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Dental Braces 101: Types, Results, and Post Care

dental braces 101

When most people think about taking care of their teeth, they think about brushing and flossing. But there's a lot more that goes into oral health than just that. Visiting an Orthodontist is incredibly important because having straight teeth actually help you live a longer life. There are a few different methods to straightening your teeth, each of which depends on what will work best for you. In this article, we will cover the most common questions and concerns that come with getting braces and a brief description of each process.


Introduction To Dental Braces

Dental braces and orthodontic care are used to correct a variety of oral challenges, like an open bite, deep overbite, crowding, and more. For some patients, your teeth may be straight, but the upper and lower jaws are misaligned, causing ongoing dental issues. The goal of quality orthodontic care goes beyond creating a beautiful smile. Orthodontists are committed to establishing healthier teeth and gums.

While many people assume dental braces are only good for closing gaps between teeth or straightening smiles, braces also play a role in preventing major dental problems. When orthodontic care isn’t utilized to treat an abnormal bite, the following oral challenges could result:

  • abnormal depreciation to tooth enamel
  • gum disease
  • jaw stiffness or soreness
  • problematic speech
  • tooth decay
  • tooth loss

Dental braces are applied directly to the teeth and work in different ways, depending on the type of braces suggested by your orthodontist. In certain cases, your orthodontist may need to include other components to shift the teeth, jaw or bone in the correct direction. Headgear and expansion devices are occasionally used to ensure the dental braces deliver the desired results.

Different Types Of Dental Braces

Depending on the severity of your orthodontic needs, you may have options when it comes to the type of braces used on your teeth. There are five main styles of braces, each which come with their own benefits. To understand which is the best option for you, schedule a consultation with an orthodontist in your area.

Metal Braces

metal braces

Metal braces also called traditional braces, metal wired braces are the most commonly used to correct dental problems. These braces have two main components: the brackets and wire. An individual bracket is applied to each affected tooth and a bendable wire is threaded through each bracket. The brackets apply pressure to the teeth to gradually move them in the desired direction.

Most metal braces are constructed of stainless steel and are worn for about 18 months, longer if needed. Modern braces are smaller than those in years past and when new heat-activated archwires are used, your body heat can help shift the tooth more quickly and with less pain. While traditional braces are the most commonly used, they are the least expensive but also the most noticeable.

Ceramic Braces

ceramic braces

With a very similar style as metal braces, the ceramic braces are an alternative for those who want their orthodontic treatment to be less noticeable. These braces are also called “clear braces” because they’re designed to match the shade of your teeth to make them less visible. It’s also possible for the wire to match the hue of your smile.

While this style of braces is a great cosmetic choice, the ceramic material is more likely to chip or break than the metal option. In addition, the ceramic brackets can stain easily. Coffee, tea, wine and other food and beverages known to discolor teeth will have the same effect on ceramic braces.

Lingual braces

lingual braces

For the same effect as metal braces but even less visibility than ceramic, your orthodontist may recommend lingual braces. The process involves placing the metal braces on the backside of the teeth. It’s nice to be able to hide the braces, but this style comes with a number of challenges.

Because of their placement, lingual braces are more difficult to clean. These braces are often more expensive and not appropriate for many orthodontic problems. Lingual braces can be more uncomfortable and may have an affect on your speech. They can also take longer to achieve the desired result, pushing most patients to avoid this style.

Self-ligating braces

self-ligating braces

Designed to hold less food and be more comfortable for the patient, self-ligating braces can be designed with metal or ceramic brackets. Rather than using rubber bands, this style utilizes brackets with clips to hold onto the wire. You’re supposed to need fewer trips to the orthodontist with self-ligating braces, but they’re not appropriate in all situations. There are some oral challenges too severe for this treatment.



The invisible aligners are most effective with simple to moderate orthodontic challenges. Invisalign is a clear aligner – one for the top row of teeth and one for the bottom, as needed – that gradually corrects your smile over time. As your teeth begin to shift, a new aligner is created to continue the transformation.

