Over four million people in the US wear braces. Getting braces can surely be a nerve wracking experience but the fear of the unknown is the worst part. When you know what to expect and how braces are fixed in the mouth, you’ll feel less nervous.
Why are braces needed?
Braces are needed if you have crooked or crowded teeth, or a misaligned bite (under bite or overbite). Your dentist will examine your teeth and your bite and will advise you on the best kinds of braces that’ll solve your dental problem. If the problem isn’t very severe, a retainer will suffice while in severe cases, a surgery might be recommended.
How do braces work?
Braces work by applying continuous pressure on the teeth in order to move them in their correct position. The process takes some time as the teeth move in a specific direction, the shape of the bone changes, the bite is aligned properly and your teeth are straightened.
Braces comprise of the following components:
- Brackets: these are small squares that are bonded onto the front of the teeth. These come in various materials and colors.
- Archwires: These are wires that attach to the brackets and act as tracks that guide the teeth in a specific direction.
- Bands: These are bonded onto the teeth with a bonding agent and act as an anchor for the brackets.
- Elastic bands: These rubber bands attach to the hooks on the brackets and are worn between the upper and lower teeth. These apply pressure to move the upper teeth against the lower teeth.
- Facebow headgear: In severe cases of misalignment of the bite, headgear braces are used to move the front molars back in the mouth or create room for crowded teeth. It consists of a horseshoe shaped metal part that goes in the mouth and outer part that goes around the face attached to a headgear.
Every treatment with braces includes different parts and adjustments and no one treatment works for everyone. Your dentist will tell you exactly what components will be used to treat your dental problems.
Types of braces
Technological advances in dental medicine and orthodontics means that now you don’t only have one option for braces. Apart from the traditional ones, there are now many different options that make the whole experience much more pleasurable.
- Metal braces
These are the traditional ones including metal brackets and metal archwires that come to mind when you think about braces. These come in many different colors and give an option for children and teens to express themselves while also being the least expensive option.
Though earlier metal braces used to be painful and looked less appealing, modern versions have smaller brackets and have heat activated archwires that use your body heat to move your teeth faster and with less pain.
Metal braces can also be placed on the inside of the teeth, in which case they’re called lingual braces. These are more expensive and can make cleaning and regular adjustments difficult but have the advantage of not being noticeable at all from the outside. They’re also not suitable for severe cases.
- Ceramic braces
These are the same as metal braces except that they come in tooth colored material that blend easily with the teeth. Tooth colored wires can also be used with them to make them even less noticeable. However, these are more expensive than metal braces and the brackets can stain easily if not cared for properly.
Invisalign is the latest technology in orthodontics that makes the whole procedure of getting braces pain-free and not at all noticeable. This involves the use of clear plastic aligners that the patient has to wear regularly over a period of time. These aligners apply pressure to the teeth and move them in their correct position.
However, Invisalign is not only more expensive but is also not suitable for severe problems.
What to expect when getting braces
The whole procedure of getting braces placed in the mouth is just a bit uncomfortable. Your mouth can feel sore for a few days after getting them fixed. And when the dentist makes adjustments to your braces, you can expect some discomfort again. However, the pain is easily managed with OTC pain relievers. If the pain continues, however, you may need to talk to your dentist about it.
Once you get your braces on, they’ll likely remain in your mouth for 1-3 years. The time period needed to bring results depends on the severity of case, the distance the teeth will have to travel, the age of the person, the health of the teeth and gums, and how closely the dentist’s instructions are followed. In adults, the bones are no longer growing so it might require more time to show results.
After the braces are removed, the patient usually has to wear retainers all the time for six months and then only during sleep for many years.
How much do braces cost?
Braces can cost you several thousand dollars. However, most insurance policies provide at least partial coverage for orthodontic treatment. Hence, check with your insurance provider about what the policy includes. Alternatively, you may consider getting low-cost treatment from a dental school or dental society-sponsored assistance program.
Getting braces can overall be a little uncomfortable and can bring slight pain and soreness. However, the discomfort is definitely worth the difference they make to your smile and overall appearance.