Here are the answers to some common questions about what it like to have braces
What is it like having braces?,
When you have braces, you will probably find your mouth sore for a few days. It can also be uncomfortable when the braces are tightened. However, most of the time you probably won’t even notice them.
Do braces hurt?
It can depend on which type you choose but usually modern braces will not hurt except for the first few days or when they are tightened.
While the manufacturers are always looking for ways to make them more comfortable, a little discomfort at the beginning is still common. You will be able to take some painkillers if necessary. The pain may be greater if you start orthodontic treatment when you are an adult.
Will it be embarrassing to wear braces?
Over 70% of teenagers wear braces and therefore most people have some experience of them so there is no need to feel embarrassed. If you start treatment when you are an adult, the proportion of people wearing braces is lower but you will still find most people supportive.
Will braces cause sores in my mouth?
Sometimes you might experience sores on your lips in the first few days. These can easily be rinsed in water or special solution and will usually heal within a week or so. You can also put wax on the braces to prevent the braces from rubbing and irritating the sore.
How long does orthodontic treatment take?
It varies a lot depending on exactly what changes need to happen in your mouth. When started young it may last a few months. From the age of 12, it can take a year or two and perhaps more for adults. However it depends very much on your personal situation and your orthodontists will be able to advise you.
Braces are devices which are used to straighten teeth, correct bite problems and fix irregular teeth.
They are made of three basic parts:
– Bonding (or band)
– Arch wire
The bonding is used to fix the brackets to the teeth.
The arch wire goes through the brackets and is held in place with small rubber bands.
The brackets and arch wire work together to move the teeth into new positions to straighten the teeth.
The arch wire works by putting pressure on the brackets to help move the teeth into the desired new position.
When pressure is applied to your teeth like this, they loosen slightly from the gums. Bone grows in to support the tooth in its new position but this takes time so the process needs to be done slowly.
That’s why you may have to wear braces for about two years and adjustments are only made every few weeks.
The arch wires work because they want to keep their original shape and will exert a great deal of pressure to do this. It is the combination of this aim of the arch wire and the person’s body heat that puts pressure on the teeth.
Braces are not always enough on their own to complete the task so the orthodontist may also use rubber bands or other devices to help pull the teeth in the correct direction.
After you have finished with the braces, you may need to wear a Retainer for a few months to hold the teeth in position until the bone has fully grown into place.
Most people get used to braces quickly and wear them for as long as they need to with no problems.
However, occasional problems can arise and taking the right steps enables you to resolve them quickly.
Here are some examples of problems that may arise.
Allergic Reaction: Some people can have an allergic reaction to the elastic or the metal used in braces. Alternative materials can normally be used so it is important to let your orthodontist know of any allergies.
Mouth Sores: There may be irritation due to some parts of the braces. This is more commons in the early stages but there are many products available such as oral rinses and dental wax that help heal sores quickly.
Build Up of Plaque: It is important to keep up your regular oral care routine of brushing and flossing to prevent food building up around braces as this can lead to build up of plaque which can cause tooth decay and bad breath.
Damaged Braces: Braces can be damaged if not cared for properly. Certain hard or sticky foods can cause damage as can mouth injuries when playing sports. If damage occurs frequently, it can mean the treatment takes longer.
Arch Wire Movement: If the arch wire becomes displaced, it can cause irritation and mouth ulcers. Dental wax helps but it is usually best to have the damage fixed by an orthodontist.
Discomfort: Pain and discomfort may occur after first installation and also after any adjustments but these usually pass quickly.
A lot of effort is made to help teenagers feel better about having braces.
However as around 70% of teenagers need braces, it’s a very common experience.
Yet adults can also need braces and it is less common amongst their peers so adults often have more issues about what other people think of them when they go to work and to social events with braces.
Feedback suggests many men feel a bit geeky with braces while women often feel unattractive.
Of course, some adults don’t care what other people think but many do.
The fact is the braces may seem like a big deal for you, especially at first because they are in your mouth. However, most other people barely notice or may just mention it in passing.
Many adults wore braces as kids or have kids who are in braces.
They are likely to be sympathetic and may even admire you for taking action to improve your appearance.
Several high profile actors and musicians have also worn braces as adults and this makes it much easier.
Of course, you may need to be prepared to answer questions – especially when some people meet you for the first time. So you may need a plan for dealing with certain events such as important business meetings.
The early stages of orthodontic treatment can be a little harder for adult patients than for teenagers.
Teenagers have the benefit of getting treatment while they are still growing and their mouth is more flexible.
In some cases, adults will need to have teeth removed or will require surgery to expand their jaw to make room for moving the teeth. This may not be fun but anaesthetics and painkillers make this a short-term concern compared to the long-term benefits.
When the orthodontist actually puts in your braces, your mouth may be tender for a few days though this should clear up quickly.
Beyond that, the only time you are likely to notice your braces is when you have them tightened.
Some adults say that they feel like their teeth have come loose at the beginning.
