Dental braces are the familiar wire-based appliances that orthodontists use to correct crowded and misaligned teeth or jaws. Many people who need dental braces get them during their early adolescent years. But adults can get dental braces, too.
The goal of dental braces is to properly align your teeth and jaws and produce an even bite.
Modern materials and technologies make the experience of having dental braces much more comfortable and enjoyable than in the past.
Why it's done
Dental braces offer corrective treatment for:
Proper alignment of your teeth and jaws may improve not only the appearance of your teeth, but the way you bite, chew and speak. Teeth that fit neatly together are also easier to clean and maintain, which means they're less prone to plaque formation, cavities and gum disease.
Adults and braces
Wearing dental braces is generally a very safe procedure, but there are certain risks present, both in the short term and long term.
To avoid damage to your teeth and braces:
How you prepare
If your primary care dentist notices problems with your teeth or jaws that may require treatment, he or she will likely refer you to an orthodontist — a dentist who specializes in diagnosing, preventing and treating dental and facial irregularities.
Most alignment problems become apparent once the permanent teeth begin to erupt. But your orthodontist may recommend waiting until enough teeth have come through before applying braces. Most children get braces between the ages of 8 and 14, while their facial bones are still growing and their teeth are more susceptible to movement.
Preparation for braces generally involves:
After your orthodontist has evaluated your teeth and jaws, he or she customizes a treatment plan for you. This most often involves the use of fixed braces, which are temporarily bonded to your teeth and can't be taken out.
What you can expect
Treatment consists essentially of three phases: the initial placement of the braces (or clear aligners), periodic adjustments and wearing of a retainer after the braces are removed.
Placement of braces
Removable clear aligners
Occasionally, the orthodontist may use tension between upper and lower jaws to help promote correct alignment. This is often done with elastic bands stretched between opposing teeth.
Your teeth and jaws may feel slightly sore for a day or two after an adjustment. This discomfort can usually be eased with an over-the-counter pain reliever; tell your orthodontist if the discomfort is severe or becomes worse.
Fixed dental braces use the pressure of an adjustable arch wire running through brackets and bands fixed to your teeth to align your teeth and jaws properly. Small elastic ties — which can be ...
On average, most people wear full braces for one to three years. Retainers may be worn for months, years or indefinitely.
Braces are generally very effective in realigning crooked teeth and correcting improperly positioned jaws. But the person wearing the braces has an important role to play in the ultimate success of the treatment. Care must be taken to follow your orthodontist's instructions precisely, especially during the retention period. When it comes to this final phase, it's important to wear the retainer as directed, or risk losing the benefits gained while wearing the fixed braces.
Last Updated: 2010-08-31
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