Just like prom, a driver’s license, and the first date, braces seem to be a rite of passage for many of today’s youth. However, braces aren’t just for the young: they can provide a healthier, straighter smile at any age. With advances in orthodontics, the process of wearing braces is easier and has more options than ever before.
Types of Braces
Anyone considering braces today has two options for orthodontic treatment: traditional, semi-permanent braces and the newer, removable Invisalign braces. Each orthodontic system has its own pros and cons, and a board-certified orthodontist will be able to select the product that is best for your age and required dental outcome.
Traditional braces are placed on the wearer’s teeth with a semi-permanent adhesive; arch wire is run through the individual braces and then adjusted in order to achieve the desired tooth alignment. These types of braces are generally the least expensive, though they are also the most visible.
Traditional braces are now offered with metal or ceramic brackets which allows for further customization. The metal brackets can be dressed up with colored brackets, a feature that younger wearers of braces love. The ceramic brackets are less obvious as they are made of clear, white or bone colored ceramic. Some orthodontists even offer tooth-colored arch wire to make the finished product less obvious.
For those who need traditional braces but want them to be unseen, lingual braces are a third option. These use the same brackets, arch wire, and bands are the other two traditional options; however, lingual brackets are placed on the inside of the teeth, closest to the tongue and roof of the mouth. While these braces offer a low profile way to wear braces, they are often more difficult to clean and can be uncomfortable. Furthermore, lingual braces take longer than the other traditional braces to clean and adjust.
The most up-to-date way to wear braces, an Invisalign system can straighten your teeth without calling attention to your braces. Unlike traditional systems, these braces do not have brackets, arch wires, or bands. Instead, your orthodontist makes a series of slightly changing trays that you trade out over the course of your treatment. Most trays are replaced every two weeks, though your individual treatment will be determined by your orthodontist. The Invisalign trays are made of clear plastic and are so transparent that many casual passersby will not even know that you’re wearing a tooth alignment apparatus. These braces can be taken out for cleaning or eating, but the best results require the wearer to be diligent in his or her usage.
Who Should Wear Braces?
Braces are available to treat a variety of issues from the cosmetic straightening of teeth to the correction of structural issues. Braces are often used to correct overbites, underbites, and malocclusions. An orthodontist can help direct you to the proper braces system for your oral issues but, in general, traditional braces are used in situations where more elaborate shifting of the teeth is required.
Both adults and youth can benefit from wearing braces. While anyone of any age can wear either traditional braces or Invisalign, most children are given traditional braces. Since these cannot be removed except by an orthodontist, children are more likely to complete their treatment and receive the desired result. Responsible teenagers and adults are the primary focus for the Invisalign system, as the wearer must not lose the trays and must remember to wear them for the majority of the day and night.
The Process of Wearing Braces
While everyone’s experience wearing braces will be slightly different, most wearers follow a similar process. During your early consultations, you will speak with your orthodontist about your dental issues and your options for treatment. At this time, you will determine which of the braces systems is correct for your course of treatment.
- When you’ve chosen a traditional or an Invisalign system, the orthodontist will take x-rays and molds of your mouth. These early elements of treatment allow your doctor to custom fit braces to your mouth.
- Next, your orthodontist will begin the application phase. If you’ve chosen traditional braces, the brackets, arch wires, and bands will be placed. If you’ve chosen Invisalign, you’ll receive your first tray. It’s not uncommon to experience soreness or tightness in your teeth and gums at this time; your braces are beginning to loosen the teeth in your jaw so they may be realigned.
- Your wearing time is based on the severity of your dental issues and on the desired results. Most people wear their braces, on average, two and a half years, though multiple factors can affect this timeline. During this time, you will visit your orthodontist often (three to four weeks for traditional braces wearers and every two weeks for Invisalign wearers) for check-ups and alignment adjustments.
- When your orthodontist is satisfied with your new alignment, he or she will schedule your removal appointment. This appointment is more drastic for traditional braces wearers as they have not seen their teeth in many months! At this appointment, you may need to take molds for your retainer. This retainer is removable, but ensures that your teeth have not shifted.
Usually, your orthodontist will schedule follow up visits to determine how your teeth are doing in their new alignment; he or she will also check to see if you are wearing your retainer.