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Braces and retainers
Braces are fitted by dentists or orthodontists to move your teeth into a position that corrects a number of different dental or jaw alignment problems.
What are braces?
Braces exert even, constant pressure onto teeth in order to move them to a desired position. The procedure may start with the use of separators to create space between the back molar teeth. After the separators are removed, bands are placed around the molars that will anchor the braces.
A small bracket is then glued to each tooth using dental cement. Wire is placed through each bracket and attached to the bands. This creates the pressure that will slowly move the teeth into position. Regular visits to the orthodontist/dentist are required to check the progress of the teeth and adjust the tension as required.
Which dental conditions require braces?
Braces can be used on a number of conditions where the teeth need to be moved into a new position. These include crooked teeth, crowded teeth, large gaps between teeth, overbites, and underbites. Braces are not just a cosmetic procedure to improve the look of your smile – they can also be a permanent orthodontic solution to serious dental conditions such as misaligned and underdeveloped jaws which can affect normal jaw development and general health.
Common types of braces
- Metal braces are the traditional type of braces and can be used to correct most dental problems.
- Ceramic braces are exactly the same as metal braces but less noticeable. The brackets can be clear or tooth-coloured while the wires are far less noticeable.
- Lingual braces are attached to the back surface of the teeth so they are virtually unnoticeable. They can irritate the tongue and it takes a bit more effort to keep them clean.
How long are braces worn?
The length of time that you need to wear braces is dependent on the condition you are being treated for, the type of braces you are wearing and your age. It could be as little as six months or as long as two years. Discuss this with your dentist or orthodontist at your initial appointment to get a more accurate idea of the period of time.
Eating with braces
You will need to make some adjustments to what you eat once you are fitted with braces. The obvious foods to avoid are sugary sticky lollies, bubblegum, chewing gum and popcorn. It’s also best to avoid hard foods like nuts, biscuits and crusty breads.
You do need to watch out for foods that you generally bite into with your front teeth, such as apples, corn on the cob, carrots and chicken wings. However, there’s no need to cut these foods from your diet. Simply cut them into small chunks and use your back teeth for chewing.
The good news is that there are still plenty of delicious foods that you can enjoy. Steamed vegetables, yoghurt, cheese, and seafood are all suitable. Soft fruits, such as bananas, oranges and kiwi fruit, are fantastic, and soups, eggs and chicken can all stay on the menu.
Caring for braces
It generally takes more time and effort to maintain your oral health while wearing braces. The nature of braces means they often trap food that must be cleaned out carefully and diligently. You need to brush your teeth, floss and use mouthwash after every meal and snack. Use a small bendable floss brush to clean between and around wires or it may be worthwhile to purchase a water flosser that cleans using a pressurised stream of water.
*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.