Frequently Asked Questions About Braces

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When your dentist says you or a family member needs braces, lots of questions pop into your head. Here are answers to the most common ones. 

Why is it important to get braces?

Many people decide to correct crooked or misaligned teeth to improve their appearance. That's a cosmetic reason. But there are also health reasons. Good oral care is harder to do when teeth aren't straight. Also, problems with your bite can wear down tooth enamel and harm your gums and jaws. Eventually, you could have problems with chewing and even talking. 

How do braces work? 

Braces put pressure on your teeth and slowly move them into correct position. You'll be seeing an orthodontist if you get braces. That's a dentist with specialized training in straightening teeth and correcting bite problems. Every so often, the orthodontist adjusts the braces, changing the pressure to get the best results. 

What are the different types of braces?

Metal braces are the most common. However, you also can get clear braces and ceramic braces that are the same color as your teeth. Some people may be candidates for braces that go behind rather than in front of your teeth. This makes them harder to see. For minor corrections, there are clear aligners. These are plastic trays that slip over your teeth. 

How long will I have to wear braces?

It varies from person to person, but most people will wear their braces for about two years. Difficult corrections can take up to three years; minor corrections with clear aligners may take as few as six months. During the time you wear braces, you visit the orthodontist every 6 to 8 weeks or so for adjustments. 

What do braces cost?

The cost of braces varies by the type you choose, where you live, and how long you must wear them. Clear and ceramic braces as well as braces that fit in back of the teeth cost more than metal braces. Clear aligners may also cost more than metal braces. Generally, braces cost about $5,000. Dental insurance may cover up to 50% of the cost. 

What can I eat with braces?

You don’t need to follow a special diet but a healthy diet is best. If you have traditional braces, you can eat most of what you normally do. However, you should avoid foods that are sticky, like gum; and hard foods like apples. Sticky and hard foods can damage braces and make oral care more challenging. There are no food restrictions for aligners because you take them out when you eat.

Does getting braces hurt?

Braces work by putting pressure on your teeth. You may feel some pressure and discomfort for a few days when you first get them. It may hurt a little bit after each time your orthodontist adjusts your braces. The individual brackets on your teeth may irritate your gums, cheeks and lips too, causing sore spots. Your orthodontist can give you clear wax to place over the brackets rubbing against these tissues.

Can I brush normally?

Yes. It's extremely important you brush after you eat and remove any food stuck in your braces. Your orthodontist will give you a special flosser that gets in between your braces. You take aligners out when you brush and floss.

Can I play sports with braces on?

You can play sports with braces, but you should wear a mouth guard. Talk with your orthodontist about this and other precautions you should take.

What happens once my braces come off? 

To help your teeth stay in their new position, you'll need to wear a retainer. That's a plastic plate with a wire that goes across the top or bottom teeth. At first, you'll wear a retainer around the clock, taking it out every time you eat. After a while, you'll only need to wear it at night while you sleep.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 31
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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