If you are new to visiting the orthodontist to see if you need braces or if you are getting braces and want to know what to expect, you are likely to have questions. Read on to get the answers to common questions about braces and orthodontists.
Question: Do I need to see an orthodontist to get braces? My dentist said he can also do braces.
Answer: Dentists and orthodontists receive similar educations through undergraduate and doctoral school, but orthodontists are required to spend an additional two or three years in residency learning how to correct bad bites (malocclusions) and other alignment issues. This additional education also includes diagnosing whether a patient needs braces, which types of braces are best and most effective for their specific needs, and how to put them on and adjust them. Just as you would see a dentist to get your teeth cleaned or have a cavity filled, go to an orthodontist for braces and adjustments.
Question: Do braces hurt?
Answer: Modern technology has vastly improved the efficiency of braces as well as how they feel. These days, arch wires are very gentle—though no less effective—in slowly moving teeth into better positions, so while you may feel some tenderness and a little soreness after an adjustment, this soreness should diminish rapidly (within a couple hours or a couple days) and shouldn’t cause you the kind of discomfort that affects everything else in your life. If you are seriously in pain, contact your orthodontist immediately to find out what it causing it and how it can be fixed (a loose wire that is poking your cheek or gum or a bracket that has shifted can sometimes cause pain).
Question: How long will I have braces?
Answer: That answer depends entirely on your personal circumstances. Your orthodontist will be able to estimate the length of time you will need braces based on your specific bite/alignment correction needs and his or her expertise in how long that situation will take to be resolved. Some people have braces for a few months, and some need them for a year or longer.
Question: Are there braces that are invisible or not as visible as standard metal brackets?
Answer: There are some types of braces that are either invisible or very hard for others to see. Lingual braces are braces that are attached to the back sides of your teeth instead of the front. These braces cannot be seen by others. Plastic braces that fit over your teeth (such as Invisalign® braces) are clear and can be removed when you eat or clean your teeth. Your orthodontist will tell you if these types of braces will work for your situation.
If standard front braces are the most effective for you, you can opt for ceramic brackets. Ceramic brackets blend with the color of your teeth, and while others will be able to see the arch wires, the braces as a whole will be far less visible than standard metal brackets and wires.
Question: What foods are not okay to eat with braces?
Answer: While you won’t have to change your eating habits too much, there are some foods that can damage your braces and should be avoided. In general, you should avoid sticky foods like caramels; very crispy or crunchy foods like hard pretzels or whole raw vegetables and fruits (don’t stop eating vegetables and fruits, though! Just cut them into bite-sized pieces before eating); foods that leave bits behind to get stuck under brackets and between teeth, such as popcorn; and gum, whether or not it’s sugarless.
You should also avoid foods or habits that will stain your teeth. Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause tooth stains that are more apparent after braces come off. Also try to avoid red and white wine, black tea, and dark colas. If you do eat or drink something that can stain your teeth, brush immediately after.
Question: How hard is it to keep my braces clean?
Answer: Once you get some practice and develop some new habits, keeping your teeth and braces clean won’t take much extra time than you already spend on correctly brushing and flossing. Because brackets provide extra places for plaque to accumulate, try brushing your teeth after every meal; however, at least twice a day (morning and night) is recommended. You can use either a regular toothbrush or an electric toothbrush that has soft bristles.
It is also very important to floss between your teeth once a day. Your orthodontist will show you how to floss under arch wires.
Question: Can I choose the colors of my braces?
Answer: Unless you have chosen ceramic braces, metal brackets will be a stainless steel color. You can, however, choose the colors of the tiny elastic bands that attach to the brackets. These bands usually get changed every four to six weeks, so you can switch up colors or color combinations every time you get the bands changed. Ask your orthodontist for a color wheel to see your options.
Question: How expensive are braces?
Answer: That answer largely depends on what type of braces you will get and how long you will need to wear them. Traditional metal braces are the least expensive (and also work the fastest!), with costs rising for ceramic braces, lingual braces, and invisible braces. Many orthodontists offer payment plans, or you can get financing from companies like CareCredit.
Question: Will I need to wear a retainer after I get my braces off?
Answer: Yes. Once your teeth have been successfully realigned, they will want to move back into their old places unless you use a retainer. How often you must wear your retainer is something your orthodontist will tell you, but if you don’t want to waste the time and money of having had braces, wear your retainer!