A Complete Guide to Getting Braces

Braces, also known as orthodontic braces, are orthodontic devices used to straighten and align teeth, as well as to correct various bite issues. They consist of brackets, which are attached to the teeth, and wires, which are threaded through the brackets and exert pressure to gradually move the teeth into the desired position.

teeth braces

How do Braces Work?

  1. Application of Brackets: Brackets are bonded to the front surface of each tooth using a dental adhesive. These brackets act as handles to hold the wires in place.
  2. Placement of Archwire: An archwire is then threaded through the brackets. This wire is typically made of a flexible metal alloy and runs along the entire arch of teeth. The wire applies pressure to the teeth, guiding them into the desired position.
  3. Adjustments: Periodically, the orthodontist will adjust the braces by tightening or replacing the archwire. This process gradually shifts the teeth into the correct alignment.
  4. Additional Components: In some cases, other components such as rubber bands, springs, or additional appliances may be used to enhance the effectiveness of the braces in correcting specific dental issues.

Over time, as the teeth move, the bone around them remodels to support their new positions. This gradual process typically takes several months to a few years, depending on the severity of the misalignment and the specific treatment plan. Once the desired alignment is achieved, the braces are removed, and a retainer may be provided to maintain the results.

What are the Different Types of Braces?

There are several types of braces available, each with its own advantages and considerations. Here are some of the most common types:

Traditional Metal Braces

These are the most recognisable type of braces. They consist of metal brackets bonded to the teeth and connected by a metal wire. While they are conspicuous, they are often the most affordable option and can effectively treat a wide range of dental issues.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces are similar to traditional metal braces, but the brackets are made of a clear or tooth-colored ceramic material. This makes them less noticeable than metal braces, which can be more aesthetically pleasing for some people. However, they may be more prone to staining and slightly more expensive than metal braces.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are attached to the back (lingual) surface of the teeth, making them virtually invisible from the front. They work similarly to traditional braces but are customised to fit the contours of the back of the teeth. Lingual braces can be more challenging to clean and may cause some initial discomfort due to their proximity to the tongue.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are a series of clear, removable trays that gradually move the teeth into alignment. They are virtually invisible and offer the flexibility to remove them for eating, brushing, and flossing. Clear aligners are popular for their discreet appearance and convenience, but they may not be suitable for severe orthodontic issues.

Self-Ligating Braces

These braces use brackets that have a built-in mechanism to hold the archwire in place without the need for elastic bands or ligatures. They can result in less friction and discomfort compared to traditional braces and may require fewer adjustment appointments.

Smart Braces

Emerging technologies incorporate features such as sensors or built-in mechanisms to monitor treatment progress and make adjustments automatically. These smart braces aim to enhance treatment efficiency and reduce the need for frequent in-office visits.

The most suitable type of braces depends on factors such as the severity of the orthodontic issues, personal preferences, budget, and lifestyle considerations. It’s essential to consult with an orthodontist to determine the best treatment option for individual needs.

braces on teeth

Are Braces Painful?

Braces can cause some discomfort or soreness, particularly after they are initially placed and following subsequent adjustments. Here’s what you might expect:

Initial Discomfort

When braces are first placed on the teeth or after they are adjusted, it’s common to experience some soreness or discomfort for a few days. This discomfort typically arises from the pressure exerted on the teeth and the adjustment of the wires.

Soft Tissue Irritation

Brackets and wires can sometimes rub against the inner cheeks, lips, or tongue, causing irritation or sore spots. Orthodontic wax can be applied to the brackets to reduce friction and discomfort.

Pressure Sensation

As the braces gradually move the teeth into alignment, you may feel pressure or tightness in your mouth. This sensation is usually temporary and diminishes as your teeth adjust to the new positioning.

Challenges with Eating

Initially, you might find it uncomfortable to eat certain foods, especially hard or sticky ones. It’s best to stick to softer foods and avoid items that could damage the braces or cause additional discomfort.

Adjustment Period

Over time, most people adapt to the presence of braces, and any discomfort tends to lessen. As your treatment progresses and your teeth move into alignment, you may experience less discomfort during adjustments.

While discomfort is common with braces, it’s usually manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Additionally, orthodontic wax can help alleviate irritation caused by brackets or wires rubbing against the soft tissues of the mouth.

If you experience persistent or severe pain, or if you have concerns about your braces, it’s important to contact your orthodontist for guidance and assistance. They can provide recommendations to help minimise discomfort and ensure your treatment progresses smoothly.

How Long do you Wear Braces for?

The duration of orthodontic treatment with braces varies depending on several factors, including the severity of the orthodontic issues, the type of braces used, and how well the patient follows their orthodontist’s instructions. In general, most people wear braces for approximately one to three years, but it can be shorter or longer depending on individual circumstances.

Here are some factors that can influence the duration of braces treatment:

Severity of Misalignment: The complexity of the orthodontic issues being addressed plays a significant role. Mild cases of crowding or spacing may require shorter treatment times, while more severe misalignments or bite issues may take longer to correct.

Type of Braces: Different types of braces may have varying treatment times. For example, traditional metal braces typically require a longer treatment duration compared to clear aligners for more complex cases.

Patient Compliance: Following the orthodontist’s instructions regarding wearing the braces as directed, attending scheduled appointments for adjustments, and maintaining good oral hygiene can influence treatment duration. Failure to comply with these instructions may prolong treatment.

Age: Orthodontic treatment tends to progress more quickly in younger patients, as their jaws are still growing and more responsive to orthodontic forces. Adult patients may require longer treatment times due to decreased bone density and more stable jaw structures.

Adjunctive Treatments: In some cases, additional orthodontic appliances or treatments may be necessary to achieve the desired results. These can include expanders, headgear, or surgery for severe cases. The use of such adjunctive treatments can affect the overall duration of treatment.

Retention Phase: After the braces are removed, a retention phase is typically necessary to maintain the results and prevent teeth from shifting back to their original positions. This phase usually involves wearing a retainer, which may be removable or fixed, for a specified period.

Your orthodontist will develop a customised treatment plan and provide an estimate of how long you can expect to wear braces based on your specific orthodontic needs. It’s essential to follow their recommendations closely to ensure the best possible outcome and minimise the duration of treatment.

metal braces

Do People Sleep with Braces on?

Yes, people typically sleep with braces on. Braces are designed to be worn consistently throughout the day and night to ensure the effectiveness of orthodontic treatment. While sleeping, braces continue to apply gentle pressure to the teeth, helping to gradually move them into the desired position.

Sleeping with braces should not cause any discomfort or pose any risks, as long as the braces are properly maintained and there are no loose or damaged components.

However, some people may experience slight discomfort or soreness, especially after getting braces or following adjustments. This discomfort is usually temporary and tends to diminish over time as the mouth adjusts to the presence of the braces.

It’s essential to maintain good oral hygiene habits, including brushing and flossing, both during the day and before going to bed, to keep the teeth and braces clean and healthy.

Additionally, wearing a retainer or other orthodontic appliances as recommended by your orthodontist during sleep may also be necessary to maintain the results of treatment and prevent teeth from shifting back to their original positions.

How much do Braces Cost in Rands?

The cost of braces can vary widely depending on factors such as the type of braces, the severity of the orthodontic issues being addressed, the location of the orthodontic practice, and any additional treatments or procedures required. To find out more on the subject, you can read our article, How Much are Braces in South Africa.