Braces 101

If you have braces or will be getting them soon, it is important that you know how to take care of them. The better you treat your braces, the more success you will see throughout your orthodontic treatment.

Types of Braces
There are a number of types of braces now available to orthodontic patients. These include:

1. traditional metal braces – Still the most common type of orthodontics, these stainless steel brackets and arch wires are much more comfortable than the old models. You can even add colored elastic bands to these braces for a more individualized smile.

2. self-ligating braces – Also constructed from stainless steel, self-ligating braces vary from the traditional metal braces by not requiring elastics to complete treatment. Because elastics are unnecessary, you will need fewer appointments and experience less tooth friction.

3. clear ceramic braces – Many adult patients prefer these braces because they are less visible than metal braces. However, ceramic braces are larger and more fragile than the traditional types, requiring more diligent oral hygiene.

4. clear aligners – Unlike traditional types of braces, these are invisible acrylic trays that can be removed for eating, drinking, and brushing. The aligners straighten teeth more comfortably, but they are not as effective for more dramatic orthodontic needs.

5. lingual braces – Another invisible option, lingual braces are attached behind the teeth and customized for each individual. These are often the best option for athletes, musicians who play wind instruments, and adult professionals who would prefer a less visible option for teeth straightening. However, the individual customization makes these a more expensive treatment option.

Brushing and Flossing
It is imperative to practice good brushing and flossing habits is during orthodontic treatment. You need to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy so that you can enjoy the benefits of your treatment after your braces are removed. Braces have a tendency to trap food and bacteria, causing possible tooth decay and bad breath. By brushing after every meal with a soft-bristle toothbrush, followed by careful nightly flossing, you are doing your best to keep your mouth clean and free from plaque.

Eating with Braces
For the most part, having braces will not prevent you from enjoying your food at meal times. There are, however, some foods that you must avoid in order to keep your braces in good working order. Some of these foods, with examples, include:

1. chewy foods – granola bars, bagels, licorice

2. crunchy foods – chewing ice, popcorn, potato chips

3. sticky foods – chewing gum, taffy, caramel candies

4. hard foods – hard candies, most nuts, other objects such as pens or fingernails

5. hard-to-bite foods – corn on the cob, whole apples, fresh carrots

You may also encounter some soreness during your treatment that will cause you to alter your diet to softer foods until the discomfort has passed. These dietary changes are typically temporary.

Playing Sports with Braces
You can still participate in athletic events with braces, but you are encouraged to wear a mouth guard during practices and games. A mouth guard protects your orthodontic equipment, your teeth, the inside of your mouth, and your opponents’ bodies in a contact sport. Your orthodontist can recommend the right mouth guard for your athletic needs.

If you experience an accident or injury in the area of your mouth during a sport, be sure to check your mouth and orthodontics immediately for loose teeth and damaged appliances. The sooner you meet with your orthodontist to correct any potential problems, the better your treatment will be overall.

Loose and Sore Teeth
Discomfort and soreness is perfectly common throughout orthodontic treatment. You will not be used to the changes occurring in your mouth, and you will likely feel a little sore after each orthodontic adjustment. This tenderness will typically last a day or two before you will begin to feel better. You can take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprophen or Tylenol to manage the discomfort, and you can rinse your mouth with a warm saltwater rinse.

You may feel that your teeth are becoming loose, and this is completely normal. In order for braces to correct the placement of your teeth, they must loosen your teeth before they can be moved. Once your teeth are in their proper locations, those positions will be solidified, and your teeth will no longer feel loose.

You may also experience irritated or sore lips, cheeks, or tongue from friction with your braces. While most of these issues will occur when you initially get your orthodontia and your mouth is getting used to the appliances, you may have flare ups of soreness throughout your treatment. Use the same pain management options for these issues, or you may want to use some wax over the braces to help lessen the discomfort. Your orthodontist can provide wax.

Caring for Braces and Mouth Appliances
In order for your orthodontic treatment to be successful, you must work with your orthodontist and follow all provided guidelines. There will be times when you experience soreness or discomfort, and you may not like wearing your braces. However, your jaws and teeth can only move to their corrected positions when you are correctly following all the directions of your orthodontist. This includes wearing rubber bands, headgear, retainers, and any other braces or mouth appliances prescribed. Not adhering to your provided guidelines can undermine your treatment, causing extra delays and added requirements for your treatment.