Braces have become very common in the United States. Some teenagers feel that once they reach a certain age, they need to have them, because everyone else does. Adult braces are becoming more popular, too.
There are three basic reasons for needing braces or orthodontic treatment:
- The most obvious one is for appearance’s sake. Especially in the American culture, crooked teeth are not considered socially acceptable, and orthodontic treatment will straighten your teeth.
- There is a functional reason, too. When teeth are out of alignment, it can be hard to chew effectively. Orthodontic treatment can correct a faulty bite and thus can treat poor chewing or headaches that can be associated with teeth not meeting together properly.
- Crooked teeth are hard to clean and are considerably more susceptible to gum disease in later life. When teeth are straightened, they can be brushed and flossed easily, they don’t trap food as easily, and thus they are more resistant to gum disease.
When we use the word “braces,” we tend to think of the traditional wire and bracket kind. But there are new variations on this traditional technique. One popular option these days is what is called Invisalign® invisible braces. Invisalign makes a system of clear, computer-manufactured aligners. They use sophisticated imaging software that creates a series of clear plastic splints that are truly invisible at conversational distance. When you put the aligner in, it is molded to push your teeth into a slightly new position. Every two weeks you change the aligners and gradually your teeth are moved to where they are perfectly straight. The Invisalign system doesn’t work for every case, but for many people they are a new way to straighten your teeth. We also have related information posted on our invisible braces page.
There are also lingual braces that are worn on the insides of the teeth. These are very uncomfortable and irritating to the tongue, but they are completely invisible to others.
When you are wearing braces, it is especially important to keep your teeth clean. If you don’t, several serious problems can develop. The brackets trap food particles which, if allowed to sit undisturbed on a regular basis, will decalcify the enamel around the brackets and leave you with white spots or brown spots that will be ugly blotches on your teeth when you are done with orthodontic treatment. Sometimes these spots will turn into tooth decay. As these food particles decompose, they also promote bad breath. See our page devoted to braces and bad breath.
Some orthodontists are recommending the use of Tooth Mousse to treat or prevent these white spots.
This content was written by Dr. David Hall.
- If your teeth are straightened with braces, their new straight position needs to be maintained, often with what are called retainers. Even later in life your teeth can go crooked again because of adult tooth movement.
- Read about the use of microabrasion to treat white spots on teeth.
- Read Dr. Hall’s blog posts about braces, where he answers questions from visitors.