When you visited your orthodontist, he advised you that you need to have your teeth appropriately aligned. He gave you options on how to orthodontically correct your teeth alignment and bite. Although your orthodontist already explained it, you still feel unsure as to how they work. Let us help you understand and answer ‘how do braces work?’ by also knowing what they are and what they are for.
How do braces work: What are dental braces?
Dental braces are wired metal appliances that dentists and orthodontists use to effectively correct crooked or misaligned teeth. Dental professionals also use them to correct jaw alignment. Many patients who have misaligned teeth tend to fix them with braces during their teenage years, but nowadays, it seems that more and more adults also turn to braces to properly align their teeth and improve their smile.
How do braces work: What are braces for?
Orthodontists who prescribed dental braces to their patients find that they correct:
- Overcrowded and crooked-looking teeth
- Irregular teeth spacing and gaps in between teeth
- Overlapping upper front teeth (overbite or overjet) where they already cover the lower teeth
- Underbite (upper front teeth biting behind the lower teeth)
- Jaw misalignment that causes an uneven bite
How do braces work: When is the best time for braces?
Dentists and orthodontists alike recommend undergoing an orthodontic correction during your early teenage years (8-14 years old), when your facial bones are still growing. This makes the repositioning easier and faster. But adults, whose facial bones are already mature and have stopped growing, can still benefit from orthodontic braces. However, expect that the procedure may take longer.
How do braces work: How is it done?
Once you and your dentist or orthodontist agreed that dental braces are the answer to your orthodontic issue, exams and images of your dental cavity are obtained. He would require panoramic and head x-rays, mould impressions, and pictures of your face, smile, and teeth as a baseline reference. If needed, your dentist might extract one or more teeth depending on how overcrowded they look.
Orthodontic treatment with dental braces happens in three phases – the placement, adjustment, and maintenance.
The placement. After thoroughly cleaning your teeth, stainless steel or tooth-coloured ceramic brackets are attached either to the front (traditional or ceramic braces) or to the back (lingual braces) surfaces of the teeth. Steel molar bands act as support for the archwire that connects all the brackets together. This archwire is the one responsible for moving the teeth in the right direction through precise and systematic adjustments of its tightness. Other appliances to help the movement of the teeth include the use of small rubber bands to secure the wires and larger ones to aid with repositioning.
The adjustment. Your orthodontist makes periodic modification or tightening of the archwire to apply pressure to the teeth and gradually correct their position. Your jaw also responds to this movement and adjusts to the new positioning of the teeth. This manipulation happens at least every 3-4 weeks, so expect a monthly visit to your dentist and allow him to monitor your treatment progress and readjust your dental braces accordingly. This treatment procedure may take 1-2 years to complete, depending on the level of correction you need.
The maintenance. Once your teeth are correctly aligned, your orthodontist may require the use of dental retainers to maintain the position of your teeth until your jaws fully readjust to it. The failure to use retainers may result in a relapse of the misalignment, and your orthodontic treatment may be deemed useless. Discuss with your dentist about this orthodontic appliance so you would know how to properly maintain your newly straightened teeth
Now that you are armed with this knowledge about dental braces, we hope that you are more confident in correcting your teeth and jaw alignment through this orthodontic appliance. It is never too early nor too late to achieve that beautiful smile you have always wanted.