What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the use of braces to straighten teeth. Making teeth straight makes them look nicer, and gives our patients confidence when smiling. Orthodontic treatment can make teeth healthier as well.
What types of braces are there?
Fixed braces are the most commonly used braces, as they are the best at controlling the positions of all the teeth at once. They consist of white or metal squares that are glued on to the teeth, which are joined together by a wire. The wires are held on to the squares with little elastic bands or by tiny metal clips. You cannot take fixed braces in and out.
Removable braces are made of plastic and are held onto your teeth with metal clips. There are also small wires fastened to the plastic, used to gently move the teeth. Removable braces can be taken in and out for cleaning but you will have to keep them in for the rest of the time if the treatment is to be effective.
Functional braces are a special type of removable brace used for teeth that stick out a lot. We use a special type of functional brace called a Twin Block. This consists of two removable braces – one for the top teeth and one for the bottom teeth – which are worn at the same time. If worn properly, these work very quickly – usually their job is done in about nine months. Most people then go on to fixed braces to make their teeth perfect.
Invisible braces with Invisalign involve having a set of about 20 custom-made aligners fit over your teeth. You change the aligners every two weeks. Since the aligners are all slightly different shapes, they gently and gradually guide the teeth into their new straight position.
Lingual orthodontics involves placing fixed braces on the back of the teeth, instead of on the front. This makes the braces totally hidden, so that nobody will know you are having orthodontic treatment!
Damon braces are designed differently to metal and white conventional braces. The braces are still fixed to the teeth. However, the wires are held on to the brackets by miniature “clips” as opposed to elastic bands. As elastics can sometimes discolour, this system helps your fixed brace to stay fresh and clean.
The appearance of the metal braces during the treatment can be off-putting to some people. Many would prefer to have braces that are less noticeable and that blend in more with their natural teeth.
Which brace will I need?
That depends on how crooked or protruding your teeth are. It also depends on how nice you want your braces to look, how quickly you want to start your treatment and what appointment times you would like.
Do I have to have a brace?
No, not if you don’t want to. However, it is usually the only way of getting your teeth straight.
Do I need teeth taken out?
It depends on how crooked your teeth are. We will straighten your teeth without extractions if we can. However, if your teeth are very crooked, extractions may be needed before the braces are fitted. Your own dentist will take the teeth out.
Do braces hurt?
Getting the braces fitted does not hurt. For fixed braces, the metal squares are just glued on to the teeth. Removable braces clip over the teeth. After the braces are fitted, the teeth will be a little tender as they start to move. Also, you may get some ulcers, as your lips and cheeks will have to get used to the braces. However, these problems are temporary and we will give you advice on how to make things easier for you.
How long does treatment take?
Usually between 12 and 24 months.
What happens when the treatment has finished?
We will want you to wear some retainers, which are usually plastic removable braces. These retainers hold your teeth straight and allow them to settle into their new position. We usually want you to wear your retainers for one year. If you do not wear your retainers as instructed, your teeth may go crooked again.
What are the risks of orthodontic treatment?
Staining of the teeth (called “decalcification”)
If the teeth and braces are not kept clean, the teeth can become stained permanently. We will give you instructions on cleaning your braces when they are fitted. We will also ask you to use a fluoride mouthwash every day to minimise the risks of staining.
Shortening of the roots of the teeth (called “resorption”)
The roots of the teeth in the bone shorten very slightly during orthodontic treatment. This is usually so slight that it causes no problems.
However, sometimes the roots shorten a lot and some teeth may be loose after treatment. We will take X-ray pictures of your teeth before we start your treatment and advise you of any significant risks.
This is when the teeth go crooked after treatment. Wearing retainers reduces the risk of this happening.
However, even after retainers have been worn, the teeth can become slightly crooked over the following years. This is usually very mild and shouldn’t need further treatment.