Orthodontics is when the teeth are straightened or moved, in order to improve the appearance of your smile, by correcting the alignment of your teeth and the way you bite together. An incorrect bite can lead to long term dental problems and even jaw and head pain. By straightening the teeth, you also help to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, as straighter teeth are easier to clean.
- Fixed braces consist of brackets and bands which are cemented (glued) to your teeth, which hold flexible wires in place. In turn, these wires exert pressure on your teeth, gently moving them into their correct position over the course of your treatment.
- Removable braces can be taken in and out of the mouth. It has delicate wires and springs attached which move the teeth using gentle pressure. These are used for less complex cases, or in conjunction with fixed braces, as part of a combined treatment.
Your dentist will refer you to an Orthodontist, who specialises in braces, or you can refer yourself. You will have an oral assessment, x-rays and moulds taken of your teeth.
At your second appointment, your orthodontist will outline your treatment plan to discuss all of the options available to you. In many cases, permanent teeth need to be removed to create space in your mouth, so that the remaining teeth can be moved. If this is the case, the extractions are carried out by your regular dentist.
It usually takes between 18-24 months, but will vary according to how complex the case is. We will provide you with a time frame at the beginning of the treatment; however, breakages of the brace will add time to the treatment.
A third appointment with your orthodontist is usually required, so that small plastic bands, or ‘Separators’, will be placed in between your molar teeth. The bands will stay in place for one week to create space between your teeth for permanent molar bands.
During your next appointment, the molar bands, brackets and wires will be put in place. You may find that for the first couple of days, your teeth may feel tender to bite and your jaw aches; this is because of the pressure of the brace. Taking a headache tablet will help. If the discomfort lasts longer than a few days, make an appointment to see your orthodontist to see if your brace needs adjusting. You may find that your brace may also rub against the inside of your lips or cheeks. If this is the case, use the wax which your orthodontist will have supplied.
You will now need to see your Orthodontist every six to eight weeks, to have the bands and wires changed or tightened, or elastics added. If you have had your brace tightened, you may feel a little discomfort later during the day, which is normal, and a headache tablet will help.
You still also require regular six month check-ups with your dentist, in order to ensure your gums and teeth remain healthy.
You will be able to eat most of the foods you were eating before, but more care will need to be taken not to damage your braces. There are some foods that have to be cut out of your diet whilst you are wearing the appliance, including:
- Chewy sweets, like Mars bars or starburst for example.
- Hard foods, like crusty bread and apples.
It is very important that your oral hygiene is excellent, as cleaning your teeth is much more difficult with a brace in place. Brushing your teeth after every snack and meal throughout the day will reduce the risk of decay and gum disease. In addition, take longer time brushing your teeth in the morning and at night. Ask your Orthodontist which is the best type of toothbrush for cleaning braces. If you do not look after your teeth during your treatment, they can become permanently stained.
Your braces will be removed, and your teeth will be cleaned and polished to remove any remaining cement. However, your teeth need to be held in position, whilst the surrounding gum and bone settles. This period is called retention, and the appliance that holds the teeth in place are called retainers, which are either fixed or removable. Depending on the type of retainers, Impressions may need to be taken. You will then return a week later to collect your retainers.