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Getting Braces
By Stephen Yang, DMD, MS
Board Certified Orthodontist
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You want to get braces, but are a little scared because you have heard nightmare stories from your friends or other people that have had braces. Will I get all my braces done at once? How do they put the braces on? Will it hurt? What will it feel like after the braces are on the teeth? These are all common questions people have before they get braces.

Will I get all my braces done at once?
First, it is important to realize that different orthodontists have slightly different protocols for putting on braces. Some orthodontists like to put on only the upper braces first, followed by the lower braces at a later date, while other orthodontists will place upper and lower braces during the same appointment. Sometimes it depends on how your bite is in determining whether to start with upper braces only or both upper and lower braces.

Getting braces, bands, and wires may differ from patient to patient. Some orthodontic patients may only get spacers the first visit followed by bands, braces, and wires the second visit, while other patients may get spacers and braces the first visit, followed by bands and wires the next visit. Some orthodontic patients will not get spacers or bands at all.

How do they put the braces on?
Getting separators and braces put on is usually painless. Putting in separators is as easy as flossing the separator between two teeth and leaving it there. If your teeth are tightly pressed together, it may be a little difficult to place the traditional elastic spacer, so a wire spacer may be used.

A common question when getting braces is “How do the braces stay on the teeth?” Braces are basically glued or bonded to your teeth. Your teeth have to be clean and dry in order for the braces to stay. A lip retractor will be placed to keep your lips and cheeks from wetting and contaminating your teeth. To make sure your teeth are clean of food and plaque, your orthodontist may use some pumice which is a sandy paste to clean the debris off your teeth.

After your teeth are clean, your orthodontist will prepare your teeth for bonding using an etching gel. He will let the gel stay on your teeth for just a short amount of time and then rinse off the gel with water. Then he will paint a thin coat of primer or bonding agent on your teeth which will help the composite cement bind to your teeth. Next, he will put a little composite on the bracket and place the bracket onto the tooth. He will adjust the position of the bracket, clean off the excess composite, and shine a bright light to harden the composite so that the bracket can stick on your tooth.

Now, you are almost done. The last step is putting in the wires that will start straightening your teeth. Each bracket has a slot where the wire fits into. In traditional braces, the wire is held in the slot by an elastic or metal tie. The elastic ties are responsible for the many “braces colors” you may see on orthodontic patients. In self-ligating braces, which have gained in recent popularity, the wire is held in the bracket slot by a small sliding door or clip that is built into the bracket. For self-ligating braces, there is no need for additional elastic or wire ties to tie the wire to the bracket.

Some variations in this procedure include, but are not limited to: Combining steps 2 and 3 by using a self-etching primer; Using another type of cement which hardens after a few minutes so that shining a bright light is not necessary.

Will it hurt?
No needles are involved in getting braces. The braces really do just glue to your teeth. If you have spacers, you may feel a little pressure on your teeth. Many patients describe spacers as having a piece of food stuck between your teeth. So as you can see, usually the procedure of getting braces is relatively painless. However, a day or two after you get your spacers or first wires, you may start to experience some soreness.

What will it feel like to have braces?
Though braces only protrude out about 2-3 millimeters from your teeth, it may take your lips and cheeks a few days to a few weeks to get used to your braces. In the meantime, you may get some small sores on your lips and cheeks. You can place some orthodontic wax on the area of the braces causing the irritation to allow your lips and cheeks to heal. If you continue to have braces problems after a week, call your orthodontist’s office.



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