What are braces?
Braces are dental devices that apply a constant gentle force on the teeth in a particular controlled direction in order to slowly align misaligned teeth. These gradually change the structure of the supporting bone to bring the teeth in their correct position. Brackets come in a range of materials. They can be ceramic, plastic, or metal, and they can be colored or clear.
Improper teeth alignment is a leading cause of people seeking orthodontic aid. There are many different types of dental braces that are used by orthodontists for improving the alignment of the front teeth. The types differ in terms of the material they are made up of and their appearance. Each of the types has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Types of dental braces
Traditional metal braces
Traditional metal braces are among the first-ever developed dental braces. These are made up of metallic wires and brackets that are fixed onto teeth to allow their positioning to be altered gradually over time.
A type of cement is used to attach the metal brackets onto the teeth and an archwire passes through these brackets to apply pressure on the teeth and move them into their correct position slowly. Small elastics known as O-rings or ligatures fix the wire onto the brackets. Your orthodontist will change these O-rings whenever your braces need to be tightened.
These metal braces are ideal solutions for people of all ages and help achieve straight teeth smoothly. A new type of metal braces has been introduced with heat-activated archwires. These wires use the heat in the mouth to allow for the alignment of the teeth.
Self-ligating braces are more or less identical to the traditional metal braces. The only difference is that they make use of clips rather than elastic bands to fix the wires to the brackets. This feature makes it easier to clean because there is less friction between the braces and teeth.
The self-ligating braces are similar to traditional braces in terms of effectiveness and may even allow a more accurate teeth alignment. The only drawback is that they are more expensive though they are equally visible on the outside.
Ceramic braces are braces made up of ceramic and similar to traditional metal braces in shape and size. The ceramic material is used because the color is similar to that of natural teeth and this makes them less noticeable and more aesthetic. These are similar in terms of effectiveness to the traditional metal braces but their aesthetic appeal makes them more favorable among adults in need of orthodontic care.
A problem with this type of braces is that the elastics may get discolored over time and this can cause makes on the teeth. When using such braces, your orthodontist might recommend the use of fluoride-based products to avoid cavity formation.
Lingual braces, like the traditional metallic braces, are also made up of metal. The only difference is that these are fixed on the inside of teeth, unlike traditional braces. This makes them less visible on the outside and hence makes them a preference among adults. Unfortunately, however, these are less effective than traditional metal braces and can take much longer to align the teeth properly.
The fact that they are fixed on the inside of teeth makes them much more uncomfortable as well as the tongue will frequently have to touch them. This also makes it harder to clean.
The latest and most distinct type of braces developed is Invisalign. Unlike most other braces, these do not involve wires or brackets at all. Instead, they make use of custom-made plastic aligners that fit perfectly on the teeth. These are customized for each patient.
These aligners are replaced regularly every two weeks and a patient usually requires 18-30 replacements throughout their treatment period. Invisalign is a very popular option among patients because these are nearly invisible.
The best feature of these aligners is that they are removable so it allows for greater freedom of eating and drinking than traditional braces.
However, these are also much more expensive options and are effective only against minor or moderate teeth alignment problems.
Care needed for braces
Wearing braces complicates oral care for patients as they increase the number of crevices that need to be cleaned. Regular brushing becomes all the more important in order to avoid the build-up of plaque between braces and teeth.
Patients wearing non-removable braces like traditional metal braces, cannot eat hard and sticky foods as hard substances can damage the braces while sticky food gets stuck in them. Your orthodontist will guide you as to the number of times you need to brush, floss, and whether you need cleaning aids.
Pain associated with wearing retainers
In general, the pain caused by braces is short-lived and very soon your gums get used to the slight pressure. Usually, the patient reports discomfort when the braces are first worn or installed, and when they are adjusted. For up to three to five days, the teeth may be sore and tender when biting pressure is applied.
There is also a possibility of the lips, tongue, cheeks to feel irritated by the contact with the braces for up to one or two weeks. This pain is normally manageable and taking occasional pain medication can help for any unusual headaches. Other than this, there is rarely any complication leading to severe pain.
Use of retainers
Once the braces have been removed, you need to wear retainers for a certain amount of time to ensure that the teeth do not shift out of position. Retainers hold the teeth in their new and correctly aligned position until the bone structure and gums get fixed in their new position.
Wearing retainers according to the given instruction is strongly recommended because otherwise, your treatment may go to waste. If you want the change to last for a lifetime, you are strongly advised to wear retainers as suggested by your orthodontist.