When braces have done their job and moved your teeth into the desired position, you will still need to take steps to ensure they don’t move back.
You will normally be given retainers to wear after the braces are no longer needed to ensure the teeth don’t drift to their original position.
The most popular type of retainer uses metal hooks that surround the teeth enclosed by an acrylic plate shaped to fit your palate.
If your teeth are not ready for a retainer, your orthodontist may suggest using a pre-finisher.
This is made of rubber and is similar to a mouth guard. It fixes gaps between the teeth, small spaces between the upper and lower jaw, and other minor problems that braces cannot fix.
A pre-finisher is molded to your teeth with pressure applied. You then be advised to apply pressure to it for a few seconds at a time over a set period until it completes its job.
The retainer and pre-finisher are temporary and can be moved in and out of your mouth.
Here are definitions of some of the key terms used for the different elements of braces.
Appliance: Something attached to teeth to move them or change the shape of the jaw
Arch Wire: Metal wire which is attached to brackets to move teeth
Band: Metal ring placed on teeth to hold on parts of braces
Bracket: Device glued on to teeth to fasten the arch wire
Orthodontic Chain: Used to hold archwires into brackets and to move teeth
Ligating Module: Small plastic donut-shaped device to hold the arch wires in the brackets
Lingual Appliances: Orthodontic devices fixed to inside of teeth
Mouthguard: Protects your mouth from injury during sports and other activities to limit injuries
Retainer: Device usually worn for some time after braces removed to hold teeth in position
Wax: Helps stop braces from irritating your lips especially in early stages
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.