Dental braces are 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 teenage years. However, adults also may benefit from wearing braces. The goal of dental braces is to properly align your teeth and jaws to produce an even bite and pleasing smile.
For teens or adults who need minor corrections, an alternative to fixed braces is a series of clear, customized, removable appliances called aligners or "invisible braces." Clear aligners may be more expensive than fixed braces, but may have a more acceptable appearance to some adults. However, many people need fixed braces to appropriately correct their dental problem.
Modern materials and technologies make the experience of having dental braces much more comfortable 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.
Adults and braces
Wearing dental braces is generally a very safe procedure, with the exception of a few short-term and long-term risks.
Reduce your risk of damage
How you prepare
If your regular 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 come through the gum (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.
What you can expect
Treatment consists 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 or metal ties fix the wire ...
On average, most people wear full braces for one to three years. Retainers may be worn indefinitely to ensure that the final results remain stable.
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 success of the treatment.
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 braces.
Last Updated: 2013-03-13
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