SHOULD I GET BRACES?
We use to put braces on only after all the permanent teeth came in. Now we use all kinds of dental appliances early in life to simplify later treatment. Adults wanting straighter teeth, account for 20% of orthodontic patients. Over 4.5 million Americans are wearing braces to get a beautiful smile and have healthy teeth. The FDA regulates these appliances for safety and effectiveness.
Braces can move teeth that are overcrowding. It is harder to brush and floss crowded and crooked teeth. Improper cleaning leads to tooth decay and other dental problems.
Braces also correct a severe bite problem that hampers eating cause gum disease and tooth and bone loss. If the upper and lower jaw don’t close properly, the teeth will wear down, and cause jaw pain and make chewing difficult.
Most of us do not have naturally straight teeth. About 75% of us could use some orthodontic care. We inherit crowded teeth, too much space between teeth and bite problems of unmatching upper and lower jaws. But we can develop crooked teeth by thumb sucking and tongue thrusting during swallowing.
Braces put pressure against the teeth and gradually move them. A metal wire called an arch wire running outside the teeth puts most of the pressure on the teeth. Rubber bands from surgical latex add additional pressure that the arch wire alone cannot do.
In the past, this arch wire connected to big metal bands individually wrapped and cemented around each tooth. There was a lot of pushing and shoving that hurt when the braces were adjusted.
Today the arch wire is attached to tiny ceramic brackets bonded to the front of the teeth with a glue agent. There may be metal bands used on the back of teeth, but they are now light and smaller.
Adjustments use to be every three weeks and know it’s every eight weeks.
The arch wires are now made of nickel-titanium mixture that was used by NASA to activate solar panels in outer space. At room temperatures they are very flexible, which makes it easy to attach to the teeth. As they warm in the mouth, they create constant pressure on the teeth.
One can today get clear or tooth colored brackets that are barely noticed. Gold braces can also be chosen. The colors are on the elastic ties attaching the brackets to the arch wire. They can also be invisible when fitted on the inside of the teeth. They are called lingual braces, but have some drawbacks. They can irritate the tongue and affect speech, and must be worn longer than other braces.
The teeth can’t be moved fast, or they will loosen and tooth loss may occur. Braces are worn on the average of two years. When they are removed a retainer must be worn until the bone grows around the teeth and stabilizes them.
As we age, teeth tend to shift, so a retainer may be a lifetime requirement. Retainers are plastic with some metal wire. They can be permanent or removable. They also come in different colors and designs. The roof of the mouth may be pink or personalized.
New devices or material, bonding agents, and color dyes are reviewed by the FDA before being placed on the market. Devices used before 1976 are grandfathered and exempt from review. Braces have some risks. Teeth can be broken when the brackets are removed due to allergic reactions from the bracket materials.
Braces require more frequent brushing, flossing and general care. You can’t eat sticky, gooey, or hard foods. No jawbreakers, peanuts, ice cubes, caramel or taffy either. They can break the brackets, bend the wires, or get caught in the braces causing cavities.
It’s a lifetime commitment for a pretty smile. Is it worth it? You bet!
Sources ww.braces.org, American Assoc. or Orthodontists