Almost everyone in the United States has either had braces, or knows someone who has. Braces grace the mouths of many a teenager, but increasingly they are used on younger children’s teeth and adults. Are braces right for you? What will having braces be like? If you are wanting to find out more about braces, read on!

Who needs braces?

How will you know if you need braces? Your dentist, or orthodontist, will be able to advise you on whether braces are right for you. There are several reasons why people get braces, and the reasons can change dependent on the age of the patient and the condition of their teeth. Straight teeth are not everything, and your dentist will take into account the entire state of your oral health when determining if you are a good candidate for braces.

  • Overbite: When your top teeth extend over your bottom teeth when you bite down you have an overbite. Sometimes a slight overbite is not a big deal, but a larger overbite can not only be unattractive, but also increase your risk of dental problems. You are at an increased risk of damaging your front teeth if you have a severe overbite, and if there is an injury to your mouth your teeth are more likely to fracture. An overbite can also complicate dental work and decrease the longevity of dental crowns, veneers, or fillings.
  • Crowding: When adult teeth start coming in you might start to see the first signs of crowding in your child’s mouth. Without enough room, the teeth can become crooked and overlap, leading to difficulty maintaining good dental hygiene through brushing and flossing. Crowding can make it hard to sufficiently clean the teeth, and increase your risk of cavities. Braces are increasingly used at younger ages to create space in the mouth and help teeth grow in straight.
  • Underbite: When the bottom teeth are in front of the upper teeth when you bite down you have an underbite. This can be associated with a disproportionate jaw size and could cause an imbalanced facial appearance, difficulty chewing and biting, and facial pain. Braces can correct an underbite.
  • Openbite: An openbite occurs when the top and bottom rows of teeth do not touch when you bite together. This can not only affect the bite and chewing, but could lead to speech impediments such as a lisp.
  • Crossbite: A crossbite that is seen in children often will not correct itself, and is when the upper teeth bite inside the lower back teeth, and the bite is misaligned. A misaligned bite can lead to dental problems including chronic jaw pain and headaches.

While braces can make a huge impact on your appearance, they can also prevent future dental problems and alleviate pain and other chronic jaw issues.

At what age should you get braces?

While the teenage years are still the most popular time to get braces, dentists have started taking advantage of how well younger children’s mouths can quickly make space and adjust with braces. This potentially can eliminate the need for braces as a teen, and can help teeth to grow in where they are supposed to. There is no age limit for getting braces, and if you are an adult who isn’t happy with the look of your teeth, or have jaw issues, you can still get braces! The only prerequisite for braces is that your teeth and jaw are strong enough to support the extra pressure that braces can put on the mouth.

Will braces hurt?

While there are many great advances in the realm of braces, there still can be some pain or discomfort when you get braces and start moving your teeth. You could end up with inflamed gums because of the plastic or metal being so close to sensitive mouth tissue. Or you could have a sore or achy jaw from the pressure the braces are putting on your mouth. These symptoms should subside within a few weeks, but it is good to know that there could be initial discomfort. After wearing braces for a few months you won’t even notice them anymore!

How do I take care of my braces?

You need to take special care to keep your teeth and gums healthy when you have braces. Braces add in crevices that can collect food and could lead to plaque buildup and dental decay. You can use a regular toothbrush to still brush twice a day, but you should also invest in a small brush that can get around the brackets and wires. Flossing needs to be done a little differently, and there are special helpers that allow you to easily thread the floss through the small space under the braces near the gumline. Because braces are on the teeth for an extended period of time, if you don’t take care of your teeth there can be stains when the braces are removed. Be extra diligent to have excellent dental hygiene while you have braces.

What can I eat with braces?

Braces do require you to be a little more careful with what you are eating and drinking. You want to avoid foods that can get stuck in behind the wires or brackets, and foods that could bend or break any parts. This includes hard foods like nuts, raw vegetables, beef jerky, and ice. In addition, sticky foods including gum, taffy, and caramels can be difficult to get out of your braces and could lead to plaque formation. Popcorn is another no-no with braces, and kernel pieces can become almost impossible to remove. Good dental hygiene is built on a good diet, and it is always good to try to limit sugary foods and drinks and focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

What kinds of braces are there?

At Love to Smile we are proud to offer not just metal braces, but clear braces, Invisalign®, and Propel, an accelerated form of Invisalign. Clear braces can be less noticeable than traditional metal braces, and could be a good choice for an adult that is wary of the look of braces. Invisalign is another great option, and utilizes clear trays that fit over your teeth and slowly shift them into proper alignment. You use each aligner for about a week as you gradually move your teeth, and the aligners can be taken out when you eat, eliminating the problems traditionally found with braces. Propel stimulates the bone surrounding the teeth and helps the teeth move faster and more predictably into the desired place. Propel can shorten the time you need to use Invisalign. Your dentist will help you decide which option is best for you!

If you have been considering braces, Love to Smile in Overland Park would love to be your trusted orthodontist! Braces take a little extra care and attention, but they solve cosmetic issues as well as chronic jaw pain, and can give you the smile you have always wanted!