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About braces

How do braces work?

In a nutshell, the supporting soft tissue ligament surrounding the teeth is loosened, allowing the teeth to move.

Do braces hurt?

Not really, it’s more like an ache. This is because your teeth are not used to the pressure and your cheeks are not used to the metal or ceramic rubbing against them.

After wearing braces for a week or so, the pain and discomfort begins to diminish. You can use dental wax and topical anaesthetic to help create a barrier between the braces and any sores that develop on your gums (the sores usually heal within a few days).

In a week or two the pain generally goes away. You sometimes even forget you’re wearing braces! Your teeth may also hurt again for several days after your adjustment; however, by then you are used to it and it does not bother you as much.

What is an adjustment and how is it done?

This is where the elastic modules (ligatures) are changed and sometimes the archwire is also changed or adjusted to reposition the teeth. Elastic chain can also be added to help with space closure. The adjustment is also a time to monitor progress with headgear wear or elastic wear. It is designed to be a short visit to accommodate the after school times.

What is an archwire?

The archwire is the metal wire that goes across your braces, from one end of your mouth to the other. You have two archwires – one on the top teeth and one on the bottom teeth. The pressure from the archwire is what helps to move your teeth.

What is a module (ligature)?

A module (ligature, also called an o-ring) is a tiny elastic that holds the archwire onto each bracket of your braces. Modules (ligatures) come in a variety of colours. Some brackets are self-ligating, which means they do not need the little elastics to hold the archwire onto the brackets.

Do I need to use a special toothbrush or other gadgets when I have braces?

Yes and no. You can use a regular soft toothbrush; however, we recommend an orthodontic-cut toothbrush, where the bristles in the middle are lower than the bristles on the edges. You can also use any electric toothbrush.

You might also want to get a small spiral dental brush or a rubber-tipped stimulator to help clean food debris out from between the brackets before you brush.

And finally, you will need some dental wax because inevitably, the brackets will irritate the insides of your cheeks at first.

I just got my braces recently and my teeth feel loose. Why? Is it ok?

The periodontal ligament which helps to hold your teeth in place is loosening up. Yes, this is perfectly normal, although it is very disconcerting. The teeth should stop feeling loose after a few weeks. If you’re very concerned about it, or if the teeth feel loose for months on end, talk to us about it.

Why do I use wax when I have braces?

Wax helps to create a barrier between the bracket and the inside of your cheek. This is helpful if the bracket is irritating your cheek or gums.

How do I use orthodontic dental wax?

To use dental wax, break off a tiny bit of wax from the container, squeeze it with your fingers a bit to mould it, and then place it directly on the bracket that is causing the irritation. Dental wax is non-toxic, so it is ok if you swallow it. Wax tends to break down over time, so you will probably have to apply more after eating a meal. Take off the wax before you brush your teeth, or it will gunk up your toothbrush.

Usually your doctor gives you some dental wax after you get your braces put on. Most pharmacies carry dental wax.

How do I floss my teeth with braces on?

It’s a little tricky at first. You must thread the floss under the arch wire between each tooth, floss and then remove it. Repeat for each tooth. You can use any type of floss that is comfortable. Most people attach the floss to a plastic needle called a floss threader, or use floss that has a stiff end.

I seem to have excess saliva now that I have braces. Why?

Excess saliva is actually very common. Apparently your mouth mistakes the feeling of the brackets on the inside of your cheeks for food and sometimes produces extra saliva to help digest it. This generally diminishes with time.

Suddenly I’ve developed gaps between teeth which never had gaps before. Should I be worried?

It is very common for your teeth to shift and develop gaps while treatment is underway. Your bite will change many times during your treatment. Remember, any strange gaps or bite problems will be resolved by the time your treatment is finished. If you are really concerned, mention it to The Ortho Practice on your next visit.

Do I really need to brush my teeth after every meal when I’m wearing braces? What a pain!

Yes you should, because depending on what you eat, food gets stuck in and around the brackets. Besides looking gross, it causes tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. It also feels yucky. Some people can’t stand the feeling of food stuck in their brackets. You wouldn’t believe how much food can get stuck, often more than you’d imagine!

The Ortho Practice provides you with a kit at the start of your treatment to allow brushing at home, at school or work, or on holidays.

And you can’t brush in 30 seconds or ‘just rinse’ your mouth. It needs a good three minutes to brush each surface of each tooth to make sure there is no food debris and plaque left behind. We provide an egg timer to help you as well.

The night time brush is the most important one. Imagine having dinner and then leaving your plate with the food scraps on the kitchen sink until the next morning, this is what is inside your mouth if you haven’t brushed. We also recommend a nightly fluoride mouth rinse after you have brushed.

I don’t want to wear my headgear during the day. Why can’t I wear it only at night?

Nobody likes to wear headgear; however, it serves a specific purpose in your treatment. If you don’t wear it for as many hours as your doctor recommends, your treatment won’t progress as fast and you might wind up wearing the headgear for many additional months. It’s best to just go along with what your doctor recommends and get it over with sooner.

Why do I need to wear elastics?

Elastics help fine-tune the alignment of your teeth and your bite. There are many different ways that you can wear elastics for specific reasons. You should wear the elastics for the number of hours that your doctor recommends, to help your treatment progress properly. Wearing them ‘double time’ or ‘double strength’ to make up for time you spent without them is NOT advisable as it could harm your teeth. Most people take elastics out before a meal, then brush and replace them after a meal.

A wire at the end of my braces is poking my cheek. What should I do?

This is always an annoying and tricky situation. If possible, put a ball of dental wax at the end of the wire to stop it from poking you. You can also try a bit of cotton. Call us at The Ortho Practice and ask to come in ASAP, so we can clip the wire.

The wire pokes you because your teeth have moved, displacing the end of the archwire. Although this is annoying, it’s a good sign that your treatment is progressing!

Do ceramic (non-metal) braces stain?

The brackets themselves usually do not stain. It’s the elastic modules (ligatures) that hold the arch wire to the bracket that stain. These are changed at each adjustment. So, if your modules (ligatures) or power chains stain, you’ll only have to live with it for a short time.

What foods stain the modules (ligatures) of your braces the worst?

Foods like curry, mustard, black coffee and red wine create the worst stains.

What colours of modules (ligatures) or power chains resist stains the best?

Clear or white modules (ligatures) show yellow stains the worst. The best colours are smoke, pearlescent, glow-in-the-dark and any dark vibrant colours. Light blue turns a pleasant teal colour when stained by curry (ie blue modules plus yellow curry make greenish blue modules).

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