Getting braces is a decision that will affect your mouth for a lifetime, so it’s important to be ready for the commitment to caring for your teeth for the duration of your orthodontic treatment, which can last one to three years for most people.
It is normal to experience some apprehension about getting braces, especially if this will be your first time wearing them. The best way to ease your anxiety is to make sure to do your research and ask questions. Reading about other people’s experiences with braces can give you insights into a patient’s point of view. While you can research online, be sure to talk to your orthodontist about any concerns you have or any aspects of the treatment you don’t fully understand.
Finally, stock up on items you will need ahead of time, and make a plan for how you will navigate some of the important changes that come with wearing braces.
Consider Your Options
Modern technology has significantly expanded the orthodontic treatments available to you. Whereas the type of braces used to be the same for everyone, multiple options now exist. Your orthodontist will help you select the best type for you based on your treatment needs and preferences.
Traditional metal brackets are the oldest of the types available today and still the ones that most people picture when they think about braces. Brackets are attached to each of the teeth, with an archwire connecting the brackets. At adjustment appointments, the orthodontist tightens the wire to place force on the teeth. This is often the least expensive orthodontic option but also is the most noticeable. However, modern brackets are smaller than the ones of decades past, and modern archwires use body heat to help teeth move more quickly and with less pain than before.
Ceramic braces use brackets and wires that are clear or tooth-colored to make them less noticeable. However, with decreased detectability comes increased cost. Additionally, the elastics are prone to staining, especially if you don’t stay regimented about your oral hygiene, or you are a coffee or tea drinker.
Clear aligners are nearly invisible and they also are removable for eating, drinking and cleaning your teeth, which makes them a convenient option as well. However, aligners will only be suitable for mild-to-moderate dental problems, and they may potentially lengthen treatment time. Clear aligners are also expensive to replace if lost.
Finally, lingual braces are similar to traditional braces but are placed behind the teeth, making them totally invisible. However, their placement also makes them harder to clean. They work as fast and efficiently as traditional braces, but they can cause some difficulties with speech. Like clear aligners, lingual braces are not appropriate for patients needing severe correction. They also tend to be the most expensive option.
Do Your Hygiene Homework
If you haven’t already done so, making sure you are on track with your routine dental visits for checkups and cleanings is good preparation for braces. You still will visit your regular dentist throughout your orthodontic care, and making sure your teeth and gums are clean and healthy is important to do before the braces are applied.
Keeping your teeth clean will be more challenging if you’re wearing brackets, especially when it comes to flossing. You will have to meticulously thread the floss under and over your wires to reach the gums. You also can purchase a floss threader that will help make this process a bit easier. Alternatively, you can use a water flosser or an interdental brush, which you insert at the gum line below the wire.
While you are wearing braces, it will be important to carry a hygiene kit with you to work or school each day, as well as when you will be away from home for several hours at a time. Essential items include a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, as well as emergency care items like extra orthodontic elastics and dental wax. Mouthwash is a good idea to include as well, which can be used as an alternative to brushing if necessary.
If you plan to use Invisalign, don’t think that you are off the hook. You need to clean your aligners and your teeth after each time you remove them to prevent the buildup of dry saliva and plaque. Clean the aligners with a drop of antibacterial soap and a soft-bristled toothbrush, or rinse them with water at a minimum. It also is best to brush your teeth before putting the aligners back in your mouth or to use an antibacterial mouth rinse if brushing isn’t possible.
Get Ahead of Discomfort
You will feel discomfort immediately after your braces are initially applied, as well as following each time your orthodontist adjusts your archwire or fits you with a new aligner. Be prepared by purchasing over-the-counter pain relief medication, as well as a topical numbing gel for the mouth.
The orthodontist also will provide you with wax to apply over the braces, teeth and gums to reduce friction between your appliance and the mouth. Rinsing regularly with warm salt water can help heal any wounds caused by the friction, as well as quell the overall discomfort.
You might want to invest in store-bought ice packs, which can soothe the pain associated with inflammation from new braces or adjustments. Or, ensure there’s ice in the freezer and ziplock bags in your cabinets to make your own. Always wrap your ice pack in a towel before allowing it to make contact with your face.
You have likely gotten a head start on this, but it will be important to keep your hands away from your mouth. Don’t touch or tug on your brackets or wires. You will also need to avoid running your tongue or your lips repeatedly over the brackets. Physical contact with your new braces will irritate your gums and lips, making your mouth hurt worse for a longer time.
Prepare Your Pantry
Whether you are wearing brackets or aligners, you will experience discomfort when you first start wearing braces. During this time, switching to a soft-food diet will be more of an instinct than an inconvenience. However, even as the discomfort wanes it is still important to remain on a soft-food diet–especially following the application of brackets. The bonding agent that the orthodontist uses to attach your brackets to the teeth needs a few days to solidify. They are especially susceptible to breakage during that first week.
For some patients, the first few days create sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. For others, cold foods like frozen yogurt and ice cream will be soothing. If you discover that you have sensitivity, try more neutral options like applesauce, yogurt, jello, pudding, luke-warm soups and mashed potatoes for the first couple of days.
After the first week, you should be able to reintroduce more moderate foods like sandwiches into your diet. However, throughout your treatment with any bracket form of braces, you will need to mainly eat foods that do not require much pressure to chew. It is important to avoid hard, sticky and crunchy foods at all times.
If you’re ready to get the smile you deserve, contact us now to schedule a free consultation with one of our board-certified orthodontists.