Before placing braces on your teeth you will need a check-up for decay or gum problems. Do visit your dentist or the School Dental Clinic regularly, even when you are on braces.
Braces can be fixed or removable.
Fixed braces consist of brackets and bands bonded or cemented to your teeth (to get a hold of them) and very thin metal wires that gently push your teeth into their right positions.
The wire is tied into the brackets with a steel ligature or a coloured plastic ring. Some brackets have clips to hold the wires and no ties are needed. Brackets can be made of metal or tooth-coloured ceramic or plastic. Ordinary fixed braces are bonded to the front of your teeth. There are also braces that can be bonded on the back of your teeth (lingual braces).
Removable braces are sometimes used when you are still growing or if you still have baby teeth left. Functional removable braces are used to change jaw growth to normalise your bite.
First Visit: X-rays, photos and impressions for plaster study models of your teeth are taken. Your orthodontist will plan your treatment using these records. Very often, permanent teeth are removed when they are crowded and there is not enough space in the jaws for all of them. The extractions are done just before or just after the fitting of your braces.
Second Visit: Your orthodontist will explain the treatment plan and the braces suitable for your condition. Before braces are fitted, separators (small plastic ‘doughnuts’) are placed between your molars for a week to create spaces for the molar bands.
Third and Fourth Visits: Bands are cemented and brackets are bonded to the front of your teeth.
Subsequent Visits: (Every 4 to 8 weeks) Adjustments are made to the braces by way of wire-changes, adding springs, elastics or other accessories.
NOTE: Accessories are necessary to make your braces work. Elastics are often used to get your upper and lower teeth to bite together properly. Facemasks, headgear or biteplates are sometimes used with fixed braces. It is very important to use all accessories exactly as you have been told, if not, progress of the treatment stops and may in some cases, reverse.
When treatment is completed: Your fixed braces will be removed at a debanding appointment, followed by removal of cement and the polishing of your teeth. Moulds of your teeth in their new positions are taken to make retainers. After your braces are removed, you will need retainers to hold your teeth in their new positions for the next few years.
The normal period of treatment with fixed braces is two to three years. You will need to make time every 4 – 8 weeks to visit your orthodontist regularly if you wish your treatment to finish well and on time.
Speech: With regular fixed braces, speech is normally not affected at all. However, if your condition requires a palatal expander appliance to be fitted at the roof of your mouth, this may interfere with your speech. If you have lingual braces, you will take some time to learn to speak properly with the braces.
Eating and diet restrictions: Eating hard food or biting on large pieces of food may dislodge the brackets or bands and damage the wires. Avoid eating nuts and biting on nails or pencils. Do cut hard fruits into small and thin pieces before eating them. Avoid food and drinks with high sugar content such as sweets and soft drinks.
Brushing with braces: With braces on, your teeth are more difficult to clean. Do not leave food on your braces. Brushing your teeth properly after every snack and meal will reduce the risk of decay and gum disease. In addition, five minutes of brushing is needed every morning and night. Have your toothbrush available to brush after meals as well as at your orthodontic visits. You can use disclosing solution to check if your teeth are clean. You will need to replace your toothbrush more often as it will wear out faster.
Playing musical instruments: If you play a musical instrument with a mouthpiece, it will take you one to two weeks before you become as skilful as before.