Do you have crooked or crowded teeth? Are your teeth out of alignment? Do you have an underbite or overbite? You don't have to live with these problems. Dental braces can help correct them and slowly align and straighten your teeth for a more beautiful smile. Keep reading to learn about your options, the types of braces, and what the treatment involves.
Dental braces are tools that help to align and straighten the upper and lower teeth so that your bite is normal and your smile looks symmetrical and beautiful. Your regular dentist can do basic alignment and treat many tooth problems, but if you have severe problems with alignment, you will need to go a dentist who offers specialty orthodontic treatment. An orthodontist is a doctor who has special training in straightening and aligning the teeth with braces. Most people have braces put in when they are teenagers but adults can have this treatment too.
Dental braces put gentle but sustained pressure on your teeth over a period of time to gradually move the teeth and make them better aligned. The bone that holds the teeth also changes shape in the process. There are various components in dental braces:
If you have severe crowding in your mouth, you may need a horseshoe-shaped device called a headgear that moves the molars back in the mouth to make space. The headgear tubes attach to the bands on the upper teeth while the other end connects to a strap and surrounds your face and head. A headgear can be worn and taken off when you want. Your dentist may ask you to wear it at night only.
Dental braces are a highly customized appliance and no single treatment works for everyone. Your orthodontist will design the braces to meet your specific needs. People can get different types of braces such as:
Dentists recommend getting an orthodontic evaluation when children are about 7 years old. This will help the orthodontist assess the cause and severity of misalignment and suggest the best time for kids to have braces put in. Traditionally, metal braces are recommended after kids have lost all their milk teeth (baby teeth) and the permanent (adult) teeth have come in. This usually occurs in the pre-teens and teens between the ages of 8 and 14.
Sometimes, an interceptive approach is taken where dental appliances are used at an earlier age when the child mostly has milk teeth. A second phase of treatment is then undertaken when the permanent teeth have come out. This allows the treatment to be shorter than traditional braces in the teen years. However, some orthodontists say this approach increases the total time and cost of the treatment.
While most people have braces put in when they are teenagers, there is no age limit on the treatment. As long as you have a strong, healthy jaw bone and permanent teeth, dental professionals can fit metal braces or other types of braces to correct problems like malocclusion and bite problems. The only difference is that if you get braces as an adult, the treatment can take longer because your jaw bone is no longer growing. Also, the corrections may require other treatments in addition to braces depending on the state of your mouth.
Children from ages 7 to age 12 can benefit from wearing braces. Because the jaw is still developing at this age, it is easier to make adjustments. Starting timely braces treatment in kids can help avoid problems like cavities, gum disease, crookedness, and overcrowding.
Teenagers from ages 12 to 18 can also benefit from braces for correction of oral problems. Products like Invisalign aligners and tooth-colored options are available for teens who are self-conscious about their appearance.
Adults from 19 to 70 years of age may also be good candidates for braces and achieve great results. Braces in adults can help move teeth and correct problems like crooked teeth, overbite, underbite, plaque accumulation, tooth decay, and gum disease.
You will have at least one appointment with an orthodontist to develop a treatment plan for braces. Once you decide to move forward with the treatment, the braces can be scheduled for the same day or within a few days of your initial appointment. Getting your braces takes one to two hours. Depending on the type of braces you're getting and the severity of your problems, the braces may be put in during one or two appointments.
Dental braces can improve the overall appearance of your face. The treatment is designed to move teeth and correct problems like overcrowding, overbite, underbite, and improper jaw position. Without braces, these oral problems can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and other complications like difficulty biting, chewing, and speaking.
Your mouth will probably feel a little sore for the first week after the braces are put in. It will take you a couple of weeks to get used to the sensation of having braces. You may also experience mild discomfort every time the orthodontist tightens them or makes other adjustments. However, for the most part, braces are not painful and will not hurt.
Once the braces have been fitted, the orthodontist will want to see you every 4 weeks or so to ensure the pressure on your teeth is steady and accurate. During your appointment, they will make adjustments in the various components like the bands, springs, wires, and rubber bands to adjust the tension in various areas. At some point, they may suggest a headgear if the braces are not creating enough pressure to shift your jawbone and straighten your teeth.
As noted, it is not unusual to feel a little uncomfortable or sore after an appointment with your orthodontist. This is because they make adjustments in the dental braces during the appointment. An over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen should be sufficient to reduce discomfort. If you have severe pain after your adjustment, you should notify your dentist so they can make the adjustments differently and relieve your pain.
The various components of dental braces can trap food and plaque. Dentists, therefore, recommend brushing after every meal. You should also make sure you remove any food particles that may be stuck in the braces. Your orthodontist may also recommend a fluoride mouthwash, air flosser, or waterpik to flush out food stuck in braces.
The duration of your braces treatment will depend on how severe the misalignment and overcrowding is in your mouth, the amount of teeth movement needed to obtain good results, and the overall health of your gums, teeth, and supporting jaw bone. How long you will wear braces will also depend on how closely you follow the instructions from your orthodontics office.
The average duration of braces treatment is 1 to 3 years. Most people need to wear a retainer for about 6 months after the braces come off. You may need to wear retainers at night for several years.
If you participate in contact sports where there is a chance of getting hit in the face, your doctor will give you a specially designed plastic mouthguard to protect your braces. The mouthguard will fit over your braces and allow you to play any sport you want.
When your braces are removed, the orthodontist will clean your mouth thoroughly. They may take bite impressions and x rays for your dental record. If you have wisdom teeth coming in, the dentist may recommend removing them to prevent the wisdom teeth from causing tooth movement and spoiling the results.
You will likely be given a retainer to wear for a few months after your braces are removed. It is important to wear the retainer as directed to ensure the teeth settle into their new positions.
Traditional braces cost around $5,000. The price for orthodontics treatment can be more or less depending on where you live. Orthodontic treatment may be covered by some insurance policies. You will have to check and see whether your policy includes dental braces.
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