Dental braces, also known as orthodontic braces or simply braces, are devices used in orthodontics to straighten and align teeth, correct bite issues, and improve overall dental aesthetics. They are commonly used to treat conditions such as crowded teeth, crooked teeth, overbites, underbites, crossbites, and gaps between teeth.
Why Dental Braces are Needed
Malocclusions: Malocclusions refer to misalignments of the teeth or jaws that can affect the way a person’s teeth fit together. Braces help correct these misalignments, improving the bite and allowing for proper chewing and speaking.
Aesthetic Concerns: Braces can address cosmetic concerns related to the appearance of teeth. They can straighten crooked or protruding teeth, close gaps, and improve overall dental aesthetics, which can boost self-confidence and improve a person’s smile.
Dental Health: Misaligned teeth can be more challenging to clean, leading to a higher risk of dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease. By straightening the teeth, braces make oral hygiene practices more effective, reducing the likelihood of dental issues in the future.
Types of Braces
If braces are indeed the solution for you, the dentist or orthodontist will prescribe an appliance specific for your needs. The braces may consist of bands, wires, and other fixed or removable corrective appliances. No one method works for everyone.
Metal/traditional braces: Traditional braces are made of metal. They include brackets that are attached to the front of your teeth or bands that fit around each tooth, as well as flexible wires or arch wires that hold the brackets or bands together. Some braces also include rubber bands or metal ties that link the brackets to the wire. These bands create more pressure to help straighten and align your teeth. Sometimes, your orthodontist will have you wear a device called headgear at night. It provides added pressure to help straighten your teeth. You can put it on and take it off.
Ceramic braces: The brackets in traditional braces are now also made in tooth-colored ceramic, so you don’t notice them as much. They can also be made with stainless steel, clear materials, or gold.
Lingual braces: The brackets on these braces are attached to the backs of your teeth, facing your tongue. Lingual braces are harder to see.
Clear aligners: You might also hear them called invisible braces. These are clear plastic trays that fit snugly onto your teeth. They use pressure to gently move your teeth into the correct positions and straighten your smile. You remove the aligners to eat, brush, or floss, but you should keep them in at least 22 hours each day for them to work. The orthodontist may also place tooth-colored attachments onto your teeth to hold the aligners in place.
Consultation and Examination: The first step is to consult with an orthodontist who will evaluate your dental condition, take X-rays, and make a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. They will explain the treatment process, duration, and discuss any concerns or questions you may have.
Placement of Braces: The next step is the placement of braces. This involves bonding brackets onto the front surface of the teeth using dental adhesive. The brackets serve as anchors for the wires that will move the teeth. The orthodontist may also place orthodontic bands around the back molars to provide additional support.
Adjustment and Progress: After the initial placement, you will need regular visits to the orthodontist for adjustments. During these visits, the orthodontist will tighten or replace the wires, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure the teeth are moving properly. The appointments are typically scheduled every 4-6 weeks.
Retention Phase: Once the desired tooth alignment is achieved, the braces will be removed. To maintain the results, a retainer is often prescribed. Retainers help to keep the teeth in their new positions while the surrounding tissues adapt to the changes. Retainers may be removable or fixed, depending on the individual case.
It’s important to note that treatment duration can vary depending on the complexity of the dental issues and individual factors. Regular oral hygiene practices, including brushing, flossing, and attending scheduled appointments, are crucial for the success of orthodontic treatment.
It’s recommended to consult with an orthodontist to determine if braces are necessary for your specific dental needs and to get a personalized treatment plan.