Braces can result in a radical change in appearance for many of our patients – a beautiful smile. But there is an investment of time and attention that is required for a successful treatment and properly aligned teeth and bites. So what are you getting yourself into? In this Life with Braces video (8 minutes), Dr. Lofgren answers many of the questions about braces and the next few months of your orthodontic treatment.
How often do I need to see the orthodontist?
For most patients in braces we will schedule appointments every 6-8 weeks. Sometimes your braces are adjusted and sometimes the orthodontist changes wires, but each time the braces are tightened, your teeth are pushed a little closer to where your teeth need to be. We may install rubber bands sometimes during your treatment or ask you to wear a facebow. Rubber bands and facebows are used to make your teeth in your lower jaw line up with your teeth in your upper jaw.
During orthodontic treatment, the orthodontist stretches your jaw and moves around your teeth so that everything fits. If the orthodontist would try to move your teeth all at once, it would hurt too much, and it might damage the roots of your teeth. Generally, we will design a treatment plan that allows braces to move your teeth slowly to avoid too much discomfort. Still, we do have to move your teeth. Every time you have your braces adjusted, the orthodontist moves your teeth a little bit. Then we wait for your teeth, jaw and gums to shift, before we start moving your teeth again.
Certain treatments will require patients to see the orthodontist on a more frequent interval. For example, after an expander is started we may ask the patient to schedule appointments for two consecutive weeks so we can guide the expansion process properly. Other types of treatment will allow for greater amounts of time between appointments. We may see patients every two months while directing jaw growth, or every six months if the patient is wearing a more static appliance or a retainer.
How will braces affect my diet?
With braces you can eat most of the good things that you can eat now. The one big limitation is that your mouth will get sore after you first get braces, so we recommend that you only eat softer foods for the first week. However, after that, you should be able to eat normally.
Generally speaking, you should not eat hard sticky, gooey or crunchy foods. Caramel, Laffy Taffy, Jolly Ranchers, etc., can stick on your braces and pull the braces off your teeth. You also need to be careful with crunchy foods like carrots and apples and hard rolls so that you do not knock your braces off your teeth.
Gum is also usually not recommended. The gum can get caught on the braces and pull the braces off. Also the sugar in the gum can get trapped behind the braces and cause cavities.
If a bracket happens to come off the orthodontist will attach it again. Usually, this is no big deal, although if it happens lots of times, your orthodontic treatment will take longer.
Try to avoid these types of foods:
- Chewy foods (bagels, licorice)
- Crunchy foods (popcorn, ice chips)
- Sticky foods (caramels, taffy)
- Hard foods (nuts, candy)
- Foods you bite into directly (corn on the cob, carrots)
Do braces require extra oral hygiene?
Brushing and flossing is really important when you have braces because food can get caught in the braces and cause cavities. This can also lead to bad breath, which nobody wants. You should brush and floss your teeth after every meal and before you go to bed. You may want to brush with a special fluoride gel to make sure that you do not get any cavities.
The first week after getting your braces on, your teeth can feel a bit sensitive when brushing. This is normal. After the first week brushing is fine. Flossing is a little harder. However, a water pik works great. There are also special brushes and floss designed to clean around your braces. You can ask the orthodontist for some. Also, you can ask one of the assistants for help flossing every time you get your braces tightened. Each of the assistants is specially trained and can do a great job helping you keep your teeth clean.
Can I still play sports with my braces?
Of course, you can! We recommend an athletic mouthguard for any contact sports (including basketball) but a properly fitted mouthguard is especially important for people who have braces. A blow to the face while playing sports could damage the brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances. A mouth protector also provides a barrier between the braces and your cheek or lips, limiting the risk of soft tissue injuries. We have a few different kind of mouthguards to choose from so we can help you find one that will work best for you. We want you to stay safe while you have braces and are in orthodontic treatment.
What about retainers?
The retainer keeps your teeth in perfect alignment after braces are removed so you keep a beautiful smile as your mouth grows. Each patient puts in a lot of hard work creating a wonderful smile and stable bite – the retainer is important to keep it all there! Usually, when braces are first removed, your teeth will all be in perfect alignment, and your smile is excellent. However, your gums, bones, etc will not have completely shifted into their new positions.
The retainer holds your teeth in position until your gums, bones etc. settle in to their new positions. At the end of your orthodontic treatment your smile will be wonderful and your will look terrific. You need to wear your retainer to keep everything looking great. Also, you are still growing after your braces are removed. Sometimes, your mouth will grow unevenly. If so a retainer can be used to make sure your teeth stay perfect as you grow.
You will need to initially wear the retainer 24 hours a day as prescribed by the orthodontist (typically 3 months), gradually cutting back to 1 or 2 nights a week. Many patients will have a fixed retainer bonded behind some of their front teeth to help in long-term stability.