Braces: a modern take on classic orthodontics

Braces are a tried and true treatment option for a healthy smile. Coupled with Virtual Visits, this traditional approach gets a modern twist.

Braces are devices that are used by an orthodontist to help correct a number of dental problems. These could include gaps in the teeth, overbite or underbite alignment issues or simply to make teeth straighter.

While many patients have braces placed during their childhood and teenage years, braces can also help adults achieve beautifully aligned teeth.

We've compiled all the important information you need to know about braces in our Ultimate Guide to Braces. Read on to find out more about this treatment!


Lightforce Braces

LightForce is a state-of-the-art technology that allows us to provide true custom treatment to each and every one of our patients. This personalized orthodontic 3D system customizes each bracket to fit every tooth perfectly. LightForce optimizes tooth movement, ensures comfort for our patients, and best of all, limits the time you need to spend in our office while getting the best treatment possible. Also, custom brackets can mean fewer emergency appointments for broken braces that don’t adhere as well to your teeth.

Lightforce braces allow our doctors to provide the top of the line, most up-to-date technology to our patients to help them obtain their orthodontic goals faster.

Let’s Smile Dental is proud to be one of the first providers in the state of Virginia.


Traditional Metal Braces

The most common type of braces, traditional metal braces are more comfortable today than ever before. Made of high-grade stainless steel, metal braces straighten your teeth using metal brackets and archwires. With metal braces, you have the option of adding colored elastics (rubber bands) to customize your smile. 

Braces have become much more attractive in the past decade, and they're also far easier to wear. As better bonding techniques have been introduced on the market, patients have more options to get the smile they desire.


Clear Braces

Clear braces are like conventional metal braces but with a clear bracket. These brackets are commonly made from clear materials such as ceramic and sapphire, making them less visible on your teeth than metal braces but use the same mechanism of pressure application as their metal counterpart

Being visually less prominent, clear braces help you retain your smile and go about your normal day-to-day activities without being self-conscious. You don’t have to worry about everyone noticing immediately that you have braces.


Self-Ligating Braces

The self-ligating braces are often referred to as speed braces. They work by attaching the archwire to the brackets through a removable metal piece. This helps to ensure that braces feel more comfortable and are more efficient. They do not use elastic, rubbers bands or metal ties. The special brackets allow more freedom in tooth movement, which can help to reduce the discomfort of traditional braces. On regular dental checkups, only a simple adjustment to the brackets is needed, which saves time and leads to less discomfort. In fact, when compared to traditional braces, you could cut your dental appointments by about 40%. If you are a person who wants braces but wants faster results and shorter appointment times, self-ligating braces are the perfect option.

More about braces

What Is the Braces Process Like ?

Initial Exam
Scheduling an initial braces exam can be scary for anyone at any age. Getting braces isn't a decision to take lightly, even when it's clear there are few other options. The best way to approach the initial exam is to think about it as a way to answer your questions. A dentist can tell you everything you'd want to know about how your teeth are positioned during this simple exam, and why you may want to consider treatment.

The best thing to do before you get to your dentist is to come armed with a list of questions and concerns. This is the time to go into detail about sensitivity, pain, or general discomfort. The dentist can tell you how your jaw, bite, teeth, and gums all work together, and how problems in one area can affect the development of others. The more you tell the dentist, the more likely it is they can recommend the right course of treatment for braces.

Placing The Braces
Braces are attached to your teeth in a very specific way. It is designed to use force to help pull and shift your teeth into the correct position. In order to ensure proper alignment and movement, the placement of corrective material on your teeth is essential. Thankfully, you’re working with an orthodontist with years of experience. Here are some of the steps that will occur when the material is placed onto your teeth.

Prepping Your Teeth
Before anything can be attached, your teeth must be prepped. This begins with a good cleaning. The teeth are cleaned and polished using a non-flavored cleaning paste. This will feel no different than a traditional dental cleaning at your dentist office. Following the cleaning, an object called a cheek retractor is placed into your mouth. This helps prevent saliva from building up around the teeth while the braces are attached. It also provides a better field of view for the staff.

Brace Prepping
Now that your teeth are prepped and ready for braces placement, the material is prepped. A bonding cement is placed onto the rear of each brace. This bonding cement will hold throughout the duration of the time you’re wearing them, but can be removed easily once the time comes.

With the cement on the braces, the brackets are positioned in specific locations on your teeth. Each is placed onto your teeth one at a time, with the excess cement removed. This keeps the material and your teeth clean. The cement will stick, but then a special blue light is used to cure the cement to your teeth. There are some cements that do not require any kind of light curing due to the use of chemicals, but typically a light based cement will be used.

