The Beginner’s Guide to Braces: Everything You Need to Know
Posted: April 24, 2020
Last Modified: June 6, 2022
For many Canadians, dental braces are a kind of rite of passage that occurs exclusively during childhood. For others, braces might seem like elective cosmetic care. Contrary to these misconceptions, dental braces are actually a great way to look out for your oral health and can drastically improve the quality of your daily life and comfort.
What are Dental Braces?
Braces are a type of orthodontic treatment designed to realign teeth into a certain position. There are several different types of braces, but they all serve the same purpose. After an average of 1-2 years wearing the braces, with adjustments roughly every 4-8 weeks, patients can have their braces removed and enjoy a straight, healthy grin.
It should be noted that teeth aren’t just straightened out of a desire for a better smile (although that’s certainly a valid reason to get braces). There are very few mouths that grow perfectly aligned teeth, and frequently, teeth become crowded, misaligned, or develop an excessive overbite or underbite. Unfortunately, these are often painless but can cause jaw pain or wear down more quickly. Straightening your teeth can also make them easier to clean, which in turn makes long-term oral health much more achievable.
What Kinds of Braces are Available?
There are many different types of dental braces that patients can select between. Your dentist will likely recommend a specific type to best meet your health and lifestyle considerations.
Traditional Metal Braces
These are the braces you typically see portrayed on TV or in movies. For these braces, small metal brackets are securely attached to each tooth. A wire is then secured to the teeth by small elastic bands. Metal braces are typically the most affordable kind, and elastic bands can be selected in a variety of colours, making it a fun way to express your personality (especially for kids).
Plus, advances in dental technology have made metal braces less noticeable than ever before. For example, there are now heat-activated wires that decrease discomfort during adjustments and help teeth to realign more quickly.
This type of dental brace works almost identically to traditional braces, but instead of using elastic bands to hold the wire in place, the wire clips into the braces themselves. The absence of the elastic bands allows teeth to adjust more quickly and tends to require less maintenance (no emergency trips to the dentist office to replace elastics that popped off).
This form of dental brace is similar in spirit to metal braces in that a small bracket is attached to each tooth and used to hold a guiding wire in place. However, ceramic braces can more closely match the natural color of a tooth, making them less noticeable. They do require a bit more care, as ceramic can easily stain from regular food and drink consumption, and they tend to be more expensive than metal braces.
Lingual braces work according to the same principle as metal braces, but with one major exception: the brackets are placed on the backside of each tooth, effectively hiding them from view. Due to their positioning, lingual braces require dedication and care to keep clean and can impede natural speech when they’re first attached.
Unlike the other styles of braces we’ve addressed so far, clear aligners (the most well-known being Invisalign) do not adhere to your teeth. Instead, they are clear, thin plastic trays that are removable and form-fitted to your teeth when worn. They are invisible to casual observers, which make them desirable for those worrying about the look of traditional braces. Clear aligners used to be fairly expensive but have gotten more affordable in recent years. Aligners are custom-made and replaced every 3-6 weeks to ensure a proper fit with your transitioning teeth.
It’s important that if you’re considering orthodontic treatment, you receive it only from a licensed dentist or orthodontist. There are unregulated commercial companies offering a cheap, quick fix to crooked teeth, but these companies can do more harm than good.
Your dentist has put in years of study, training, and experience, and they’ll know the best way to safely – and correctly – realign your teeth.
Who Can Get Braces?
It’s easy to think of braces as being something exclusively for older children or teenagers. After all, that’s usually when teeth in need of alignment are noticed for the first time. However, braces can be worn during any stage of life, as long as your gums and teeth are in good health.
How to Find Out if Braces Are Right for You
The need for braces is typically evaluated during a dental appointment. Your dentist will examine your teeth and your overall oral health and will provide a recommendation based on that exam. If they do suggest braces, or if braces are a cosmetic option you’d like to pursue, your dentist will then create a treatment plan for you and explain the daily care requirements of braces.