What Is "Orthodontics," And Why
Do People Get Braces?
Orthodontics is a special discipline of dentistry concerned with
aligning the teeth and jaws to improve one's smile and oral health.
"Ortho" means correct or straight, and "Odont"
A dentist usually recommends braces to improve the patient's physical
"orofacial" appearance. Through orthodontic treatment,
problems like crooked or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites,
incorrect jaw position and disorders of the jaw joints are corrected.
When is the right time for braces?
Patients with orthodontic problems can benefit from treatment at
nearly any age. An ideal time for placement of braces is between
10 and 14 years of age, while the head and mouth are still growing
and teeth are more accessible to straightening. However, because
any adjustments in facial appearance can be traumatic to a child
during these sensitive years, parents should discuss the matter
with their children before braces are applied.
And braces aren't just for kids. More and more adults are also wearing
braces to correct minor problems and to improve their smiles.
What kind of braces will I have to wear?
Your dentist will know what appliance is best for your particular
problem, but the patient often has a choice. Braces generally come
in three varieties: The most popular type are brackets, metal or
plastic, that are bonded to teeth and are far less noticeable. The
"lingual" type of braces are brackets that attach to the
back of teeth, hidden from view. Bands are the old-fashioned type
that cover most of your teeth with metal bands that wrap around
the teeth. All use wires to move the teeth to the desired position.
How long will I have to wear braces?
That depends upon your treatment plan. The more complicated your
spacing or bite problem is, and the older you are, the longer the
period of treatment, usually. Most patients can count on wearing
full braces between 18 and 30 months, followed by the wearing of
a retainer for at least a few months to set and align tissues surrounding
Will treatment be uncomfortable?
The interconnecting wires are tightened at each visit, bearing mild
pressure on the brackets or bands to shift teeth or jaws gradually
into a desired position. Your teeth and jaws may feel slightly sore
after each visit, but the discomfort is brief. Keep in mind also
that some teeth may need to be extracted to make room for teeth
being shifted with braces and for proper jaw alignment.
Do I have to avoid any foods or personal habits?
Yes. Cut down on sweets, chips and pop. Sugary and starchy foods
generate acids and plaque that can cause tooth decay and promote
Cut healthy, hard foods like carrots or apples into smaller pieces.
Sticky, chewy sweets like caramel can cause wire damage and loosen
brackets. Avoid hard and crunchy snacks that can break braces, including
popcorn, nuts and hard candy. More dont's: ice cube chewing, thumb
sucking, excessive mouth breathing, lip biting and pushing your
tongue against your teeth.
What about home care of my teeth with braces?
With braces, oral hygiene is more important than ever. Braces have
tiny spaces where food particles and plaque get trapped. Brush carefully
after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Rinse thoroughly and check your teeth in the mirror to make sure
they're clean. Take time to floss between braces and under wires
with the help of a floss threader. Have your teeth cleaned every
six months to keep your gums and teeth healthy. Insufficient cleaning
while wearing braces can cause enamel staining around brackets or
Who will provide my orthodontic treatment?
Your family general dentist is responsible for coordinating your
dental treatment, and this could encompass any orthodontic treatment
plan, including diagnosis, examinations and some orthodontic procedures.
Your dentist may, however, refer you to an "orthodontist"-a
specialist trained in the development, prevention and correction
of irregularities of the teeth, bite and jaws and related facial