Although it’s more expensive than other types of braces, Invisalign is often requested by patients because it’s undetectable, it can be removed each night for proper cleaning, and you don’t have to limit what you eat. Simply remove the aligners to have foods you wouldn’t otherwise enjoy with traditional braces, like popcorn, and sticky and crunchy snacks. They are also far more comfortable than metal braces.

Purpose of Dental Braces

Purpose of Dental Braces

Dental braces are an orthodontic treatment used to correct problems like overbites, underbites, crowded and crooked teeth, or misaligned jaws. Problems solved by braces can be broken down into more specific problems, like those addressed by Diamond Braces.

Failing to treat your dental issues with braces when they’re needed can leave you with a host of problems, including biting or chewing challenges, speaking issues, headaches or earaches, tooth decay, and gum disease.

How Do Braces Straighten Teeth?

When braces are applied to the teeth, they slowly pull and push each tooth in the appropriate direction. The constant pressure eventually shifts your teeth into the desired placement. For those with particularly stubborn teeth, rubber bands may be used to add pressure to get the desired results.

But braces aren’t just shifting the part of the tooth you can see. The pressure actually affects the periodontal membrane, or tissues surrounding the tooth, by losing the pocket and allow the tooth to shift slightly. To be effective and cause as little pain as possible, the process must be completed slowly, which is why most people were braces for 18 months to 3 years.

Who Is A Good Candidate For Braces?

loose bracket

While anyone with misaligned teeth can make a good candidate for braces, the optimal time to begin an orthodontic evaluation is 7 years old. The first evaluation addresses bite problems and overcrowding of the teeth. If needed, your child’s orthodontist can begin treatment with a palatal expander to make room for upper teeth alignment and helps the upper and lower jawbones fit together correctly. This phase one treatment can only be completed during a short period of time before the bone begins to change. Phase two treatment, the application of braces, typically begins between the ages of 12 and 14.

Routine dental care is the best way for your dentist to discover when orthodontic care is needed for you or your child. A thorough exam will be required to see if you are a good candidate for braces and which style is best for you.

Procedure For Applying Braces

Once your orthodontist has determined braces will help straighten your teeth or correct your misaligned jaws, there is typically a three-phase process for applying braces.

  • Phase one: Any necessary extractions are made before the braces are applied. Other components, like palatal expanders and headgear, may be incorporated into phase one to address skeletal growth issues.
  • Phase two: If traditional braces are used, the brackets are applied to the teeth and the archwire inserted. Rubber bands or self-ligating brackets are used to hold the wire in place.
  • Phase three: The archwire may be tightened or periodically adjusted to gain the desired results.

After the braces are removed, a retainer is worn to maintain the results. Practicing good oral healthcare is essential for those with braces. Speak with your orthodontist about the best toothbrush and floss for someone with braces.

Dental Care After Braces Are Removed

Dental Care After Braces Are Removed

The results of the braces will be evaluated by molds and x-rays taken by your dentist. Once the braces are removed, you’ll wear a dental retainer to help maintain your new smile. Wearing the retainer is key to your teeth not returning to another misaligned position.

Your orthodontist will recommend either a removable or fixed retainer. The removable retainer can be easily cleaned and makes brushing and flossing easier. The fixed retainer is applied to the back of the teeth and is more effective in keeping your teeth in their new position. The retainer is often worn full-time once braces are removed and, at the direction of your orthodontist, can eventually be used only at night. For adults who just had braces removed, a retainer is typically worn indefinitely.

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Braces

What is the best age for braces?

Orthodontic intervention is best initiated around age 7, where headgear or a palatal expander can be used if needed. The best age for braces is between 10 and 14. It’s easier to straighten your teeth because your head and mouth are still growing.

Should I go to a dentist or orthodontist for braces?

An experienced dentist will have the skill to recognize when orthodontic care is needed. The most general dentist can perform minor orthodontic care if they’ve completed ongoing education and advanced training. An orthodontist is needed, however, for specialty care. Research and choose the best orthodontists in your area to reduce the risk of complications. (Orthodontist or Dentist: Whom Should You Choose?)

