Straighten Your Smile with Orthodontic Braces
Orthodontic braces are used to align the teeth for a more comfortable, healthy bite and an improved appearance. Braces consist of brackets bonded to the front or back of teeth, and arch wires threaded through the brackets. The arch wires act as a track and guide each tooth to its proper position. There are several types of orthodontics available to patients, including traditional metal braces, ceramic "tooth-colored" braces, and clear plastic braces. Some patients may also qualify for clear aligners. Before you decide on a treatment method, you should always check with your doctor to find out what kinds of braces are offered and what dental insurance plans are accepted.
Initial Exam and Treatment Planning
The first step towards receiving any type of braces is a consultation with your dentist or orthodontist. During this appointment, the doctor will take x-rays to evaluate the health and placement of your teeth, jaw, and other oral structures. Then they will discuss your goals and expectations and explain your options. Once you select an orthodontic system, your doctor will take impressions of your teeth to track your progress and finalize your treatment plan.
What to Expect during Treatment with Braces
In order to secure traditional braces, your dentist will bond the brackets to the surface of your teeth using dental cement. Then they can connect the arch wire to the brackets with elastic bands. Roughly once a month, you will return to the office so your dentist can evaluate your progress and tighten your braces. Over time, your teeth will gradually shift into the desired location. The duration of your treatment will depend on the extent of your misalignment and the type of braces you choose. Once your teeth are properly realigned, your dentist can remove your braces and create a customized retainer to maintain the results of your newly straightened smile.
Types of Braces
While metal braces are the most popular choice among patients, advances in orthodontics have developed a range of alternative options.
Stainless steel is a practical material and the most common for orthodontic braces. Generally the most economical option, traditional metal braces may also be required for patients who require extensive realignment.
The most notable drawback of metal brackets is their appearance. While colored elastics can improve the aesthetics of braces, if you are concerned about the look of your smile, you may prefer an alternative.
A popular choice after traditional orthodontics, "tooth-colored" or ceramic braces utilize less noticeable brackets. Ceramic brackets are essentially translucent, so they blend in with your natural enamel. Many dentists now use dental ceramic designed to resist staining and discoloration. However, depending on the length of your treatment and your habits, your brackets may become darkened or dull. In addition, ceramic braces tend to be more expensive than stainless steel.
Some dental offices offer clear braces as an alternative to metal or ceramic brackets. Fabricated from pure monocrystalline sapphire, clear braces are practically see-through, except the arch wire. Some brands, such as Damon™ Smile, eliminate the need for elastic bands which allows for accelerated treatment.
Lingual braces consist of metal brackets placed behind the teeth instead of on the front. These braces generally function in the same way as traditional braces and offer a cosmetic alternative for patients who wish to straighten their teeth without visible orthodontics. However, lingual braces require specialized training and are custom-made, meaning they often cost more than traditional braces. Treatment with lingual brackets also tends to be more involved than front-facing braces, though the timeline is similar.
Invisalign® and other clear aligners offer a discreet and comfortable alternative to traditional orthodontic braces. Clear aligners are virtually invisible and consist of a series of plastic trays that gently guide teeth into place. Aligners can treat many of the same conditions as braces. However, they are more effective at correcting mild to moderate cases of misalignment. More complex issues, such as severe overcrowding or jaw misalignment, typically require traditional braces.
Improve Your Oral Health
Orthodontic treatment can do more than improve your appearance. Overcrowding can make it difficult to properly care for your teeth, which can lead to gum disease. In addition, when your bite is out of alignment, other oral health concerns, such as grinding and clenching, can arise. Straightening your teeth can improve your oral health and minimize your chance of developing more serious issues in the future.
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