Braces are orthodontic appliances that are used to achieve a correct alignment of teeth. This is often necessary for people who have teeth that are too crowded, too openly spaced apart, or misaligned. While alignments are oftentimes fixed for aesthetic purposes, there are many instances where the misalignment of teeth results in poor hygiene, difficulty in chewing and even more serious conditions.
Even before you visit your dentist, you can determine for yourself if you will be needing braces. Stand in front of a mirror with your mouth open, and examine your teeth.
- Overcrowding. If your teeth are too closely spaced, overcrowding might occur. While it’s generally normal for teeth to have only small gaps in between, overcrowded teeth might already be twisting to one side or another to give way to the others. Or, some teeth might be pushed in, while others are being pushed out. If this is the case, then you probably need braces.
- Wide spaces. Teeth should only have a very thin gap. If you can see wide spaces between your teeth, then you probably need to have braces installed, too.
- Overbite and underbite. Now try biting and see how your upper and lower teeth connect with each other. If your upper teeth are protruding over your lower teeth significantly, then you have overbite. If the lower teeth are protruding over upper teeth, then you have underbite. There is also a condition called a crossbite, in which either your upper or lower teeth (or both) may be facing inwards or outwards. Misalignments in bite often result in difficulty with chewing and sometimes a tendency for teeth to wear each other out with repeated grinding and biting contact.
Having braces installed. When you visit your family dentist or orthodontist, he would usually tell you if you need to have braces installed on your teeth. If your teeth are overcrowded, this would usually mean that the orthodontist would have to remove a few pairs, to give space for movement. If teeth are too openly spaced apart, then the dentist would simply have to install the braces. Braces will then have to stay on your teeth for about two years, with adjustments done by the orthodontist every two weeks or so.
- Other appliances. An orthodontist might also use other appliances aside from braces. Sometimes, the upper and lower jaw would have to be expanded, and this is done with the use of retainers and expanders. This is especially true in the case of crossbites, where the jaw needs to be properly realigned to allow for a straighter alignment of teeth.
- What to expect. Aside from regular orthodontist fees, wearing braces would also mean you have to deal with pain regularly for the entire duration that the appliance is installed. Braces are often connected by bands or wires, and these have to be adjusted every two weeks or so, so that the teeth would slowly move toward its intended position. This causes discomfort for a few days after the bands are tightened. This process is repeated until the teeth are in their ideal new position, after which a patient would have to wear retainers until the bone hardens enough.
Braces are often used for both cosmetic and more serious concerns. If you think you have a condition serious enough to merit wearing braces, don’t hesitate to pay your local dentist or orthodontist a visit. Braces might not be for everyone, especially given the cost and discomfort involved. But, if it will result in a better bite in the long run, then the cost and discomfort will be worth it.