Finishing Up
Once all of the brace brackets are applied to your teeth, the bands and wiring can be installed. The tightness applied to the bands and wiring will depend on the exact need of your teeth. Upon finishing with the tightening, you’ll be rinsed and cleaned off. When it is all said and done, you’re ready to leave with your new braces.

Removing The Braces
Removing your braces is a cause for celebration. You’ll have the straight and brilliant smile you’ve always wanted. You’ll also be happy to learn that getting your braces removed is not a difficult process. The material used to bond the brackets to your teeth is strong enough to allow your orthodontist to control their movement while still being easy to remove when the treatment is finished.

An Overview
First, it’s important to note that having your braces removed isn’t painful. You might, however, experience some discomfort and sensitivity during the process. During the actual removal of the brackets, certain areas, such as your lower front teeth, could experience sensitivity to the pressure needed to do so.

How Braces are Removed
During your appointment to have your braces removed, the dental team squeezes the bracket’s base so the bond is broken and the bracket comes off easily. In most cases, the separation between the brackets and the tooth occurs where they are glued together, leaving the adhesive still on your tooth. When removing your braces, this is the method preferred by orthodontists because it reduces the chance of damage to the tooth’s structure and enamel.

Removing the Adhesive
The process of removing the adhesive left behind on your teeth is typically painless. The dental team usually uses the same kind of hand-held dental instrument that is used by a general dentist to repair a cavity. While removing your braces, however, this instrument causes very minor discomfort. In fact, many people note that it feels more like a tickle rather than pain. Only the adhesive is being removed during this process with the tooth’s enamel remaining untouched.

After Removing Your Braces
It’s natural that your teeth and mouth will feel different after your braces are removed. Some patients note that their teeth feel slimy because they are used to the roughness of the braces. You might also notice that your gums are slightly inflamed and puffy. This usually goes away after a few days of flossing and brushing normally.

What is Life With Braces Like?

Wearing braces is a life-changing dental process you will not regret. The result of straight teeth that are not crowded and have the right bite pattern is certainly worth the months spent wearing orthodontic braces. Instead of dreading this time, create a positive mindset to embrace living life with braces. You can increase your confidence when wearing braces by smiling often and securely. Consider your new dental work as entrance into a select group of individuals who prize the health of their teeth as a reflection of their personal style. After the first week of slight discomfort, most wearers of braces hardly notice the difference.

What can I Eat With Braces?
When eating with braces, be careful to protect your teeth and braces. Eating certain foods can be damaging to braces or cause pain. And, the wires and brackets in braces create numerous tiny spaces under and between the bands and wires, making teeth more difficult to thoroughly clean. Below is information to help you focus on reducing your risk of damage to braces, pain, accelerated tooth decay, or permanent discoloration of teeth.

Choose Soft, Non-Sticky, Non-Chewy Foods.
Eat foods that are the least likely to cause damage to your braces or pain to your teeth. Steam your vegetables to make them softer to bite. Foods that are recommended for eating with braces include soup, mashed potatoes, yogurt, pasta, soft cheeses, soft meats (without bones) such as deli meats, chicken, and, meatballs, applesauce, pudding, bananas, seafoods (without bones) like fish or crab cakes, eggs, cooked beans, pancakes, soft breads, biscuits, muffins, ice cream or milkshake, and Jello.

Avoid Foods That May Damage Your Braces
Avoid sticky, chewy, hard, or crunchy foods. These can break, bend, or loosen the bands, wires or brackets of your braces, or cause pain, or prolong your need to wear braces. When eating with braces, avoid hard, thick, sticky, or chewy cookies and candy. Avoid nuts, sticky or crunchy peanut butter, apples or other raw hard vegetables or fruits (unless cut into very small pieces), chewy breads (unless torn into very small pieces), popcorn, and chewing gum.

Prevent Accelerated Tooth Decay
Teeth are more vulnerable to accelerated tooth decay from eating with braces, due to greater difficulty in thoroughly cleaning teeth. So, avoid high-sugar foods, like desserts and candies, and beverages such as sweet fruit juices, soda, lemonade, and sport’s drinks. Also, frequently consuming high-acid foods or beverages (like citrus fruits or soda) can damage tooth enamel. Additionally, try to avoid high-starch foods, such as French Fries and potato chips, which can stick to teeth around the braces, promoting tooth decay.

