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Braces

Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

6 Reasons You Would Need Braces

1. Straighten Teeth

Braces can help straighten and align teeth that may be uneven or crooked on behalf of genetics, injury, and childhood behaviors such as thumb sucking, pacifier use, and prolonged use of a bottle.[1] Braces involve the use of metal bands, bonds, wires, and/or springs that apply force to the teeth and cause them to properly straighten.

2. Correct an Overbite or Underbite

An overbite is when the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth, while an underbite is when the lower jaw protrudes or juts out to cause the lower teeth to overlap the upper jaw and teeth.[1] Braces can help correct an overbite or underbite by aligning the teeth, jaw, and underlying bones. When left untreated, a misaligned bite can lead to problems with speech difficulties, low confidence and self-esteem, and also tooth, jaw, and muscle strain.[1]

3. Improve Chewing and Biting

People who have uneven teeth or misaligned bites may experience difficulty or discomfort when chewing and biting food.[2] These individuals are often more prone to biting the inside of their cheeks, lips, and the roofs of their mouths. Braces help straighten and align the teeth and jaw to improve the acts of chewing and biting, and to reduce related pain or discomfort.

4. Create More Space

Some people have teeth that are extremely close and crowded together, which can lead to problems with tooth decay and gum disease since these teeth may be more difficult to brush, clean, and floss.[1] Crowded teeth normally occur when the mouth and jaw are too small to properly accommodate all teeth, including the wisdom teeth. Many times, braces are worn to correct crowded teeth and create more space following the extraction of wisdom teeth.[3]

6. Close Gaps

Gaps in the teeth can cause some people to feel self-conscious about their smiles and appearances or can take up too much room for other teeth that are still growing in.[4] Braces can close the gaps between teeth to help people benefit from greater self-esteem and to prevent future problems with crooked teeth.

Understanding Braces

Braces are cited as the most commonly used appliance in orthodontics.[5] Braces help correct problems with crooked and misaligned teeth by placing pressure on the teeth to permanently change their positions. There are several different types of braces used by orthodontists, including steel and stainless steel braces, ceramic braces, and palate expanders.[2]

Steel and stainless steel braces feature small, square brackets that are bonded to the front of each tooth.[2] Wires run through each of these brackets to connect all the teeth and guide their movement. Small elastics or rubber bands are then hooked over each bracket to put excess pressure on the teeth. An orthodontist will usually tighten the braces and replace all the elastics every few weeks or at least once per month to straighten the teeth and progress their movement into the proper spots in the mouth.

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Ceramic braces work similarly to steel and stainless steel braces but are made from clear and transparent materials to make them less noticeable.[2] Palate expanders are devices that put pressure on upper molars to gradually move the teeth apart and are commonly used to separate crowded teeth.[2]

The treatment time for braces averages between 18 to 27 months, though this may vary depending on a person’s teeth, their braces care methods, and oral hygiene.[6]

Risks of Braces

Practicing good oral hygiene is critical while wearing braces since these devices can easily trap food particles to increase the risk for plaque deposits, enamel erosion, stains on teeth, cavities, and gum disease.[7] Braces may also cause bone in the teeth to dissolve during movement, which may lead to loose, unstable teeth. Other common risks and complications associated with braces include inflammation of pulp tissue, loss of dentine and cementum tissue. Allergic reactions to the materials in braces or or those used to apply braces may also be a risk.[7]

People who have braces can reduce their risk for these complications by practicing good oral hygiene, which includes brushing teeth after every meal, flossing at least once per day, and using a dentist- or orthodontist-recommended fluoride rinse.[7] Orthodontists also recommend avoiding foods that contribute to plaque and tooth decay, or that can damage parts of the braces.[7] Foods that may be risky to eat while wearing braces include sugary and starchy foods and beverages, sticky foods like caramel, gum, and taffy, and hard or crunchy foods like nuts, hard candies, and popcorn.

What to Expect with Braces

Braces can usually be applied to the teeth within 50 to 90 minutes.[6] Patients can expect to experience some pain and discomfort for the first few days after getting braces and after each subsequent tightening session, which can be managed using over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen.[6]

In the beginning, patients may develop sores on the inside of the mouth until they adjust to wearing braces, though a soft piece of wax can be placed over the parts of braces contributing to sores. Patients are often advised to eat soups and softer foods until their teeth and gums are no longer sensitive or causing discomfort.[6]

Patients who receive braces are also expected to wear a retainer following the removal of braces, which is custom-made to fit the mouth and teeth. Retainers help teeth stay aligned and straight, and are recommended to be worn for life.[6]

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Braces

  • How long will I need to wear braces?
  • How often will my braces need to be tightened?
  • How long will I experience pain and discomfort after each tightening?
  • Which foods should I avoid while wearing braces?
  • Is there anything I can do to speed up braces treatment?
  • How can I prevent stains on my teeth when wearing braces?
  • How often do I need to brush and floss my teeth?
  • What activities should I avoid while wearing braces?
  • Are invisible or clear braces an option for me?
  • Will the appearance of my mouth or face be changed after braces?
  • How long will I need to wear a retainer?
  • What should I do if a bracket or wire comes out of place?

Braces May Also be Known as:

  • Dental braces
  • Orthodontic cases
  • Orthodontics
  • Fixed braces
  • Retainers
  • Train tracks
  • Invisible braces
  • Teeth straighteners
  • Headgear

References

7 Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.