February 3, 2010


Braces help correct the way teeth grow. They are placed on teeth by specialists called orthodontists, who must complete two to three extra years of training after dental school.

The Reasons for Braces

There are two key reasons why a dentist may suggest that you look into getting braces. One is a “malocclusion.” This is a poor fit between upper and lower teeth that are crowded or crooked. Another reason is that the teeth or jaws are not lined up in the way they should be.

These types of problems are often more than just a nuisance. As time goes by, they can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, problems with chewing and speaking, and even earaches or headaches.

The Types of Braces

Braces today come in four basic types. The first and most widely used are metal braces, which are stainless steel brackets placed on the front of the teeth. A second type of braces is made from ceramics. These, too, attach to the front of the teeth. Many patients prefer them because of their transparent nature, which makes them less visible than metal braces.

The same concern causes some people to opt for lingual braces, which adhere to the back of the teeth and are thus out of view. A final option is a type called “aligners.” These are both transparent and removable. They are therefore more convenient for eating as well as brushing and flossing. Depending on the type of braces used, the cost can range between $5,000 and $6,000.

Important Facts for Those Considering Braces

The average time-span for wearing braces is from one and three years. After that, the patient wears a retainer for a while in order to reinforce the new position of the teeth. During this period, patients using any of the first three types of braces noted above will need to visit the orthodontist from time to time to have the braces tightened. This may lead to some mild discomfort, but it lasts only a short time. Recent advances have made wearing braces much more comfortable than in the past, so there is little to worry with respect to pain or serious discomfort.

If you wear braces, you may need to make some small lifestyle changes. These include the need to limit starches and sugars in the diet and avoid foods that are rigid or brittle in texture (nuts and popcorn, for instance). Greater attention to brushing and flossing is also needed to help keep food and plaque out of the many small holes in the braces.

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