Brushing & Flossing With Braces
When you have braces, brushing and flossing can be a little more complicated, but it’s important to do a thorough job each day to keep the teeth clean and healthy. By properly brushing with braces, you can keep your teeth from becoming discolored around the braces. Proper flossing will ensure better gum health and keep food from being lodged between teeth and under the gums.

Getting Your Brushing Tools Together
When you have braces, the brackets and wires make the job a little challenging in the beginning. Brushing with braces often requires a regular toothbrush as well as a small, compact brush that can be fit in between the brackets. Some toothbrushes come with a raised area in the middle that is easier to fit over brackets. Compact brushes generally come with replacement heads that make them simple to change out after use. Flossing will require the use of floss picks to get under wires and in between teeth

Start With a Few Teeth
While most people are used to brushing many teeth at once, brushing with braces works a little differently. It’s important to brush only a couple of teeth at a time in order to clean all surfaces effectively. This may take a little more time, but it is much more effective. Be sure to brush each part of the tooth and to brush the areas around each bracket. Once each of your teeth has been brushed, you can move on to flossing to ensure that no food is left behind.

Flossing for Cleaner Teeth
Flossing with braces can be tricky at first, but using floss picks can make it easier. Simply use the pick to get in between each of your teeth and to get any remaining food away from the gum line. Floss picks are stiff enough that they can be threaded behind the wire of your braces and put in just the right places to dislodge any food particles. Seeing where to thread the pick in between the back teeth may take time at first, but it soon becomes easier.

Brushing and Flossing After Meals
Most people brush their teeth first thing in the morning and right before bed. However, brushing with braces and flossing with braces should be done after each meal. This is the best way to keep food from building up on the brackets and to keep food from compacting around your teeth. Get into the habit of having a toothbrush and floss picks with you wherever you go to make it easy to take care of your teeth after every meal.

Are Braces Painful?

Wearing braces places steady pressure on your teeth. This, in turn, forces the ligaments connecting your teeth to the jaw bone to slowly shift, allowing your teeth to move into a correct alignment. Due to this shift, you may experience mild pain during adjustments. While the pain is not overwhelming, it helps to know what you can expect.

What Causes the Pain?
While the shift in your teeth due to the movement of your ligaments allows for your teeth to move, this is not necessarily the source of the braces pain. In fact, it is not completely understood as to what exactly the pain is you are sensing. However, it typically is connected with blood flow to your teeth. The body releases different proteins and delivers these to your teeth, treating the shift as an injury, which can cause inflammation.

How Painful Will it Be?
This question regarding braces pain cannot be directly answered. This is because everyone experiences braces differently. The pain one person feels likely will not be the same as yours. With that said, it is important for you to have access to some pain medication to help reduce this feeling, should it increase. The best way to do this is by using an over the counter pain medication such as Tylenol or Advil, ideally, take a combination of the two for optimal pain relief.

Reduce the Chance of Pain
The movement in your teeth is what causes lingering pain. However, you can aid in causing the pain by eating hard foods. When you eat hard foods your teeth push down and compress the ligaments under the roots. These ligaments are already stretching, so the added compression can cause an increase in braces pain. Due to this, it is best to avoid consuming large amounts of hard food. If you're currently experiencing a heightened level of pain, look to eat softer foods (such as pasta or cooked veggies) for the time being.

What if I Develop Sores?
Sores may develop if the braces on your teeth continually rub on your gums and cheeks. If this ever happens it is best to rinse your mouth out with warm salt water rinses, then place a topical ointment (such as Orabase or Orajel) onto the sore to help restore the injured skin and reduce associated pain.

What about Sports & Braces Safety?

Sports-minded teens and adults can still enjoy their favorite sports and retain a straight, attractive smile. Sports and braces might seem like an unlikely combination but with the right orthodontic mouthguard, they don’t have to be. In addition to protecting the jaw, teeth, and gums, a mouthguard also offers protection for braces.

Mandatory Mouth Guards
Contact sports such as boxing, soccer, and football often require an orthodontic mouthguard to be worn. Even low-contact sports and casual play puts you at risk for injuries to the mouth, gums, and teeth. Contact with other players, as well as sports equipment like balls, bats and racquets can result in fractured tooth roots, chipped teeth, dental appliance damage, broken teeth, and other serious mouth injuries.

