Not everyone is born with naturally straight teeth and a perfect smile. Fortunately, orthodontic treatment can fix this for you or your child by correcting crowded teeth, crooked teeth, malocclusion of teeth, or a misaligned jaw.
In this article, we explore the different types of teeth braces offered by orthodontics, how they work, how much they cost, among other things.
Types of Braces
If your orthodontist examines your teeth and jaws and determines you need braces, he/she will recommend either of the following kinds of braces based on your individual needs.
Traditional/metal teeth braces
Traditional braces are what comes to mind for most people when they hear “braces.” They consist of metal brackets that are cemented to each of your teeth and bound together using an archwire.
Some braces also include elastics called O-rings or ligatures for connecting the archwires to the brackets. These put more pressure on your teeth needed to straighten and align your teeth.
Ceramic braces function like traditional braces, but they have brackets made from tooth-colored materials like ceramic or translucent materials.
Consequently, they are less noticeable hence also called clear braces. For added camouflage, your orthodontist may also use tooth-colored archwires.
Lingual braces sometimes referred as back of teeth braces or back teeth braces are not easily visible due to their placement on the inner side of your teeth. They face your tongue hence the name lingual.
Clear aligners (Invisalign)
Clear aligners, also referred to as clear braces or invisible braces, are mouth guard-like clear plastic trays worn over your teeth.
You can remove them to eat or clean your teeth. However, for the best results, you should wear them for at least 22 hours each day.
The aligners are replaced every two weeks with a new set that fits your new teeth alignment.
What Are Mini Braces?
Mini braces work just like traditional braces. An orthodontist glues brackets to your teeth and links each of them using an archwire.
However, in comparison to regular metal braces, mini braces are smaller. Their small size makes mini braces less noticeable, easier to clean, and more comfortable.
To compensate for their being small, they are made of a higher grade of stainless steel to ensure they are just as effective as traditional braces, if not more effective.
How Do Teeth Braces Work
Braces help straighten your teeth by slowly moving them toward a specific direction.
They achieve this by putting pressure on your teeth over an extended period. How long precisely depends on the severity of your dental misalignment. Your jaw shape also conforms to the pressure braces put on your teeth.
Different types of fixed braces contain the following components that enable them to move teeth:
- Brackets: are made of either stainless steel, ceramic, or plastic and stainless usually glued to the outer or inner surface of each tooth, allowing for the even distribution of pressure.
- Bands (O-rings): elastic bands fitted around brackets for added pressure. They also help connect the wire to the brackets in braces that are not self-ligating.
- Spacers: small metal springs or rubber bands fitted between your molars to forcefully separate your teeth and create space for attaching the O-rings to your molars. They remain in place for a week before getting braces installed. Not everyone requires spacers.
- Archwire: a malleable wire made from stainless steel or a titanium alloy that connects one bracket to the other. Its malleability allows for better control of teeth movement.
- Buccal Tube: a small metal part that’s attached to one of your molars. It keeps other parts of your braces in place and is also used to adjust them.
- Springs: these are sometimes placed on the archwire between brackets to apply pressure between teeth, separating them and creating or adding space.
- Facebow headgear: provides additional pressure needed to correct unique cases of teeth alignment. A headgear is rarely used and usually worn at night.
Custom-made devices called retainers are used to hold your teeth in their new position after your braces are removed. These can be removable or fixed and need to be worn for a specified time period.
Do Braces Hurt?
Getting braces installed does not hurt. However, in the days that follow, your jaw and teeth may feel sore due to the slow teeth movement taking place. The soreness typically lasts a week and reoccurs for a few days after each adjustment.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help ease the pain.
And as you wait for the soreness to pass, consider eating soft foods, such as oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and yogurt. These are easy to chew and swallow, hence will not aggravate the discomfort.
How Much Do Teeth Braces Cost
According to the American Academy of Orthodontists (AAO), the cost for braces for children starts around $5,000, while adult braces range from $5,000 to $7,000. Clear aligners like Invisalign tend to cost more, about 20%-50% more.
Some health and dental insurance providers cover orthodontic treatment, more so for dependent children than adults. However, be sure to check for any coverage limitations to avoid unwanted surprises.
If you have to pay out-of-pocket, be sure to ask whether your orthodontist offers payment plans, which will make treatment more affordable.
How Long Do You Have to Wear Braces?
The length of orthodontic treatment with braces varies from person to person. Typically, most people wear braces for one to three years.
How long exactly it takes for the braces to work will depend on factors such as:
- How out of position your teeth
- The health of your teeth, gums, and jaws
- How much room there is inside your mouth
- How well you follow your orthodontist’s instructions
Adults and Braces Versus Children and Braces
While the best time to have braces installed is during childhood, adults can undergo orthodontic treatment too.
However, since their facial bones are fully developed and no longer growing, adults may have to wear braces longer than a child or an adolescent.
On the other hand, children may have to wait until enough permanent teeth have emerged to start treatment. Getting early treatment helps prevent severe teeth and jaw problems that braces alone cannot correct.
These would require more invasive orthodontic procedures such as jaw surgery, implants and use of other dental surgery procedures that pose more risk and are significantly more expensive. Overall, how braces work to straighten teeth is the same at any age.
Note: pregnant women considering getting braces should first consult their ob-gyn.
How to Care for Teeth Braces and Clean Teeth With Braces
When you take good care of your braces, you’re essentially caring for your teeth as well.
Preventing damage to your braces helps avoid complications while you have them on and once your orthodontist takes them off. These basics of orthodontic care will help maintain your braces:
Avoid certain foods
Once you get braces, you’ll have to avoid or cut down your consumption of sugary foods and drinks as well as hard or sticky foods.
Braces can easily trap food, so excessive sugar consumption can lead to the buildup of plaque, increasing your risk of tooth decay.
Additionally, hard foods like nuts and sticky foods like chewing gum can damage your braces by bending the archwire, breaking a bracket, or detaching one from a tooth.
Maintain good Oral/dental hygiene
Careful cleaning of your teeth and flossing is crucial with braces because food can become easily lodged between your braces or teeth.
Your dental team will show you how to clean your braces and brush your teeth. But generally, your orthodontist will recommend that you:
- Brush after every meal, snacks included
- Floss at least once a day using a flosser designed for braces
- Use a mouthwash to rinse
Visit your orthodontist regularly
Braces require to be adjusted, so you will need to visit your orthodontist periodically.
During these follow-up visits, he/she will also check whether you’re practicing good oral hygiene and dental care and if your braces are well maintained.
Making routine visits to your general dentist during and after orthodontic treatment is also crucial. Your dentist will perform regular fluoride treatments to provide added protection against tooth decay and erosion when wearing braces.
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- WebMD Staff. What are Braces? (August 17, 2020). webmd.com/oral-health/guide/braces-and-retainers#1
- Kathryn W., How Braces Straighten Teeth in Children and Adults (January 14, 2019). healthline.com/health/how-do-braces-work.
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