Braces are designed to help straighten teeth – allowing patients to enjoy straightener, more beautiful teeth. Of course, braces are not only for getting more “attractive” teeth, a lot of the time straightening out teeth makes them easier to keep clean and thus, less prone to dental issues like decay and jaw pain later in life. Getting braces is exciting, but most patients have questions and concerns, especially the closer they get to their appointment with the orthodontist get closer. So, you’re not alone! Here are a few common questions patients have about braces:
- Do braces hurt?
Now, before you panic, yes braces do hurt, but the discomfort associated with braces is mild and can be easily managed. The worst pain will be when you first get them installed and after you get them tightened. The pain feels like pressure and aching in the jaw. Icing the outside of your jaw or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever should be enough to help with any discomfort you feel.
Another discomfort associated with braces is acute stinging when the wires and brackets scrape your cheeks and tongue. You can minimize this pain by always keeping a tub of braces wax nearby so you can place a glob of wax on any braces that are rubbing. When your mouth does get irritated, apply some oral numbing gel (the type made for teething babies works well) to the sensitive areas.
- What foods should you avoid?
When you first get braces, they’re going to feel very weird on your teeth, and it’s probably going to be hard to eat most foods, especially since your jaw will be sore. During the first few days after getting your braces installed, it’s best to stick to soft foods like pasta, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yogurt, and jello., as the discomfort Slowly decreases, and as you get used to the feeling of chewing with braces, you can add other foods back into your diet. It’s best to avoid certain foods, especially when wearing traditional metal or ceramic braces:
- Crunchy foods: nuts, hard candy, crunchier chips
- Chewy foods: beef jerky, gummy candy
- Sticky foods: gum, licorice, caramels
- Foods you bite into: apples, corn on the cob
You can eat foods like apples, corn on the cob, and crunchy chips if you break or cut them into small pieces before you eat them. Slice apples thinly, eat corn off the cob and break up chips with your fingers. With Invisalign, you do not have to worry about restricting your diet. You remove your trays before you eat, you can eat any food you desire and then place the trays back on your teeth after your meal. You do have to be careful about what you drink when you are wearing the aligner trays. It’s okay to drink water with the aligners in place, but you need to remove them if you drink any sugary liquids or dark-colored beverages like coffee or tea, as they can stain the clear aligner trays.
- How long do you have to wear braces?
When you visit your orthodontist to get your braces put on, they will often give you an estimate of how long you’ll need to wear your braces. The more misaligned your teeth are, the longer you’ll have to wear them. Do keep in mind, however, that this time frame is an estimate. As your orthodontist observes how your teeth move in your mouth in reaction to the braces, he or she may adjust the treatment period accordingly.
Most children and teens need to wear traditional braces for about two years, though some milder misalignments may be corrected in a year and the most severe cases can take up to three years. If you are an adult who is getting braces to correct teeth that have moved somewhat out of position since you previously had braces as a teen, expect to wear your braces for six months to a year.
- How do you care for your teeth?
Caring for your teeth when wearing braces starts with avoiding crunchy foods that may cause the wires of the braces to snap. You should also avoid overly sugary foods, as these can cause plaque and bacteria to build up around your braces, eventually leading to tooth decay and cavities.
Brushing your teeth takes a bit longer when you have braces, but it is so important that you do it thoroughly. Use a toothbrush with a small head, and spend some time individually brushing around each brace. Also make sure you floss after each meal, as this will remove food particles that get caught in your teeth and braces. Finish each brushing and flossing session with an antiseptic mouthwash to kill lingering germs. Most braces wearers get into the habit of taking their toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss with them so they can brush after snacks and meals they eat at work or while out on the town.
- What else do braces help with?
As well as determining whether your teeth are straight, your orthodontist will also check to make sure your bite is healthy. The ‘bite’ is referring to when you close your two rows of teeth and then open them up again. When you do this, the rows are supposed to meet, but not grind or display too much abrasion. Similarly, there shouldn’t be any big gaps along the line where the two rows of teeth meet.
It’s an important part of making sure that your mouth functions correctly. If these issues with your bite go untreated, it could lead to TMJ related headaches and problems with chewing and speaking. A visit to the orthodontist is more than just deciding whether or not you need braces to have a prettier smile. These visits can help fix a minor dysfunction or an unnoticed problem that has the potential to turn into a major challenge.
To learn more about how braces can help your oral health, give Foothill Dental Care in Livermore a call at (925) 961-5484 today!