Your dentist recommended that you or your child get braces or other orthodontic treatment, so where do you go from here? If you are new to orthodontics, the sheer number of treatment options may be mind-boggling. Questions abound. Is there a difference in results between bracket braces and invisible braces? Will my child need rubber bands? What do rubber band even do? Why might my child need headgear? We have compiled a handy guide to the differences in standard orthodontic treatment options, just for you!
When most people hear the word “braces,” they picture traditional metal braces like those that are shown above. Metal braces use metal brackets, which are the parts that attach to your teeth, and wires connected to the brackets to straighten teeth and correct bites. Ceramic braces use the same system, the only difference is that they have clear or tooth-colored brackets so that they are less noticeable. Some orthodontists even offer tooth-colored wires, as well. Luckily, with either option, brackets are smaller than they were in years past. This makes braces both more comfortable and less noticeable. Orthodontists also use archwires, which are thin wires, either round or rectangular, that fit into the brackets of your braces. With today’s technology, they correct and straighten teeth more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Although they are a bit more noticeable, these types of braces often move teeth on a much quicker timeline than clear aligners.
When you get traditional braces, your orthodontist will instruct you on proper cleaning techniques, and will also educate you on what foods and drinks you or your child should avoid while you have braces. It is important to follow these instructions to avoid damaging your teeth or creating other dental health issues.
Lingual braces work exactly like traditional braces, but the brackets and wires are placed on the inside of your teeth. This gives them the excellent cosmetic advantage of being invisible when you smile. They do have a few potential disadvantages to consider, though. Compared to regular metal braces, they are often more expensive, can be a little more difficult to clean, may be a bit more uncomfortable initially, and having them adjusted often takes longer. However, while lingual braces may not be a treatment option for all people, they are a wonderful choice if they fit your lifestyle and treatment needs.
Clear aligners, or “invisible” braces, are made of clear, thin, plastic-like trays that are formed to fit your mouth and teeth perfectly. A series of aligners are made specifically for you, and each set is worn for about 2 to 3 weeks. These aligners are designed to move your teeth a fraction of a millimeter per set. Over the course of 1-3 years, depending on your individualized care plan, these aligners will slowly move your teeth to where they should be. The number of aligners and amount of time for treatment will, of course, vary depending on your particular needs. These clear aligners are removable and look much like removable retainers. It is important to remove your aligners before eating, brushing, or flossing, in order to keep your teeth healthy and your aligners from being damaged. Clear aligners have grown in popularity over the last ten years because they offer the cosmetic advantage of being nearly invisible.
Headgear is often the most dreaded possibility when it comes to braces. The good news is that headgear is not as bad as often portrayed in movies or TV shows. Even better, it is incredibly effective at correcting jaw alignment. Orthodontic headgear helps correct severe bite problems by adding tension to your braces through different attachable appliances, which will vary depending on your treatment plan. Most often, headgear is only worn for 12 hours a day, usually when you sleep, although the hours can be broken up throughout the day, and it is important to adjust to wearing it over the span of a couple of weeks. While headgear may seem daunting, the pros of correcting a severe bite problem usually outweigh the cons. Severe bite problems can lead to TMJ and sleep apnea if not treated, so it is important to consider your options carefully if your orthodontist does recommend headgear.
Retainers are orthodontic devices that are used after your braces are taken off. The main purpose of a retainer is to keep your teeth in their new positions. There are two different types of retainers: removable and fixed and there are different benefits to each type of retainer. Fixed or bonded retainers are made of a very thin piece of wire that is attached to the back of the teeth. This type is hidden behind the teeth, so it is virtually invisible when you smile.
Since bonded retainers are fixed inside of your mouth, they benefit children and their parents because parents do not have to worry about their children not wearing their retainers. The downside is that it makes effective flossing a bit more challenging. However, they are removable by a dentist, should your child want to opt for a removable retainer in the future.
Removable retainers can be made of clear, thin, slightly flexible plastic or a more traditional version with acrylic and a wire. Both types of removable retainers are specially molded to fit the exact shape and placement of your teeth. Initially, removable retainers are worn full time for 8 to 12 weeks. This helps bone form and harden around your teeth, which keeps the teeth from shifting. After this, most orthodontists will recommend wearing them every night for as long as you want your teeth to stay straight.
The main benefit of a removable retainer is that flossing and other dental hygiene does not pose a problem. A common concern about removable retainers is that children may either lose them or not wear them, which will be a problem if your child’s teeth are prone to moving easily. A significant lapse in wearing their retainer could lead to substantial movement of teeth, undoing some of the work that braces did. If you do opt for a removable retainer, it is important to make sure that it is worn consistently. Retainers are an essential and important part of an orthodontist’s care plan, allowing you to maintain a healthy, beautiful smile for your whole life.
Elastics are tiny rubber bands that fit over tiny hooks on selected upper and lower brackets. The placement of the elastics can be either vertical or diagonal, depending on your needs. The rubber bands apply extra force to a tooth or multiple teeth so they move in ways that braces alone would not force them too, which helps teeth move into their ideal positions. Your orthodontist will direct you exactly where to place the elastics, and you or your child will be responsible for placing and removing the elastics as needed on a daily basis. It is important that elastics are only used as directed by your orthodontist. Placing elastics in the wrong place can put extra pressure on teeth that do not need it, ultimately causing harm to them.
No matter what route you end up taking, we'll create a care plan that incorporates the best option for you, carefully taking into consideration your family’s orthodontic needs and lifestyle. The Jungle Roots team is also prepared to help you with financial planning and maximizing your insurance benefits so that your family can get the orthodontic care they deserve. We will do all we can to make the entire process go as smoothly as possible for you or your child and answer any question you have. Straighter, healthier, and brighter smiles are on the way!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.