About braces

Orthodontic braces form a complete tooth-moving system which can cause remarkable changes to improve the appearance and function of teeth. However, they require a great deal of care in order to function properly.

Braces MUST be kept spotlessly clean (even though cleaning is difficult), and it is important to check in the mirror each day to ensure that good oral hygiene is being maintained. Lack of care and attention can extend the treatment time and increase treatment costs.

After a course of Orthodontic treatment (braces), the function of your teeth can be improved and your smile made more attractive. These positive benefits are only obtained when appliances are allowed to function properly with good home care and cooperation.

 

General - top -

If you are really uncomfortable you could take paracetamol or neurofen (if not asthmatic) for pain relief.

Your braces are going to feel strange at first and you may have a tendency to pick at the wires with your finger - please avoid doing this.

There will be slight discomfort after each visit for a couple of days, this is to be expected and is a sign that your teeth are moving.

Your braces may feel a bit bulky and uncomfortable for a few days. Your teeth may also feel sensitive or tender at the start of treatment. This is normal as your teeth adjust to the braces and start to move. It is best to eat soft foods during this period, e.g. minced or stewed meats, mashed vegetables, eggs, fruit salad, ice-cream etc. Once the teeth start moving the tenderness will disappear and you can go back to a normal consistency diet.

 

Parts of your braces - see also Caring for teeth & gums with braces (.PDF) - top -

  1. Brackets - Brackets are bonded to the tooth surface and hold the archwire in place; they may be either stainless steel or ceramic
  2. Bracket with tube and hook - The back one or two brackets have a tube that the archwire runs through. The end of the wire is bent around the back of this bracket.
  3. Hooks & Elastic Rubber Bands - The hooks are used for the attachment of elastics. The elastics help move teeth toward their final position. The elastics are changed at least once a day by the patient and if not worn as directed can greatly prolong your treatment time.
  4. Archwire - The archwire is fitted into the slots in the brackets or through the tubes in the case of the very back brackets.
  5. O-Rings - Often referred to as colours. The role of the O-ring is to hold the archwire firmly into the slots on the brackets, they may be coloured or clear. Elastic chain is sometimes used instead of O-rings and it is also coloured or clear. The chain is lightly stretched and can be fixed to each bracket or just some, to provide a gentle tooth-moving force usually to close space.

When your braces are placed initially you may also find yourself with an extra support wire (also called under-tie) that is placed underneath the main archwire across a tooth extraction space.

 

Diet - top -

Basically there are three main food groups you need to avoid or work out ways to eat them. They are foods that fit into the category of:

HARD - STICKY - CHEWY

  • This applies to lots of lollies such as Minties, K-Bars, Fruit Bursts, Toffee Milks, Jet Planes, Red Skins etc.
  • Chewing Gum, however after you have had at least 2 wire changes you will be alright to chew sugar free gum.
  • Hard Biscuits like gingernuts - dunk these in something warm to soften them, other biscuits just may need to be broken up.
  • Hard toast crusts, pizza crusts or pie crusts - break or cut smaller or avoid if too hard.
  • Don't bite into meat on the bone like chops - if you bite on the bone you are likely to dislodge a bracket.
  • Apples and other firm fruit needs to cut into quarters - take care when getting close to stones in peaches, nectarines etc.
  • Raw carrots and other raw vegetables need to be cut into sticks.
  • Fibrous meats that may be found in casseroles need to be cut smaller.

You will find that your diet doesn't need to change too much; it is more about how you eat things. Firmer foods are best eaten slowly to avoid hard biting forces, and should be cut into smaller pieces first.

Remember constant breakages caused by eating incorrectly will lead to extended treatment time.

Sugary Foods and Drinks:
Avoid foods with lots of sugar such as lollies, biscuits, cakes, soft drinks, high energy drinks and flavoured waters. Consumption of sugary foods and drinks must be kept to a minimum to avoid decay and white marks that you often don't see until your braces are removed. Remember to rinse with water directly after consuming something sugary and brush your teeth 1 hour later. (Brushing sooner than this may cause abrasive damage to your teeth!)

 

Brushing - top -

The key to healthy teeth and gums is thorough plaque removal every day. Plaque is the sticky colourless film of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth. Braces provide extra places for plaque and food to accumulate. If it is left to build up it will cause tooth decay, white marks on teeth and in extreme cases, gum disease. Plaque that isn't removed from around the brackets and gum line will cause the gums to swell rapidly and become tender and bleed. BLEEDING AND SWOLLEN GUMS ARE UNHEALTHY GUMS!
  • Brush your teeth, gums and braces at least three times a day (especially after eating). It is advisable to rinse with water after eating sugary drinks or food and leave it 1 hour before you brush. Repeatedly brushing your teeth after eating sugary foods will wear away your enamel over time.
  • Clean between the teeth with floss at least once daily.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste - fluoride is proven to help prevent cavities.
  • Try to carry your toothbrush and floss with you at all times so that you can clean your teeth even when you are not at home.
  • Use a disclosing tablet fortnightly.


