A guide to braces

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Braces are dental devices designed to adjust the position of misaligned teeth. They are made up of four parts (namely, the ligature elastic, arch wire, bonding material and brackets). Together, these components help to place continuous pressure on the teeth; this pressure loosens and subsequently moves them into the correct locations within the mouth.

How are braces fitted?

In order to keep the patient's mouth open throughout the brace fitting process, the orthodontist will insert a device known as a cheek retractor. Following this, they will thoroughly polish and air-dry the teeth, so that the bonding material will sit securely on the teeth's surface.

A dental cement will be applied to the brackets, after which they are then be positioned onto the front of the teeth. After this stage is complete, the orthodontist will use a special curing light to harden the cement. Finally, the ligature elastics and the arch wires will be fitted. The entire process usually takes approximately 20 minutes.

What problems might a person encounter when their braces are first fitted?

It can take a couple of weeks for a person to fully adjust to wearing braces. During the first few days, the patient's tongue and inner cheeks may chafe and become quite sore, as the brackets rub against them. The mouth tissues will adapt to this new pressure after a week or so and the pain should then subside.

Some people may also find that their speech is affected by their braces; they may, for example, develop a lisp. However, these changes are usually temporary. Most patients will find that their speech returns to normal after they have spent a few days practicing how to speak whilst wearing braces.

Lastly, those who play musical instruments that feature mouthpieces (such as a flute, clarinet or trumpet) may initially struggle to perform as well as they did before they had their braces fitted. Additionally, they may notice that their tongue and lips become very sore after a practice session. It can take several weeks (or months, in some cases) for musicians to get used to playing their instruments whilst wearing orthodontics.

How are braces removed?

The orthodontist will begin the removal process by using a pair of dental pliers to placing a small amount of pressure on each bracket's brace; this distorts the shape so that the bond between the bracket and the adhesive will break and the bracket can then be pulled off.

When the brackets and the wires are removed, a scaling instrument will be used to scrape off the dental cement. Following this, the orthodontist will polish the teeth with a special paste. Impressions of the teeth will then be taken, so that a set of retainers can be made (retainers are almost always needed after a person has worn braces, so that their teeth will remain in their correct positions).