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Dental braces and orthodontics

Dental braces and orthodontics are ways of straightening crooked teeth, adjusting protruding teeth, closing up gaps in the teeth and adjusting over bites or under bites.

Depending on the type of braces used, tension from special wires and brackets moves teeth into a new angle or position over months or years.

Around one in three children in the UK has crooked teeth needing orthodontic treatment to straighten them.

It is common for children to have braces at secondary school, but many adults have this cosmetic dental treatment. Nearly a million people start orthodontic treatment each year.

A general dentist will refer patients to a specialist orthodontist for an assessment and treatment. This may be privately or on the NHS for children if their need is assessed as being great enough.

A greater choice of braces is likely to be available privately, including clear or invisible braces.

What types of braces are available?

There main types of braces are:

  • Fixed braces: These are the most common type of braces and stay fixed in the mouth at all times with brackets glued to teeth linked with wires.
  • Removable braces: Wires are connected to a plastic plate covering the roof of the mouth which clip onto the targeted teeth when it is put in the mouth to achieve limited tooth movement.
  • Functional appliances: A pair of removable plastic braces work together on upper and lower teeth.
  • Headgear: This is usually worn at night to move back teeth.
  • Retainers: Retainers can be either removable or fixed and hold teeth in place while the gums and bone adjust to the new position.
  • Newer technologies, such as invisible or lingual braces may be available privately.

How long will I have to wear braces?

Treatment usually lasts between 18 months to two years. In this time there will be regular visits to the orthodontist every four to six weeks to have the braces checked or adjusted.

The actual treatment time required varies from person to person, depending on the severity of the problem; the amount of room available; the distance the teeth must travel; the health of the teeth, gums and supporting bone; and how closely the patient follows instructions.

Will braces be painful?

Some of the adjustments your orthodontist may make to your braces may make your mouth feel sore or uncomfortable. When needed, over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetemol can help relieve the pain. If you always experience a lot of pain after your braces are adjusted, talk to your orthodontist about it; he or she may be able to make the adjustments differently.

Braces and oral hygiene

The orthodontist will explain how to care for the braces and clean in and around them. People wearing braces have an increased risk of tooth decay if they do not brush their teeth regularly. Pieces of food can get stuck in the wires and the braces can cause an increase in saliva production, leading to more plaque and decay.

Most people will be able to eat normally with braces, but will be advised to avoid food like toffee and hard sweets that can damages the braces.

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