Wearing Braces

If you or your child has dental braces, you are no doubt aware that dental braces care is extremely important. It involves a little more time than your regular dental routine but if you follow our recommended care, you'll reduce your time to a few minutes. Below are some common questions asked during treatment.

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What is an adjustment and how is it done?

Every 4 to 8 weeks, you'll come back to Carus Orthodontics to get your braces "tightened" or "adjusted." This may sound complicated but it is relatively simple process.

This is usually what happens during an orthodontic adjustment:

  • The orthodontic assistant removes your elastic ligatures (the little rubber bands that hold each bracket to the archwire).
  • Then the archwire is removed.
  • At this point, you can brush and floss almost sans braces.
  • The Carus Orthodontist may come over to examine your teeth's progress. Depending on the situation, a new archwire may be needed. If you need anything new (such as power chains or elastics), the orthodontist should tell you.
  • The archwire (new or previous) is put back onto your brackets. New elastic ligatures are put on. If this is one of the first times you're getting an adjustment, this may hurt a little because of the pressure placed on the teeth. Don't worry, in future months, it won't hurt anywhere near as much! This is why they call it "tightening"; the braces feel tighter when the new ligatures are put on because of the renewed pressure on the teeth.
  • If the archwire pokes your cheek at all, tell your Carus Orthodontist immediately! The archwire should not poke you. If it does, the Carus Orthodontist or assistant will clip the archwire. Sometimes, the archwire does not poke you immediately, but suddenly starts poking after one or two meals. You can place wax on it as needed and then call our office the next business day if you need it clipped.

You may have to take an over-the-counter pain reliever to help you deal with any discomfort. The discomfort will probably last a few days and then dissipate. You may need to eat only soft foods for a few days. Protein shakes make ideal meal replacements if chewing even soft food is uncomfortable. Within a week, most people usually eat normal food again. After a few months, adjustments won't hurt as much.

After you have had braces for more than 6 months, your teeth get used to the extra pressure. At this point, an adjustment might not hurt at all, but your teeth usually feel sore for 2–3 days afterwards.

The cell regeneration process occurs after an adjustment. Your teeth are under force and move and cause some cells (bone, tissue) to break down and new cells to regenerate. After the regeneration happens, the teeth and supporting structures begin giving and moving again and the cycle continues.

Because today's wires move teeth slowly over a long period of time, the whole cell regeneration doesn't stop/go/stop/go as it used to with older style wires, now it just moves your teeth continually. Movement continues until the wire is fully back to the original size and shape, at which time you are ready for a stiffer and larger archwire.

I seem to be drooling more. Why?

Excess saliva (drool) is actually very common. Apparently your mouth mistakes the feeling of the brackets on the inside of your cheeks for food, and sometimes produces extra saliva to help digest it.

Suddenly I've developed gaps between teeth, which never had gaps before. Should I be worried?

It is very common for your teeth to shift and develop gaps while treatment is underway. Your bite will change many times during your treatment. Remember than any strange gaps or bite problems will be resolved by the time your treatment is finished. If you are really concerned, mention it to your Carus Orthodontist.

Do I really need to brush my teeth after every meal when I'm wearing braces?

Yes and no. Yes, you should, because depending on what you eat; food gets stuck in and around the brackets. Besides looking bad, it causes tooth decay and bad breath. It also feels yucky. Some people can't stand the feeling of food stuck in their brackets. You wouldn't believe how much food can get stuck—often more than you'd imagine!

However, if you let the brushing slide every so often, it's not the end of the world. Just try to be as diligent as possible on a regular basis. At the very least, swish your mouth with water and try to pick out any food that is stuck in your brackets. It's also a good idea to floss each night. Sometimes food gets stuck between teeth and you don't realize it until you floss it out.

We also recommend a fluoride mouth rinse, such as ACT, which is available in most supermarkets and pharmacies, and comes in many flavors (including bubblegum and mint).

My teeth really hurt. What can I do to ease the pain?

In the first weeks after you get your braces, your mouth will be sore and your teeth will hurt. Most people take an over-the-counter pain reliever to help ease the pain. Cold drinks or cold foods (such as frozen yogurt, milkshakes, ice cream, or just plain ice water) may also help.

Will my brackets pop off?

Sometimes a bracket will spontaneously pop off. There are a number of reasons this can happen. Remember that your brackets are glued on, so if the glue bond is broken, the bracket will come off. If this happens to you, place wax as needed and call the office the next business day. It is normal for a bracket to pop off occasionally. But if a bunch of brackets keep popping off, then examine your diet and habits to prevent future breakage. Gluing on brackets can be tricky and it may take a few tries to get it exactly right.

I don't want to wear my headgear during the day. Why can't I wear it only at night?

Nobody likes to wear headgear, but it serves a specific purpose in your treatment. If you don't wear it as many hours as we recommend, your treatment won't progress as fast, and you might wind up wearing the headgear additional months. It's best to just go along with what your treatment plan and get it over with sooner.

Why do I need to wear elastics?

Elastics help fine-tune the alignment of your teeth and your bite. There are many different ways that you can wear elastics for specific reasons. You should wear the elastics the number of hours that your Carus Orthodontist recommends to help your treatment progress properly. (Wearing them "double time" or "double strength" to make up for time you spent without them is NOT advisable—that could harm your teeth). We recommend taking elastics out before a meal, brush and then replace them after a meal.

How can I cope with canker sores when I have braces?

If the sore is near a bracket, you can put some dental wax on the bracket to create a barrier and then apply some canker sore medication to the sore area. There are other ways to cope with canker sores. Please contact your Carus Orthodontist for more help.

A wire at the end of my braces is poking my cheek. What should I do?

This is always an annoying and tricky situation. If possible, place a generous amount of dental wax at the end of the wire to stop it from poking you. You can also try a bit of cotton. Call Carus Orthodontics and ask to come in so we can clip the wire. Please don't suffer needlessly with a poking wire. After a day or two it can tear up the inside of your cheek, so don't wait to get it clipped!

How often should I get my teeth cleaned when I have braces?

We recommend you get your teeth cleaned more than twice per year. For people with braces, this is especially important. Even if you brush and floss very well, a professional cleaning will ensure that you don't develop decay. Fortunately, your archwires and brackets do not have to be removed to be cleaned. They usually work around your braces, or use a device called a Cavitron, which is like a high-powered Waterpik.