The reason is that when you are older your teeth are more firmly anchored into your jaw.
The orthodontist needs to loosen the little filaments that anchor your teeth before the teeth will move.
This can mean your teeth feel loose. However, the feeling is no reason for concern. They will tighten again after the orthodontic treatment.
Beyond that, the basics of orthodontic treatment are the same at any age. Your mouth will feel tender for a few days after you first get the braces and you will experience some discomfort when your braces are tightened.
How does orthodontics work?
The job of an orthodontist is to help fix crooked teeth and jaw problems so that your teeth are in the right place in your mouth.
This may require the orthodontist to take action that helps stretch your jaw or move your teeth so that everything fits properly.
One action they can take is using tools such as braces to push on your teeth so they move into the right place.
If your top jaw is too small, they may install an expander to make it grow wider. Your jaw can be stretched or widened or moved to change its shape.
There are various other steps they can take to move your teeth or expand your jaw so that your teeth all fit comfortably and correctly in your mouth.
At what age should I start orthodontic treatment?
You can get orthodontic treatment at any age from toddlers to old age. The best and least painful time for orthodontic treatment is usually when you are between about 8 to 14.
Between 8 and 9 is usually when the jaw is growing fastest and so is the best time to reshape your mouth.
Permanent teeth usually come in between age 12 or 14 and that is the best time to start full orthodontic treatment.
What happens if I wait until I am older for orthodontic treatment?
You can get braces at any age but as you get older the treatment takes longer and may hurt a bit more. Nevertheless the benefits are still significant.
Here are the answers to five common questions about the implications of having braces.
Does having braces affect the way I talk?
Standard braces don’t normally affect how you talk or the sound of your voice. Sometimes, you may find it difficult for the first couple of days but then you will be able to talk fine.
Are there any activities that I should avoid when I have braces?
You can continue to do most things such as enjoying sports and playing musical instruments. For some sports, you should wear an orthodontic mouth guard. It is also best to avoid activities where you could suffer a lot of blows to your mouth such as boxing or karate.
Does having braces affect what I eat?
You can continue to eat most foods when you wear braces. In the first few days, you would probably be advised to stick to softer foods.
After that, you may need to be careful with hard or sticky foods like caramel and some nuts. You want to make sure the food does not stick on your braces or pull them off your teeth.
In addition, chewing gum is usually not recommended. Some sugar free gums have been reported as causing less problems but talk to your orthodontist if you want to be able to chew gum.
Can the braces come off?
This can happen and it is usually not a major problem. Your orthodontist will attach them again. If it happens a lot, some larger adjustments may be needed.
What happens if a piece comes off and I swallow it?
This is quite rare but it is usually not a major problem. Any parts that you swallow should just pass through your digestive system.
One reason orthodontic treatment for adults is different is that, when you are older, it is harder to enlarge your mouth to get all of your teeth to fit.
When you are growing, your jaw is more flexible and the orthodontist can stretch your mouth so everything fits.
However, after you finish growing, your jaw hardens and it becomes difficult for an orthodontist to stretch it.
While you can have your jaw enlarged surgically, most adults opt to have their teeth straightened without this step.
This may mean you need to have some teeth removed to make everything fit. This may not have been necessary if the treatment had been done when you were still growing.
However, there are many benefits in having orthodontic treatment at any age.
In adult life, it can help your digestion and your general health as well as preventing dental problems.
The main difference is that orthodontic treatment when you are older can be a bit slower and even slightly more painful than for younger patients.
While a surprising number of adults benefit from orthodontic treatment, not all adults can take advantage.
It can depend on how well you have looked after your teeth and gums.
For example, gums may have receded so much that orthodontic treatment is not an option or roots may be very shallow if they have not been cared for properly.
Although the state of your mouth may mean that orthodontic treatment is not possible, the benefits of it can apply at any age and it is always worth checking the situation out with an orthodontist.
All orthodontists are trained how to treat adult patients but some specialize in this area.
An experienced orthodontist will know that adult treatment can take longer and may need to be more gentle than treatment earlier in life when someone is still growing.
Orthodontic services can be provided by any licensed dentist trained in orthodontics though most treatment is done by orthodontists.
A dentist must complete 2-3 years of additional training to earn a special qualification in orthodontics.
While many people think orthodontic treatment such as braces is mainly for children, it can help your health at any age.
Crooked teeth are harder to clean and the wear will be uneven. This can lead to inflamed gums and toothache which may even lead to you losing teeth.
Orthodontic treatment can therefore help prevent gum problems and tooth loss.
Another health benefit of having your teeth working effectively is that chewing is an important part of digestion. When you are not able to chew food properly, the rest of the digestive system has to work harder.
An important benefit of orthodontic treatment is therefore that in can help solve and prevent digestion problems.
Orthodontic treatment in adults is similar to teenage treatment although it normally takes a bit longer.
The healing process takes a bit longer as you get older so the orthodontist will need to move your teeth more slowly for example.