One of famed children’s author Dr. Seuss’ books was entitled The Tooth Book. In it, he rhymes about the importance of teeth, who has them, where they can be found, and he also says that everyone should see a dentist in order to maintain a healthy mouth. One of the things he doesn’t say is that the dentist may send his or her patients to a specialist known as an orthodontist if the dentist notices that the patient’s teeth are crooked or crowded. The dentist will also send you to an orthodontist to correct both overbites as well as underbites, and to get an incorrect jaw position fixed and to have other disorders of the jaw joints corrected, as well.
Upon looking in your mouth at your teeth and at x-rays, the orthodontist may recommend braces in order to fix whatever is causing your malocclusion, or bad bite. If you do not have braces placed on your teeth in order to fix the problems in your mouth, you could end up with tooth decay, gum disease, headaches, earaches, or speaking, biting or chewing problems.
Braces are made of metal, ceramic or plastic and are bonded to the front of your teeth. You can also get lingual or concealed braces and have the brackets attached to the back of your teeth, and are therefore hidden from view. All types of braces use wires to move the teeth to the desired position regardless of whether they are placed on the front or the back of the teeth.
If the wire or a bracket comes loose, make an appointment as soon as possible to have it fixed. Also, if it feels as if the wires are poking you, you can ask for some wax to rub on them to alleviate the pain. Try to keep your teeth as clean as possible while you have your braces on and be sure to brush and floss after every meal. In addition, avoid eating chewy, sticky or gummy type foods, and popcorn as these can get caught in your braces and cause additional problems.
Some patients may be able to wear an aligner instead of having to have braces placed in their mouth. An aligner is a clear, customized appliance that gets removed when you eat, brush and floss. It gets changed approximately every two weeks and is most appropriate for adults with minor spacing issues.
Patients usually wear braces for anywhere from one to two years and will have to periodically see the orthodontist and have the wires tightened. Once they are removed, most people have to wear a retainer, for another 12 to 24 months. A retainer is a hard piece of plastic shaped like a mouthguard with metal wires.
Be sure to keep all appointments with both your orthodontist and your regular dentist. Once all of the work is done in your mouth you will not only want to smile more often, you will be able to smile more beautifully and without any pain or problems.