Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Braces

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

Whether you’re looking to fix a bite problem or seeking straighter teeth, knowing you’re about to get braces on can be a bit nerve-wracking. Understanding exactly how the process works, and what to expect along the way, can help calm some of those pre-braces butterflies for you—or your child—before the big day. Following is an overview of how the orthodontic process generally works, from getting pre-braces molds all the way to the adjustment and maintenance phase.

A Pre-Braces Appointment

After choosing a treatment plan, you’ll visit your orthodontist’s office for some final preparation and planning. This generally includes getting pictures taken of your face, mouth, and teeth, including X-rays if you don’t have updated ones, and getting molds of your teeth made. All of this information will help your orthodontist plan exactly how your braces need to go on, and serve as a starting point from which to track your progress as teeth begin to shift and your bite adjusts.

Braces Go On

When you arrive for your appointment, the orthodontist will start by cleaning and then drying your teeth, making sure the metal will properly adhere to each tooth. After this cleaning, your mouth will be ready for braces. The first step in applying the hardware is to attach a bracket, the square piece that holds the wires, to each of your teeth. It’s more common to have fewer brackets on adult braces, whereas kids often have them applied to most of their teeth.

The brackets are fixed to teeth with bonding glue, which you might taste a little as they’re applied across your mouth. Once they’re secured onto all of the necessary teeth, the orthodontist will connect a wire from bracket to bracket, and secure it by putting small bands on top of it. This is the fun part for kids, as they can select different colors for their bands. The process of getting braces on shouldn’t hurt, but it can take up to two hours.

The First Few Days

You’ll experience some soreness in the first few days after getting braces put on. Know that these will likely be the most painful days of your treatment as the brackets and wires start working together to shift your teeth. Your orthodontist will likely recommend you eat soft foods during these first days—like smoothies, pasta and yogurt—to minimize discomfort during eating, and use over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. In addition to the soreness, the insides of your lips will be getting used to rubbing against those brackets and wires. You can rub orthodontic wax on top of the brackets to reduce some of that friction until your mouth adjusts.

Maintenance of Your Braces

You’ll go back to the orthodontist on a set schedule, most likely every 4 to 6 weeks, to have your braces adjusted. During these visits, your provider will replace your rubber bands, which can get worn out, and adjust your wires so they continue shifting your teeth in the right direction. These appointments are usually quick, lasting around 20 minutes, and are meant to keep the process moving toward your orthodontic goals.

Throughout the entire time you have braces on, you’ll need to take extra good care of your teeth—brushing and flossing around the braces—to avoid staining and decay. You will also need to avoid certain hard and sticky foods that can break or damage the hardware.

If you’re considering braces for yourself or a child, the best way to know exactly what your process will look like is to meet with a few different orthodontists, discuss your goals, and ask them to map out a potential treatment plan for you.

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  1. Braces. Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association.
  2. Braces and Orthodontics. American Dental Association.
  3. Braces: Straighter Teeth Can Improve Overall Health. American Dental Association.
  4. Dental Braces. Mayo Clinic.
  5. Orthodontics. Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association.
  6. Orthodontics/Braces for Children. University of Rochester Medical Center.
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 29
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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.