Here are the answers to all the need-to-know questions you’ve ever wanted to ask about dental braces.
Firstly, what exactly are dental braces?
Dental braces are wire-based appliances used by orthodontists to correct teeth problems such as misaligned teeth, crooked teeth, abnormal bites or crowding. They work by slowly moving your teeth into better positions.
Why do people need braces?
Braces are both a cosmetic treatment and a functional treatment. Most people view them as a way of correcting abnormal bite or alignment issues so that your smile looks better, which is a very common reason for getting braces. However, braces are also useful in preventing oral health problems such as gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, enamel wear, jaw problems, chewing problems and affected speech. Straighter and more correctly aligned teeth will give you more efficient use of them, thus leading to fewer problems. For most people, orthodontic treatment provides a combination of both cosmetic and functional results, leading to a more attractive smile as well as a healthier mouth.
How long do you need to wear braces?
This one is hard to answer, as it’s a very individual process and will depend on each person’s unique situation. For more simple cases, orthodontic treatment may be successful within the space of a few months; but for more complex cases you might be looking at years to complete the treatment. Anywhere between three months to three years can be considered normal – it just depends on how much work needs doing and how well you respond to the treatment. Your orthodontist is the best person to advise you as to the expected length of treatment in your situation.
Do braces fix teeth permanently?
Well yes – and no. Braces are one of the most effective ways to straighten your teeth, but your teeth will gradually start to drift back to their original positions over time if left alone after treatment is finished. In order to keep the straightening effect, you’ll need to wear a retainer to keep your teeth in their new positions and maintain your new smile. But once the orthodontic treatment is finished, it’s finished – and wearing a retainer is all you’ll need to do to have a permanently straight smile.
How long will I need to wear a retainer?
For life. It’s the best way of ensuring that your teeth don’t move back into their old positions. You’ll usually need to wear it day and night for at least six months after your braces come off, and then you will likely only need to wear it at night. After you’ve been out of braces for a few years, you may not even need to wear it every night. But you will need to wear it throughout your life, so it’s something you’ll need to get used to.
Do braces change your face?
Any facial changes caused by braces will be minor, particularly if you’re an older braces candidate. Improving an overbite or underbite will naturally change the appearance of your face slightly. Braces may also slightly change the shape of your jawline, mouth and lips, which will affect the overall look of your face. But because the process happens gradually over time, the effect will not be marked or sudden.
Are braces painful?
It may be a little painful getting your braces put on, and sometimes it can hurt slightly to adjust the wires, but generally speaking they are not particularly painful. What you’re more likely to feel initially is an uncomfortable sensation as your mouth adjusts to the unfamiliarity of the braces. However, once you’ve become used to the feeling, you shouldn’t notice them excessively. This is because the force applied by the braces to move your teeth is a very gentle one that takes time to work, rather than being a harsh, severe force. Braces don’t have to be uncomfortably tight to do their job. Most of the time you won’t even notice the light pressure that braces apply, and occasional mild discomfort should be all you’d expect to feel.
You may, however, experience sores in your mouth at first as the brackets rub against the inside of your lips and gums, but your mouth will soon toughen up and this won’t be a problem for long.
How old do you have to be to get braces?
Due to the developing anatomy of younger people, braces are not recommended until around 10 years old, and are usually advised between the ages of 10 and 15, once the child has all their permanent teeth. At this age, corrective producers work faster as the bones are still somewhat pliable, and the child’s head and mouth are still growing.
How old is too old to get braces?
Yes, braces are far more usual for children aged anywhere from 10 to 16 but they are not limited just to that age range. The reason they are used for this age group is due to the fact that abnormal bites usually become more noticeable in the growing phase between the ages of 6 and 12, leading to the necessity of orthodontic treatment soon after.
However, the good news for older people seeking to straighten their smile is that healthy teeth can be orthodontically treated no matter how old you are. More and more adults are choosing to wear braces to sort out the smile problems they have often been putting up with for a while. While it may be preferable to get braces when you’re younger, your teeth are still capable of being moved into better positions when you’re older.
The key word here is “healthy” though. Teeth that show signs of cavities, decay and disease will not be suitable for orthodontic treatment.
So, braces are suitable for anyone?
Pretty much any age group can wear braces, but they are not suitable for 100% of the population. As mentioned above, braces are not suitable for people with extensive gum disease, decay or severely damaged teeth. They also can’t be used for people with severe jaw problems or certain medical conditions. And if you have difficulty keeping your teeth clean, braces are probably not going to be a good fit for you. Consult a qualified orthodontist to determine whether braces are suitable for you.
Can you get braces when you’re pregnant?
Usually, yes. Orthodontic treatment doesn’t affect the normal development of your baby or your pregnancy, so you’re safe to get braces while pregnant. The only possible problem might be if you need scans or x-rays as part of your treatment. It’s best to consult an orthodontist before embarking on your braces journey while pregnant, to make sure it’s a wise choice for you and your baby.
Do braces cause enamel loss?
Braces themselves will not cause enamel loss, but poor oral hygiene while wearing braces may damage your enamel. To prevent this, brush your teeth at least twice a day, or after every meal if you can, and floss regularly.
Click here to discover what will need to change once you get braces.
Are there any alternative to braces?
There are some great alternatives to braces for those for whom braces are deemed unsuitable or who prefer not to get braces. Clear, nearly invisible braces such as Invisalign and ClearCorrect are used as alternatives to traditional braces. Find out more here.
Will wisdom teeth mess up my braces?
If your orthodontic work has been done properly, you should have plenty of room for when the extra teeth come through. And your custom-made retainer will be able to accommodate your wisdom teeth with no problems.
Can I eat normally with braces? Are there foods I won’t be able to eat?
Braces will obviously cause some difficulty with eating foods such as corn on the cob, lollies, chewing gum, popcorn or very sticky foods, so are probably best avoided as much as possible during your orthodontic treatment. You may also struggle to eat chewy foods such as apples or meat on the bone – however, you don’t need to avoid them entirely; just cut them into smaller pieces before eating. But you’ll still be able to enjoy most foods as you would normally; although you’ll have to ensure you clean your teeth and braces carefully after eating.
Keep in mind though that a healthy diet without too much sugar is best while you’re wearing braces. Excessive sugar can cause plaque to build up around your brackets, which could stain or even damage your teeth.
Will I need braces on all my teeth?
That also depends on your individual situation. Some people may only need braces on one or two misaligned teeth, or only on their front teeth, while others may need braces only on their upper or lower teeth. Some people, however, will need a whole mouthful of braces.