tooth. If you find this difficult, try using a floss threader from the oral care isle of your drug store.
This drugstore isle is also where dental wax can be purchased. This wax can be pushed into the bracket of a tooth to stop the irritation of the soft tissues that can sometimes occur. We recommend placing wax when you first feel an irritation. Waiting until the skin is broken will require more time to heal.
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