Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Brace it Before it Break: Facts about Dental Braces

smileA close friend of mine got braces installed in her late thirties. Then onwards, I have seen her struggle with her braces almost every day for the last six months. She has visited her orthodontist so many times in these months and paid through her nose for each, has borne lot of pain, has done dental acrobatics to fish out food particles from her mouth and is continuing with it because she wants a just perfect smile. From her, I learnt that braces need to be worn for as long as a year or a year and a half.

Who says you need bravery only for cosmetic surgery? Her experience prompted me to do a feature on dental braces, because like most of us, I too believed that dental braces are only for children and adolescents and not for adults like us. In a chat with Dr Vandana Jyoti, Gurgaon based orthodontist, facts emerge on dental braces.

Dental braces have been around for four to five decades and are a device which helps straighten your teeth and correct your bite. They are small brackets which are placed on your front teeth through which a steel wire is run. The tightening or loosening of the wire corrects the alignment of the teeth. 12 to 40 year olds can wear dental braces to correct the shape of their teeth, informs Dr Vandana Jyoti.

How braces work?

Braces correct the alignment of teeth by applying force. A tooth will usually move about a millimeter per month during orthodontic movement, but this can vary. Braces are composed of four parts-

  1. Brackets made of metal or ceramic. A bracket is attached to each tooth. Metallic ones are made of steel and clearly visible. Tooth colored brackets are made of acrylic or ceramic and are less visible but are more expensive as well. Steel brackets may cost between 30 to 40 thousand rupees and the tooth colored brackets will cost ten thousand more. Irrespective of the type of the brackets a steel wire is passed through them.
  2. Bonding material (glue) or a metal band. This is what attaches the bracket to the tooth.
  3. An Arch Wire, which is a thin metal wire that runs from bracket to bracket and puts pressure on the teeth.
  4. The Ligature Elastic (also called an “o-ring”). This is a small coloured elastic that holds the bracket onto the arch wire. The ligatures are usually changed at each adjustment visit. Some types of brackets do not need elastic ligatures (they are called “self-ligating”).

The teeth move when the arch wire puts pressure on the brackets and teeth. Sometimes, springs or rubber bands are used exert more force in a specific direction. Braces exert constant pressure, which over time, move teeth into their proper positions. The force exerted by braces in adults might make teeth mobile, particularly if the adult is suffering from gum problems, warns Dr Jyoti.

Taking care of dental braces

People with braces do not need to have a special diet, but there are certain foods that they need to avoid. They should avoid biting big chunks of food like eating a whole apple and should get the fruit cut in small pieces. “If you have braces, you should avoid popcorn, gum, hard or sticky candy, and beverages that are too sugary, such as some sodas and juices,” suggests Dr Jyoti.

Additionally, you should–

  • Carefully brush and floss your teeth after each meal or snack.
  • If you drink sodas or juices with lots of sugar, brush afterward to help keep the sugar from sticking to your teeth.
  • See your orthodontist about any problem with your braces, including loose wires or brackets that can cut into the skin.
  • For sore teeth after an adjustment, take an over-the-counter pain reliever.


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Category: Dental Care
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