How long do braces take to work?

Each orthodontic situation is unique, but most patients with braces will begin to notice a change within 4 to 6 weeks after braces are applied.

How long do you have to wear braces?

It’s common for patients to wear braces for 1 to 3 years to achieve the desired results.

Can you get braces for free?

Braces can be a major investment for many families. If you are trying to save on dental cost or get braces for free, consider Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Qualifications for each program vary for different states. If your family operates near or below the poverty line, you or your children may qualify for free braces through Medicaid or CHIP.

How much do braces cost?

The cost of braces will vary depending on the style you select. Traditional metal braces, the most common, cost between $4,000 and $8,000, depending on if you have dental insurance. Invisalign, a popular form of invisible braces, cost between $3,500 and $8,000. (Invisalign Cost: The Truth and Money Saving Tips on Invisalign as a Treatment Option, from the Experts)

Do braces hurt?

Having braces applied to your teeth does not hurt. Hours after the archwire is applied, it is common to feel an uncomfortableness as you get used to the braces. Having the braces adjusted or tightened may also cause discomfort, but you should not experience severe pain. If, at any point, the pain does not subside, contact your orthodontist.

What can I eat with braces?

It’s important to be selective with the foods you eat with braces. While you’ll want to avoid sticky foods, like gummies, Twizzlers, and caramel, you’ll also want to be wary of crunchy snacks, like nuts. Consider the consistency of the food before eating. Popcorn, pizza crust, and other foods that are hard can get stuck on the wire or damage it.

Steamed veggies, eggs, hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta, soft fruits and this list of other foods are acceptable to eat with braces.

Do braces affect speech?

Braces are most likely to temporarily change the way you speak when they’re first applied. Getting used to the brackets and wires may mean you notice how certain words are pronounced. A change in speech is also more likely if you opt for lingual braces, as the metal and wires will be pressed against your tongue as you speak. Keep in mind that you’re likely to notice the change more than anyone else, and any effect on speech typically dissipates after the first couple weeks.

Do braces give you bigger lips?

Braces may make your lips feel bigger as the brackets can push against the back of the upper and lower lips, but there is no physical change to their size. If the brackets irritate the inner lip skin, making the lip swell, apply orthodontic wax to the brackets to create a protective barrier.

Do braces make your breath stink?

Braces alone do not cause bad breath. If bad breath develops after braces are applied, it’s most likely the result of poor oral hygiene and food particles left behind in the wire or brackets. Bacteria can form between teeth and in the brackets, contributing to bad breath. Be sure to use orthodontist-recommended tools to clean your braces to avoid bad breath.

How many times should I brush my teeth with braces?

Brushing teeth with braces isn’t too different than brushing without braces. Brush at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time. Make all efforts to brush after eating each meal. Floss with the appropriate tool to completely remove food particles. (How to Clean Teeth with Braces)

Do braces stain teeth?

Braces alone will not stain your teeth, but a lack of strong oral hygiene will lead to discoloration. Not brushing or flossing as needed will allow tartar and plaque to build up, causing your teeth to turn a yellow color. Certain foods and beverages can also cause staining. If you’re concerned about braces staining your teeth, speak with your dentist about the best teeth whitening product for you.

Can braces make my teeth fall out?

Braces are designed to allow your teeth to shift in a purposeful, specific direction. While it may feel that your teeth are becoming slightly loose during the process, braces do not make your teeth fall out.

Can braces damage your teeth?

The most common damage to teeth after braces are applied is tooth decay and gum problems. Braces do not directly cause damage to your teeth, but a lack of upkeep and good oral hygiene can lead to damage to the enamel, tooth decay, and gum disease. To avoid these dental problems, brush at least twice daily, floss once per day, and regularly visit your dentist for routine cleanings and exams.

Dental braces are a great solution for misaligned, crowded teeth or to adjust an improper bite. Research the best orthodontists in your area and schedule a consultation to see if braces will help address your orthodontic needs.

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