Orthodontics involves the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of alignment problems of your teeth or jaws. Corrective appliances such as braces and removable orthodontic appliances are used to move your teeth and bone structure into proper alignment over a period of time.
Crooked or misaligned teeth not only detract from your appearance, they can be hard to clean and are at greater risk of tooth decay and disease. Orthodontic treatment can make your teeth both healthier and more aesthetically pleasing.
If you think you may need orthodontic treatment, the best place to start is by visiting your dentist. They will be able to advise you about whether you would benefit from orthodontics, and recommend a treatment plan for you.
The procedure for getting orthodontics
Your first consultation
At your initial orthodontic consultation, your orthodontist will determine the state of your teeth and gums, your goals for your smile and what you hope to achieve through orthodontic treatment. Your teeth will be thoroughly assessed, x-rays will be taken, and a plan for your treatment will be devised.
Fitting the orthodontic appliance
Once your braces (or other orthodontic appliance) have been prepared for you, they’ll be fitted to your teeth. This will require a long consultation so that your braces can be fitted correctly and comfortably.
You may experience a little bit of discomfort, and your speech may be affected for a few days after the procedure. This shouldn’t last too long however, and the feeling of “strangeness” from your braces will soon wear off.
You’ll need regular visits to your orthodontist throughout the whole time you have braces. At these visits, your braces will be adjusted or tightened. The brackets and wires put pressure on your teeth that will gradually move them into better alignment as they get adjusted, depending on how the orthodontist wants your teeth to move.
Wearing a retainer
Once your braces have been removed for good, you’ll be provided with a removable retainer to help maintain your teeth in their newly straightened position. How long you’ll have to wear this depends on your individual situation.
If you don’t do this, your teeth will gradually start to drift back to their original positions. Wearing a retainer long term is just as important as the orthodontic treatment and ensures your smile will look good into the future.
Once you get braces, be prepared for the fact that taking care of your teeth is a little more difficult. There are any number of small spaces that can trap food in your braces, and this trapped food can lead to a build-up of plaque.
It’s very important to:
- Brush your teeth after every meal and every snack
- Floss at least once a day
- Rinse with mouthwash regularly
Neglecting good oral hygiene can lead to serious problems, so even if this level of care seems tedious and excessive, it’s important to stick to it.
Brushing with braces
Careful brushing is necessary when you have braces, to remove any build-up of plaque bacteria. You’ll need to take off your elastics and any other removable parts of your orthodontic appliance before you brush.
Brush each tooth individually, at a 45-degree angle to the gumline. Don’t apply too much pressure, as you don’t want to damage the gums. Once you’ve finished here, move your toothbrush in a circular motion on all your inner and outer tooth surfaces.
Make sure you cover every tooth thoroughly. Ideally you should brush your teeth for around two minutes to make sure you’re getting a proper clean. Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash and check your job in the mirror.
Then it’s time to brush your braces. Clean around all the wires and pins, from the top of each wire to the bottom. Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle to remove all debris and plaque build-up.
Flossing with braces
Flossing with braces can sometimes be a challenge. Get your dentist to show you the best way to floss when you have braces. You can also use flossing products designed especially for use on braces, such as a floss threader. You’ll need to floss once a day to make sure your teeth stay clean and healthy.
Oral care products for braces
There are many oral care products that are specifically designed for use with braces. While they can’t do the work for you, they’ll certainly make caring for your braces easier. You can use electric toothbrushes made for braces, special toothpastes that kill the bacteria in the spaces between your brackets, and the floss threader mentioned above.
Schedule regular visits to your orthodontist and general dentist
Regular orthodontist visits are a must with braces, as they will need to be adjusted on a regular basis.
It’s very important to watch out for dental issues that could occur while you have braces. As well as visiting your orthodontist, you’ll also need to have regular check-ups with your regular dentist.
This will enable your dentist to discover cavities and signs of gum disease early on, so that they can be fixed before they become a bigger problem. You may also need fluoride treatments to provide extra protection for your teeth while you have braces.
Take care of your teeth and your braces now and you’ll end up with a beautiful smile once they’re off. You’ve invested a lot of money and time in getting braces – now you just need to finish the job with excellent oral care.