There are several orthodontic treatment options and appliances that range from traditional (metal) braces, clear or ceramic braces, invisible (lingual) braces, clear aligners (such as Invisalign), and retainers. Other appliances may also be recommended for some patients. Each treatment plan and associated appliance recommendation is designed specifically by Dr. Zane based on the desired outcome of the patient. Orthodontists, like Dr. Zane, have the specialized knowledge to consider all possibilities, based on variables like your age, possible jaw imbalances, differences in the size of your teeth, and more. They know which appliances to use and when to use them, and will work with you to make the best decision – for your best smile.

How long will I be in braces or Invisalign?

Treatment time in braces or Invisalign typically ranges from one year to three years, depending upon the specific goals for your smile that you and Dr. Zane discuss.  Treatment time averages two years for teenagers. You have a direct impact on how long you will be in braces. Coming in about every 6 weeks for adjustment visits, complying with dietary restrictions, wearing elastics consistently and correctly when prescribed, and maintaining great oral hygiene all help to keep your treatment time short and your brace removal date on target.

Why is oral hygiene in braces so important?

Anytime teeth are being moved by braces or Invisalign, oral hygiene is crucial. Braces are fixed to the teeth and tend to collect food and plaque. Bacteria in plaque sitting on the braces and against the teeth produce acid which can begin to eat away at the enamel of teeth and cause cavities and gum inflammation or gingivitis. Cavities begin as “white spots” on teeth. White spots can be permanent and are preventable with proper oral hygiene practices. Gum inflammation can cause the teeth to move more slowly, resulting in longer time in braces. Gum inflammation or gingivitis may also progress to periodontitis, which is permanent destruction of the bone and tissues surrounding teeth.

Should I still see my general or pediatric dentist while I am wearing braces or Invisalign?

Absolutely! You should see your general or pediatric dentist every 6 months. For certain patients, we may recommend that you see your general dentist even more frequently.

How do I keep my teeth clean with my braces on? (Photo of toothbrush brushing braces)

Tooth brushing: With braces, tooth brushing should be performed at least three times a day (after meals). Place half of the bristles on the teeth and half of the bristles on the gums and brush back and forth to remove plaque and bacteria. Regular soft bristled toothbrushes work fine. Electric toothbrushes are also a great option for people in braces, but require just as much work and frequency of brushing. Make sure all surfaces of the teeth, brackets and wires are being cleaned with your toothbrush.

Flossing: Flossing can be tedious when in braces but is very important to keep the teeth and gums healthy. Flossing aids such as “super-floss” or floss threaders are available to thread under the wire. Proxibrushes and water flossers are great adjuncts to flossing but do not replace flossing.

Rinses: Various over-the-counter rinses are available to aid in oral hygiene with braces and Invisalign. These include rinses with essential oils or fluoride. Ask Dr. Zane or his team if you have additional questions regarding mouthwash or fluoride rinses and how to use them.

Are braces comfortable?

Braces are much more comfortable than they used to be. That said, once braces are placed on the teeth, it can take some time to get used to them. Dr. Zane recommends being patient when becoming accustomed to braces. It may take between 1 to 4 weeks until you feel fully comfortable with these appliances on your teeth. Give yourself time.

A few hours after your braces are placed, you will begin to feel some discomfort or “tightness” around your teeth and gums. This is your body’s normal response as the braces begin to encourage the teeth to move very slowly in the right direction.  This discomfort or soreness may last for several days after you get your braces. Over-the-counter pain medications have been shown to work well with this discomfort or soreness. Always be sure to choose an over-the-counter medication with which you have had a positive experience and with which there is no history of negative reactions. Ask Dr. Zane or your primary care physician for advice as needed.

What is orthodontic wax? 

At first, the corners of the braces may irritate the inside of the cheeks and cause discomfort and sometimes even small blisters or ulcers. Warm salt water rinses may help relieve this discomfort. To relieve discomfort, orthodontic wax may be placed on the corners of the braces as well. Dry the corners of the offending brace or wire with a piece of tissue paper, roll a small piece of wax into a ball, and place on the bracket as needed.

