Procedures/ Braces


Procedures 6 min read



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.

What are dental braces?

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.

How do braces work?

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:

  • Brackets are small squares that are attached to the front of a tooth with a bonding agent or orthodontic band. They hold the arch wires that move the teeth. Brackets can be made of metal, ceramic, or plastic. Since they are difficult to see, orthodontists can use brackets liberally and may even place them behind the teeth to prevent them from being visible.
  • Arch wires attach to the dental brackets and act as guides for the movement of the teeth in a specific direction. They are made of metal or tooth-colored/clear materials.
  • Orthodontic bands go around the teeth and act as anchors for the brackets. They are not used in everyone who gets dental braces. Some people only need brackets. Orthodontic bands are made of tooth-colored or clear materials or stainless steel. Stainless steel bands are more visible but less expensive.
  • Spacers are components of dental braces that are placed between the teeth to create room for the orthodontic bands.
  • Ties are small clear, tooth-colored, or metal rings or bands that attach arch wires to brackets.
  • Small rubber bands are used to fasten the arch wires to brackets. They can also be attached to bracket hooks to put pressure on the upper and lower teeth and create a normal bite. A buccal tube on the last tooth is used to secure the arch wire. Springs may also be used to fine-tune the alignment and spaces between the teeth.

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.

What are the different types of braces?

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:

  • Metal braces are traditional braces with metal brackets, flexible arch wires, metal ties, and rubber bands that create pressure on the teeth to align and straighten them. They may or may not include a headgear device that can be put on and taken off at home.
  • Ceramic braces have brackets made of tooth-colored material that is not as visible as metal braces. Besides ceramic, they can also be made from clear materials, stainless steel, and gold.
  • Clear aligners are called invisible braces or Invisalign. They are custom made and consist of a clear plastic tray for the upper and lower teeth that fits snugly. These braces put pressure to move the teeth. Clear aligners are removed while eating and cleaning the teeth. For them to be effective, you need to wear the clear aligners for at least 22 hours every day. Tooth-colored attachments may be put on your teeth to hold the clear aligners in place.
  • Lingual braces attach to the back of the teeth and are less visible.

What is a good age to get braces?

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.

Who is a good candidate for braces?

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.

What is the procedure for getting braces?

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.

Why it's done

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.

What is it like to get braces?

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.

What you can expect

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.

Will braces and rubber bands be painful?

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.

How to care for your teeth with braces?

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.

How long will I have to wear 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.

Can I play sports with braces?

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.

What happens after braces come off?

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.

How much do braces cost? Does insurance cover orthodontic treatment?

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.

The MeTime app makes it easy to find dentists and orthodontists in your area. You can click and upload pictures and have suggestions sent directly to you. Want to find out more about braces and what they can do for you? Try the MeTime app now!