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Braces 101

What are Braces Like?

Today's braces are more comfortable and less noticeable than ever. Although it can vary by situation, most people wear braces for 1-3 years. After the braces come off, you'll need to wear a retainer to keep your smile in its new great shape.

Which Braces Should I get?

  • Metal braces are the traditional, highly effective way of straightening teeth. Some wrap around the teeth, while others are glued to the surface.
  • Self-ligating brackets have recently become popular with kids and adults alike. These use a spring clip to hold in the wires, rather than ties and chains.
  • Ceramic brackets are made of a crystalline, composite, or glass material. These have been made more durable with new technology.

Caring For Your Braces And Retainers

After you eat with braces, you'll discover that food has a way of getting into every nook and cranny. This can lead to stained teeth or plaque buildup, so you need to brush well after every meal or snack. Some orthodontists also recommend using a fluoride mouthwash, which can help get to those crannies a toothbrush can't reach.

When you've begun wearing retainers, make sure to brush them every time you brush your teeth. In addition, once a day or week soak them in a denture cleanser to disinfect them. Simply put the cleanser and retainer in a cup of warm water to soak. Rinse the retainer well before placing it back in your mouth.

Brushing And Flossing Is Different With Braces

To Brush:

  • Make sure to use a regular soft toothbrush.
  • Brush down from the top and then up from the bottom on each tooth with braces.
  • Follow up with a proxabrush or 'Christmas tree' brush, which is specially designed for cleaning between two braces brackets.
  • Insert the proxabrush down from the top and then up from the bottom between two braces. Use several strokes in each direction until all teeth have been cleaned.

To Floss:

  • First, feed the short end of the floss through the space between the main arch wire and the upper portion of the tooth closest to the gum.
  • Use a gentle sawing motion to work the floss on each side of the two teeth the floss is between.
  • Be careful not to pull with too much force around the arch wire.

What To Avoid When Wearing Braces

You can still eat most foods with braces, but here are a few big no-nos that can break or loosen your brackets:

  • Hard or tough to bite foods, such as apples or bagels
  • Chewy foods, such as taffy or caramels
  • Corn on the cob
  • Hard pretzels, popcorn, nuts, and carrots
  • Ice or bubble gum

Playing Sports with Braces

Since there is always a possibility of getting it in the mouth while playing sports, it's recommended that you wear a mouthguard. Mouthguards are made of durable plastic and are designed to fit comfortably over braces to protect the soft tissues inside the mouth.

When Braces Break

Broken braces, brackets, loose bands, or protruding wires rarely require emergency treatment, but you do want to quickly set up a visit with your orthodontist to fix the problem. If you suffer a more severe mouth or facial injury, seek immediate help.

Here's what to do until you see your orthodontist:

  • Loose brackets: Apply a small piece of orthodontic wax to temporarily reattach loose brackets, or place wax over the bracket to provide a cushion for your gums and mouth.
  • Loose bands: These will need to be replaced or re-cemented into place. Save the band and schedule an appointment for your orthodontist to repair it.
  • Protruding or broken wire: Use an eraser end of a pencil to move the wire to a less bothersome position. If you can't move it out of the way, apply a small amount of orthodontic wax over the protruding end. If a mouth sore develops, rinse your mouth with warm salt water or an antiseptic rinse. An over-the-counter dental anesthetic can also be applied to numb the area. Do not attempt to cut the wire, because you might accidentally swallow it or inhale it into your lungs.
  • Loose spacers: These will need to be repositioned or replaced if they slip or fall out completely.

What To Keep An Eye Out For

Because braces and retainers come in contact with the inside of your mouth, you may be more prone to developing canker sores. If this happens, your orthodontist or dentist can recommend a solution to reduce the pain and help heal the sore.