When you decide to have orthodontic treatment, you’re making a life-altering decision. Braces are a big part of your life once you make this type of commitment. They affect your diet, chewing and sleep, and even academic and work habits. Yet, the final results make the time, money, and effort that you put into wearing them worth any hassle.
No matter your age, improve your oral health and create a bright, beautiful smile that can last a lifetime with braces.
Things to Know Before Getting Braces
It’s important to learn as much as possible before you begin treatment so that you’re prepared for any discomfort and more motivated and committed to follow through with all necessary steps. You’re also better able to make informed decisions as your treatment progresses.
- Technological and other advances make it easier than ever for anyone to tolerate wearing braces. The days of complex over-the-head, nighttime gear are long past. Although some of these products still exist, they’re primarily for the most difficult cases. If you need to always look your best for your career, you also no longer have to worry about unsightly dark metal braces or colored orthodontic ligatures. Companies now make clear and white brackets and wires. If you don’t need extensive treatment, your orthodontist might offer you clear plastic aligners that fit snugly over the teeth. If you want to use your braces for self-expression, you can even find ligatures in a wide array of colors and brackets in shapes like flowers, butterflies and stars.
- Braces provide oral benefits as well as aesthetic ones. Many people have other oral health problems that braces can improve, such as jaw misalignment or an overbite or underbite. Certain appliances, such as the Herbst appliance, help stabilize the jaw and correct these problems. They also often require a longer treatment plan and cause additional discomfort because of their shape.
- Braces are a full-time commitment that can last normally between 16 to 24 months. During that time, you must constantly maintain good oral hygiene habits to prevent cavities and tartar buildup that happens more easily with braces. You must also commit to seeing your orthodontist approximately every four to six weeks. Once treatment ends, you need to maintain and wear a retainer at least at night to prevent your teeth from returning to their previous positions. If you suffer from bruxism, you might need to wear a retainer during the day whenever you’re more likely to clench or grind your teeth.
- Pain and soreness occur during treatment, especially in the teeth and along the gum line. Expect additional pain and discomfort every time your orthodontist makes any type of adjustments. If you’re dealing with jaw realignment as well, you can expect aches in your temporomandibular joints. With certain appliances, you can also experience pain if they rub against soft tissues like the cheeks. Sores and ulcers can form in these spots. To decrease discomfort, you might need to eat soft foods at times, use pain relievers and place a dental wax or cotton roll barrier between your braces and the rest of your mouth.
Steps Before Getting Braces
Preparation before treatment is critical for decreasing disruptions to your life caused by appointments, changes to your diet and your bite and pain. Before treatment, follow these steps:
- Research what it’s like to live with braces. If possible, talk to other people who have had them. Many people can’t handle short periods of brushing their teeth with a toothbrush. This means that they’re more likely to have difficulty accepting the feeling of brackets and wires or plastic appliances inside their mouths all day every day for more than a year. Anything you learn can help you prepare and reduce any feelings of fear or concern.
- See your dentist for an examination and maintenance. This type of treatment only works if your teeth and mouth are in their best possible shape. Once the orthodontist installs your braces, your dentist won’t be able to deep clean or fill the teeth as easily. This step is also critical because you must address any gum or wisdom teeth problems beforehand since treatment for conditions related to either can take a long time to heal and cause alignment issues that need to then be treated with braces.
- Update your pantry to match new dietary restrictions. Purchase plenty of soft foods to eat when your teeth and gums are sensitive. Remove foods from your home that can damage your braces, dislodge brackets and snap wires or interfere with teeth movement and jaw alignment. For example, get rid of sticky, hard and jarring foods like gum, gummies, caramel, hard tack candy, peanut brittle, jerky and taffy.
- Stock up on over-the-counter pain medications, including acetaminophen and dental gel that contains benzocaine, and other important items like slim interdental brushes and floss designed for braces. Your orthodontist can provide you with orthodontic wax and dental cotton rolls. If you play sports, invest in a clear or colored, custom silicone mouth guard to protect your braces and teeth. Additionally, stock up on extra toothpaste, toothbrushes or electric brush heads and mouthwash. Since food often becomes stuck in brackets and between wires and teeth, you must clean your teeth more often.
For Everything You Need to Know About Braces, Talk to Your Dentist
As you can see, braces require a huge commitment on your part and plenty of preparation. That said, you can benefit for years afterward with a healthy smile and better oral health. If you have any additional questions, your dentist or orthodontist can help answer them based on your unique situation.