Braces are a very common way to straighten kids’ (and adults’) teeth and/or to correct dental problems, such as overbites, underbites and jaw disorders. Braces will align your teeth in the proper position to give you a healthy mouth — and a beautiful smile.
How Treatment Begins
If your back teeth are normally close and in tight contact, your orthodontist will place rubber bands, or spacers, in between your back teeth so that there will be room for the bands – which are metal rings that wrap around your back molars. You may not need spacers, but if you do, having the rubber bands between your teeth will hurt for the first few days.
A week after you get your rubber band spacers, your orthodontist will put on your braces. First, your orthodontist will place bands on your back molars, which might cause some pressure or slight pinching. Then, your orthodontist will use special glue to attach a bracket onto each of your teeth. This will taste bad, but it doesn't hurt at all. Now the sequence of getting your braces may vary, depending on what your orthodontist chooses.
After that, he or she will place two thin u-shaped wires into your braces (one on top and one on the bottom), then cut the ends of the wires so they won’t stick out and poke the sides of your mouth.
Depending on the type of braces you have, you might get to pick the color of the rubber bands used to keep the wire inside of your brackets. You will also get a little container of wax, which can be placed on any of the brackets that are causing blisters/abrasions on your gums or lips or on any wire that may feel like it’s poking your cheeks.
What to Expect
When you first get your braces on, your teeth will hurt for a few days, as they will every time you get your braces tightened or your wires changed. During these initial few days, you will feel a dull pain throughout your mouth (drinking slushies, milkshakes and smoothies helps a lot to minimize the pain), and eating solid foods will be very uncomfortable.
Fortunately, the pain will subside after the first couple of days, and you can eat (almost) normally once again. There are some foods that you should avoid when you have braces, including things that are hard, chewy, crunchy, or tough. Your dentist will give you a full list, but these are the top food items to avoid:
- Whole apples
You maybe be tempted to eat these forbidden foods, but remember that they can break off your brackets. The more often you break off brackets, the longer you will be wearing your braces.
In addition to braces, you may need additional equipment – such as headgear, rubber bands or springs. Headgear consists of a thick u-shaped wire that hooks onto your bands and a strap that wraps around your head to keep the wire in place.
A headgear is almost always worn at night and is only uncomfortable the first couple of times it is worn. It helps correct bite problems when there is a difference in the length of the upper jaw in comparison to the lower jaw.
Rubber bands are tiny elastic bands that hook onto both your top and bottom brackets. They are usually worn throughout the day, although some people take them off during meals.
Your rubber bands will be painful for the first couple of days, but after that you can wear them without any pain at all. Wearing your extra devices as instructed will help you get your braces off faster!
Dental Care with Braces
Brush twice every day, or, better yet, after each meal because bits of food get trapped in your mouth more easily when you have braces. If you don’t brush these bits off, you might end up with little white spots – called decalcification –where the brackets used to be once they are removed. If your teeth and gums are not clean, your teeth won’t move as quickly, delaying when you get your braces off.
Also, it is critical to floss daily – which requires a little plastic and flexible threader so you can get the floss under the wires and really reach under the gums. Many dentists may ask you to use a fluoride rinse to help protect the enamel on your teeth.
College reviewer: Daniel Howell
Last reviewed: August 2019