Orthodontics & Braces Information
Dental braces and retainers are used by orthodontists to help to straighten crooked teeth and correct a misaligned bite in patients as young as 8 or 9. In some cases, a removable retainer will be all that's necessary; in severe cases, surgery may be recommended. Braces, which consist of bands, wires, and other fixed or removable corrective appliances, work by applying continuous pressure over a period of time to slowly move teeth in a specific direction. Newer mini-braces, which are much smaller than traditional braces, are an option for some. Braces usually remain in place for 1-3 years, followed by the use of a retainer. Braces cost between $1,800 and $5,500.
How Braces Can Help
Correct shifting teeth. Just because you had braces as a kid doesn't mean you're off the hook. "Teeth tend to move a little throughout your life," says Michael B. Rogers, DDS, past president of the American Association of Orthodontists.
Straighten crooked teeth. Braces can line up teeth that are bending in different directions. And that's a recipe for a winning smile.
Better oral health. It's no surprise that straight teeth are easier to brush and floss. If you're doing your part, expect less decay and healthier gums, says Pamela K. McClain, DDS, past president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
Braces can help you manage some more serious issues, too, such as bite problems that cause jaw pain. You also may sometimes need to get braces to change the position of teeth before getting a new bridge, crown, or implant.
Braces today are a lot different from the ones you may remember when you were a kid. Many are hard to notice right off when other people are looking at you.
Some choices for you are:
Ceramic braces. These are made of a white material that's much less obvious than traditional metal braces.
Lingual brackets. They're attached to the inside surface of your teeth that faces your tongue. They hold wires that pull them into a new position.
Custom-made clear plastic aligners. They fit like guards over your teeth and gently move your bite into a new position.
What to Expect
How long you'll need to wear braces depends on the type you get and what you're trying to fix. The length of time ranges from 12 to 44 months.
"Adult teeth sometimes take longer than children's teeth to move into new positions," Rogers says. "But in many cases there's no real difference."
You'll need to take extra care cleaning your teeth when you have braces. Some dentists recommend brushing after every meal and at bedtime.
Flossing is different when you have braces, but it's crucial to help remove food particles and plaque. Your dentist will show you how. Ask him if water flossing is a good option for you.
Antiseptic mouthwash can also get into places that a toothbrush can't reach, and it helps battle plaque and gum inflammation.
Once your braces are off, your dentist may ask you to wear a retainer. That's a mouthpiece made of plastic and metal that fits over the top of your teeth. It helps keep them in their new positions.
The cost of braces can vary a lot, depending on the type you get and what problems you're trying to correct. The typical range is $4,000 to $8,000. A growing number of dental plans cover all or part of orthodontic treatment. Many orthodontists offer discounts if you pay the entire fee up front. If you can't afford that, ask about monthly installments or other payment plans.