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Teen’s Guide to Braces


At some point in your childhood or adolescence, you might hear your dentist mention braces as an option for straightening your teeth. Although braces can be a challenge, it’s important to see them as a short-term investment in your long-term oral health. The treatment plan for braces will be based on your individual needs, and your dentist and orthodontist should be able to estimate how long you’ll have braces. Learning about braces can help you prepare for the process.

Types of Braces

Orthodontists use several different types of braces, depending on the needs of their patients. The type of braces you get will depend on your teeth, your orthodontist, and your budget. Standard braces are made of metal brackets with wires that stretch along teeth. As treatment proceeds, the orthodontist adjusts the wires to move the teeth into alignment. Ceramic braces are similar to metal braces, except the hardware is tinted to match the color of your teeth so they’re less noticeable. Lingual braces are another type of metal braces, except these brackets are placed on the backs of the teeth so they’re less visible. Finally, a special type of plastic aligner might be custom-fitted for your teeth to align them.

Different Hardware

The orthodontia process typically involves more hardware than just the braces. Some patients need to have a transpalatal bar fitted to the roof of the mouth to widen the dental arch before proceeding to braces. If you have a deep overbite, you might need a bite plate to correct this before braces. Metal braces consist of bands that surround the back teeth, brackets cemented to other tooth surfaces, wires, rubber bands, ligatures, and possibly coil springs between brackets to create extra space. After your braces come off, it’s common to be fitted for a fixed retainer to keep your teeth from moving. You might also have a removable retainer.

Hygiene and Cleaning Braces

Good oral hygiene becomes even more important when you have braces because plaque can build up quickly around the hardware if you don’t brush properly. Try to brush your teeth after every time you eat to remove food that gets trapped around your braces. Ask your orthodontist or dentist for a special cleaning device that’s designed to clean in between your brackets and wires. You’ll need a floss threader to get the floss between the wires and your teeth. Remember to see your dentist regularly for checkups when you have your braces on, too.

Eating With Braces

Most kids adjust to life with braces without much hassle. You’ll be able to eat many of your favorite foods, but you’ll need to be careful to make sure that you don’t damage the hardware. Avoid eating sticky and very chewy foods such as gum and candy, and don’t eat hard and crunchy foods such as raw carrots and popcorn. Right after you get your braces on and after every orthodontist appointment, your teeth will be a little tender while they adjust to the tightened wires. On these days, try eating foods that don’t need much chewing, such as smoothies, soup, and yogurt.

Common Issues With Braces

Expect to take a little time to get used to your braces; the strange feelings will pass before you know it. Some patients have trouble with tongue or cheek irritation around the brackets. Orthodontists usually give patients special wax to place over the brackets to protect the inside of your mouth. Don’t worry if you swallow the wax; it’s not harmful. If you have a lot of pain after having the wires tightened, you might take an over-the-counter pain reliever. If your hardware or any part of the braces becomes dislodged between appointments, call your orthodontist as soon as possible to have the issue fixed.

Facts and Questions

Patients often have lots of questions about braces. One of the first questions you might have is about whether there are any other alternatives to braces: Generally, if you want a stunning smile, you’ll have to go through the process of braces. Most kids get braces sometime before age 14, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. In fact, adults can get braces, too. Be sure to write down any questions you have as they occur to you so you can get answers from your orthodontist.

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