Misaligned or crooked teeth can be a very difficult issue to deal with. Those affected often suffer from excessive self-consciousness and a lack of self-confidence. There is also a risk of dental caries, cavities and plaque build-up. A higher risk of gingivitis and other problems affecting gingiva has been observed. This occurs because it is more difficult to care for crowded teeth, as there are more nooks and crannies plaque can build up in. All in all, it is certainly not pleasant.
While the problem of misaligned teeth can be dealt with, the treatment process is often fairly long, due to biological constraints. The teeth simply cannot move much at once, lest they end up damaged or even fall out. This is because the bone that keeps the tooth in its place must also move and then remineralize, which is a process that takes time and must be done gently if one is to avoid risking losing their teeth. Unfortunately for all the sufferers, it often means there is yet another year of self-consciousness waiting for them as they have to wear braces that can, let’s be honest here, be quite unsightly. But then again, the payoff is huge, as the patients will have a beautiful smile they will be proud of for the rest of their lives. In our practice have seen over the years many patients who were reluctant to get their teeth straightened out but were thanking us profusely once they saw how beautiful their smile had become.
For less demanding cases, a variety of methods has been devised that does not include wires, as with braces. There are various options employing sets of plastic aligners that help straighten teeth out. They are nearly invisible and can be very effective. The most popular are Invisalign clear braces and especialy Invisalign Teen, intended for younger patients. But there are more severe cases that sometimes cannot be dealt with this way. Braces are still the first-line treatments for those patients. Others still do not mind the look of braces and are happy to go along with whatever is available. Regardless of the reason, braces are still widely used and are the best method of straightening severely misaligned teeth or those with other issues that plastic aligners cannot deal with. And do not think that the technology of dental braces has not improved over the years – it is quite the opposite. Methods similar to braces have been used for thousands of years. In ancient times, people used various metal bands they would wrap around their teeth. Some used gold wires, while others made strings from intestines. Braces of today are definitely not the same as those twenty years ago, and various types are available. Let’s see what is on offer and what you can expect from each of these types.
This is the oldest and the most traditional method. This is the method most people associate with the term “braces”. While most still have the image of ugly, huge brackets, it is not quite like that nowadays. The brackets have become much smaller and there is also an option of customizing one’s own look. This will especially appeal to teenagers, who will be able to personalize their braces like never before. They are also often the most cost-effective method of teeth straightening. Braces can be used by both teens and adults alike. The best period to straighten one’s teeth, though, is definitely during the teenage years.
They are usually made of stainless steel, but sometimes come in combination with titanium, as well. The braces usually consist of a metal bracket and an elastic material that holds the wire onto the brackets. The brackets are glued to the fronts of each tooth with an adhesive. The molars are straightened with a band going around the tooth. This means that the person is able to eat, drink and talk normally while wearing them, but certain types of food cannot or should not be eaten. Some are a danger to the integrity of braces, while some are very difficult to dislodge once pieces get stuck. In order not to damage the braces one should not eat toffee or chewy candy. Sugary snacks should also be avoided, as well as starchy potato chips. They all contribute to cavities and plaque build-up. Patients are also usually advised not to eat tricky food such as popcorn or corn on the cob. A general rule of thumb is to avoid sugary, hard or crunchy foods. Plaque build-up could cause teeth to stain once the brackets are removed.
These braces are also marketed as “clear” braces. They have the advantage of being more cosmetically appealing since they are less visible. The brackets are typically made of ceramic or other plastic materials that mimic the color of the tooth or are transparent. They blend in with the tooth. The only thing visible is the metal wire, but even that can be dealt with using clear elastic or white metal ties to make braces even more inconspicuous. White metal is the better option as the wire is stronger, but they tend to lose a bit of their coating over time. This type of braces generally functions the same as traditional metal braces. They are a tad more expensive than regular braces, though. Patients need to care well for these braces, as they are easier to stain if not cared for properly. This includes not drinking too much colored drinks or similar food, and observing good dental hygiene habits. Patients are also advised against smoking and drinking too much coffee.
There are some downsides, though. Ceramic is harder than enamel and sometimes the friction of teeth against the ceramic brackets can cause them to wear. Ceramic brackets are also more brittle and require more time to fit properly.
This type of braces is unlike the previous two. The mechanism is still pretty similar, but the wires do not go on the front of the teeth, but on the inside, by the tongue and palate). That way they are totally invisible when you smile or talk. The name comes from the Latin word for tongue, “lingua”. They are a fairly recent innovation, having been invented in 1975. This is a great option for those who simply do not want their braces to be visible in any way – this can be important if you hold a high-level job or are frequently exposed to the public eye. They are also a better option for more complex teeth movements that aligners simply cannot fix. There is also less of a hassle with inserting and removing them, and there is no risk of losing your braces unintentionally, as with aligners.
The dentist takes a detailed impression of the patient’s teeth and the braces are custom tailored in a dental laboratory. The process takes about a month or two. Because of that these braces are significantly more expensive than the regular braces. They usually cost upwards of $5,000. The treatment may last anywhere from 18 to 36 months, depending on the severity of misalignment.
They are a bit more forgiving when it comes to dental hygiene and aesthetics, as any discoloration that occurs will occur on the inside of the tooth and will therefore be invisible. But it does not mean one should not practice good dental hygiene – quite the opposite. They are often more difficult to clean and require more diligence on part of the user. It is recommended to brush with a soft toothbrush, floss and use fluoride mouthwash daily. Every six months your teeth should be professionally cleaned. There is a period of usual discomfort as you get used to braces standing right next to your tongue. In some patients it may affect speech for a while until they adapt. Most patients say it took them two weeks until they got used to the braces and stopped noticing them.
Other Types of Braces
There are some other types of braces that may be used as well.
Some people prefer their wires to be made of gold-plated stainless steel. This is either due to allergy to nickel or some people’s preference for the look of gold on their teeth. Those allergic to nickel also have the option of titanium braces that are lighter and just as strong, but come at a price premium.
There are also other interesting treatment philosophies, such as MEAW (Multi Loop Edgewise Archwire), where looped wire is inserted between the teeth. It can used to treat some dental problems and aids in vertical alignment and bite adjustment.
Nowadays it is becoming more common for orthodontists to utilize customized, usually computerized, systems that create 3-D impressions of the patient’s mouth. The wires are then custom bended so as to reduce treatment times and improve overall results. It is expected that this will become even more common over time.
If you are having some doubts about your smile and think you might benefit from treatment, feel free to contact our renowned dentist, Dr. Harouni, at his office in Henderson, NV (Las Vegas, NV) area. Set up an appointment now at 702-434-9464. Why wait until tomorrow for a smile you can have today?