An Orthodontic Mouthguard Offers Protection for Braces
For the sports player wearing braces, damage of materials could require expensive treatment. Using the right mouth guard allows additional width and room for the braces as well as your gums and teeth. When in use, the mouth guard should be comfortable while still allowing you to breathe easily. Though there are mouthguards available to retail stores, those designed to accommodate braces aren’t able to be altered. Boil and bite mouthguards can be shaped to fit your mouth once the plastic is heated.

Custom-Fit Mouthguards
An orthodontic mouthguard is customized by your dentist to precisely fit your teeth, mouth and over-laying braces. Creating a custom-fit mouth guard means biting on a mold at the dentist’s office. This mold is then sent away to a dental appliance manufacturer who designs it to fit your mouth. The team coach should provide guidance concerning the type of mouthguard needed. In some instances, a dental appliance is only required for the upper teeth while other cases mandate one for the lower teeth as well.

How to Care for Mouth Guards
The proper care of the guard keeps fungi and bacteria at bay. Each time after taking them out, use a toothbrush to brush your mouth guard thoroughly with toothpaste. You can also use a solution that kills microbes or ask your dentist for their recommendations.

Protecting your braces while playing sports with a mouthguard is very important.

What Do You Do If You Have a Braces Emergencies?

Occasional problems with braces and other orthodontic appliances can lead to discomfort or injury. Even newly fitted orthodontic appliances such as braces can cause pain and discomfort. In most cases, home-based remedies can solve these problems. However, severe discomfort and injuries arising from breakages or malfunction of the braces require the services of an orthodontist. Below are some instances when you should see an emergency orthodontist for your braces emergency.

General Discomfort and Pain
It is normal to experience minor pain and discomfort following the application of braces. Remedies for relieving minor pain and discomfort include the use of over the counter pain relievers, drinking cold water, and use of an oral anesthetic spray. However, if you experience severe pain and discomfort, you should call an emergency orthodontist immediately so they can evaluate the fit and recommend any necessary medication.

Complications and Injury from Braces
While injuries arising from braces are quite rare, protruding wires can prick the inside of the mouth and lead to injury and mouth sores. Where possible, you can press the wires to align them. In severe cases, an emergency orthodontist is required to align the wire and reset the braces. You should not ignore any injury to your mouth from braces as the problem can become more severe.

Brace Malfunction
Loose wires and brackets can reduce the functionality and effectiveness of the braces, which may lead to a relapse of the original arch pattern. If your braces are too loose or start falling apart, you should see an orthodontist immediately to evaluate the problem.

Loose Expander Appliance
A rapid maxillary expander is a device that is used to widen the upper jaw. Apart from the discomfort that a loose expander can cause, you are at risk of losing the correction that has already been achieved by wearing it. You should, therefore, call an emergency orthodontist immediately if your maxillary expander becomes loose to get professional advice on what steps to take next.

Do I need a retainer after braces?

You should start wearing retainers as soon as you remove your braces to prevent your teeth from shifting out of alignment. You can get your retainer from a general dentist or from an orthodontist. During your visit, the orthodontist will make an impression of your straightened teeth and fabricate the retainer out of wire or acrylic material. Oftentimes, you will wear the retainer at night for the rest of your life. The two types of retainers after braces you can get are fixed and removable.

Fixed Retainers
This is made of a thin wire that is cemented to the back of the lower and upper teeth. The spaces between the wire and the teeth are usually hard to clean and must be done carefully using dental floss to avoid infection. Despite this disadvantage, the permanent retainers achieve better results because they hold the teeth permanently in place after the braces are removed.

Removable Retainers
These are made up of wires that go across the front and back of the teeth and held in place by hooks. Removable retainers are easier to clean and maintain. However, you have to remember to wear them for as long as you are directed by your dentist. The orthodontist may ask you to wear them throughout the day for the first few months. If no movement is detected after this period, they can ask you to wear them only at night, or for a few hours every day.

Functions of Retainers
The main purpose of retainers is to ensure that the patient’s teeth retain proper alignment. after braces are removed. The muscles and bones in the mouth are constantly growing and changing. These muscles and bones act like elastic rubber bands that pull the teeth in every direction, causing them to lose their alignment. A retainer will hold the teeth in place until the gum adapts to their newly aligned position.

Maintenance of After-Braces Retainers
Fixed retainers require regular maintenance and cleaning. You should, therefore, go to the dentist regularly so they can clean them and check if they are secure in place. Never use regular toothpaste to clean removable retainers because the toothpaste will destroy the acrylic surface and allow bacteria to grow. You should instead use a denture cleaning tablets. Remember to wear them as often as directed by your orthodontist.

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