At örthotex smile specialists, we will always try to clip the wires of your braces flush with the back of your braces. This prevents wires from “poking” out of the back of the last brace. Sometimes, due to movement of the teeth, from selecting improper foods, or simply by normal function, the wire may creep out the back of the last brace. This can cause discomfort. A clean nail clipper used carefully with the supervision of an adult may be used to help clip the wire. You may also place a ball of wax on the dry end of a wire.  Alternatively, give us a call and we will schedule you to come in for a wire-clip appointment where we make you comfortable.

How do braces break?

Braces are attached to the teeth with special cement. However, if pressure is placed on a bracket in the wrong direction, the bracket will “debond” or “break” off the tooth. This is a problem because if a brace is not fixed to the tooth, the tooth will not move and will get left behind as your treatment progresses. Over time, bracket breakage can lead to increased time in treatment.

Taking care to avoid the following will help to prevent unnecessary breakage or harm:

  • Habits such as chewing on pens, pencils, bottle caps, or ice.
  • Selecting the wrong foods to eat. Avoid foods that are too hard, crunchy, chewy or sticky. Foods that need to be avoided include:
    • Ice
    • Nuts/Chips/Popcorn
    • Hard taco shells
    • Shelled foods: Crabs, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds
    • French bread crust, pizza crust, rolls, or bagels
    • Corn on the cob (Instead, cut the corn off the cob before eating)
    • Meat on the bone (Instead, cut the meat off the bone before eating)
    • Crunchy fruits and vegetables: apples, carrots, or broccoli (Alternatively, cut into small pieces or prepare by cooking/steaming)
    • Hard/Chewy candy: gum, caramels, jolly ranchers, starbursts, laffy taffy, gummy candies.
  • Eating foods the wrong way: Instead of biting into foods, break foods into small pieces and place them on your back teeth.

Can I choose the colors of my braces?

Absolutely! The “colors” on your braces are also known as “o-ties” and are used to hold your orthodontic wires in your brackets. They are small plastic donuts that stretch over your brackets to secure the arch wire in place.  The day you get your braces, and every time you come for an adjustment, we will offer you a variety of colors from which to choose. Some patients like to choose school or seasonal colors and others prefer more subtle colors such as grey or silver that blend in with the braces.

What are rubber bands or elastics?

Rubber bands (elastics) are special disposable orthodontic appliances that are prescribed by an orthodontist in conjunction with braces to help adjust the bite or to encourage teeth to move in a particular direction. You are in charge of placing them on special hooks on your braces and removing them as well.  In order to be effective, rubber bands need to be worn at least 22 hours per day and need to be changed 2-3 times per day. Sometimes, the only way to correct a bite without removing permanent teeth or performing jaw surgery is to be compliant with rubber band wear.

What are Retainers?

The most important part of your orthodontic treatment actually begins the day your braces are removed. After all the time, energy and investment in achieving a nice smile and a good bite, you need to maintain or RETAIN your result. This is accomplished by retainers. For the first six months after the braces are removed, the bone around your teeth is soft and needs time to heal. Retainers act as “casts” to allow the teeth to be held in position as the bone around the teeth hardens or heals. Until instructed by Dr. Zane to switch to night-time only wear, retainers need to be worn 24/7 (except when eating or brushing).

Dr. Zane has found that clear retainers, when worn “nighttime for a lifetime,” are effective in holding the teeth properly and maintaining your bite and your smile. They are easy to clean and easy to wear. If cared for well, your clear retainers may only need to be replaced every few years.

What is Invisalign?

Invisalign aligners are a series of clear removable plastic trays that are custom-made to fit your mouth. They are programmed to slowly move your teeth to the desired position.  Invisalign aligners are a “compliance-based” appliance, meaning that in order to get the desired effect, you have to wear them. If aligners are not worn at least 22 hours per day, your teeth will not move to the desired location. Compliance with Invisalign means that your aligners must be in your mouth at all times except when you are eating, drinking hot or colored liquids, or brushing your teeth.

Attachments: Tooth colored buttons called attachments will be placed on your teeth during your time in Invisalign. Attachments act as “handles” to help move your teeth more efficiently.

Results:  Invisalign is a great alternative to braces for many people. Sometimes, because of lack of compliance with aligners or simply because of the limitations of moving teeth with aligners, braces may need to be placed on the teeth in order to achieve the final details in alignment of the teeth and the jaws.