At first, doing a good job removing plaque from your teeth and along the gum line may seem difficult with braces. But keep at it - with a bit of practice it will get easier! Following these tips will also help:

  1. First, take off any removable parts like elastic bands or removable plates.
  2. Place your toothbrush at an angle of about 45 degrees to the gum and apply gentle pressure as you brush with a gently circular motion. Clean each tooth individually for about 10 seconds making sure you reach your back teeth.
  3. Remember, each tooth has three surfaces which must be cleaned. They are: the top biting surface, the surface next to the cheek and the surface next to the tongue. Be very particular around the gum margins, especially in the front of the mouth, upper and lower. This is essential. It may help to pull out your lips when cleaning the front teeth.
  4. Proper brushing of a full set of braces takes around 3 minutes.
  5. Floss your teeth using either the small ‘Ortho Flossers' or the floss in conjunction with the floss threaders. Curve the floss around each tooth in a ‘C' shape and gently move it up and down between each tooth, including under the gum line.
  6. Please look closely in the mirror each time after brushing to check that all traces of food and plaque have been removed.

 

Wearing Elastics (Rubber Bands) - top -

The wearing of elastics is an important stage of Orthodontics.

  • It is essential that you wear your elastics all the time as instructed.
  • If you do not wear your elastics, your treatment progress will stop. Poor co-operation and laziness in wearing elastic means that no progress whatsoever occurs in treatment.
  • Elastics should only be removed for tooth brushing and then replaced immediately.
  • Change your elastics every day or as instructed.
  • You may experience some discomfort when you first start wearing elastics. This is normal and will ease with constant wear.
  • Always keep spare elastics with you in case of breakage or loss.
  • If you run out of elastics or lose them, please phone here and we will mail you a replacement bag or call in and collect more.
  • If you have difficulty putting them on, please phone here and arrange to see one of the staff for advice.
  • Mike will be able to tell whether or not you are wearing your elastics as you should.

Common Problems - top -

Orthodontic emergencies do occur occasionally and, although they may be a little upsetting for the patient and parents, they are actually fairly simple to treat. To help you accurately describe the emergency situation use the diagram above which illustrates and names each part of a typical set of braces.

If you feel that some part of your brace has broken or bent then phone here for advice or an appointment to have the repair work completed. The longer something is left without repair the longer your treatment time will be because damaged appliances will not work effectively. This includes:

  • Brackets that have come off the tooth surface and are loose on your wire.
  • Bent or broken wires.
  • O-rings off.
  • Plates that feel sore or uncomfortable.
  • Wires digging in to your cheeks.

We prefer to have you come to us for repairs as sometimes D.I.Y. repair work causes more damage, however if you have wires digging in while away on holiday or outside of surgery hours, you may contact a dentist for a temporary repair until we can see you. (They may charge you.) Our opening hours are 8am - 5pm Monday to Thursday and 8am - 3pm on Friday.

The following list offers examples of possible treatment:

Food Caught Between Teeth
This can be a little uncomfortable or embarrassing for the patient. It is easily fixed with a piece of dental floss or use the interproximal brush supplied to dislodge the food caught between the teeth and braces.

Bracket Off
Brackets can only be dislodged by eating incorrect food, fiddling with things in your mouth, a knock to your face or moisture contamination at the time of applying the braces. If the bracket is loose on your wire, try turning it around the correct way so it is not digging in and make a time to have this repaired as soon as possible. If you repeatedly knock off brackets through no fault of ours, you will be charged $65 per bracket after 3 have been replaced.

Lost O-Ring
If an o-ring should come off it is important to get another one put on as soon as convenient because the o-ring is what holds the wire in to the bracket, to enable the tooth to move correctly. Sometimes when one pops off, others may follow.

Discomfort
It is normal to have discomfort for a day or two after braces or retainers are adjusted. This is both normal and temporary. Eat softer foods and take over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or neurofen (if not asthmatic) which will reduce the discomfort.

Ulcers
Sometimes new braces can be irritating to the mouth, especially when eating. In most cases it only takes a few days for your mouth to get used to your braces. However some people are susceptible to ulcers. Ulcers can occur from your lips or cheeks rubbing on the braces. A small amount of non-medicinal relief wax (provided) makes an excellent buffer between metal (or ceramic) and mouth. Simply pinch off a small piece of wax and roll it into a ball the size of a small pea, flatten the ball, dry the tooth and place it completely over the area of the braces causing irritation. If at any stage the wax is accidentally swallowed it's not a problem. The wax is harmless.

Protruding Wires
Occasionally the end of a wire will work itself out of place and irritate your mouth. Try and push the wire flat against the tooth; if the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, try covering it with relief wax or place a cotton ball over it and make an appointment to have this repaired.

Bent or Broken Wires
Phone and make an appointment to have this repaired as soon as possible.


Mouth guards - top -
The wearing of braces should not restrict any leisure or sporting activity. For active sports, a mouthguard should be worn at all times. These may be obtained from any Chemist or sports shop and are quite inexpensive. After softening in hot water, the mouthguard material is placed over the upper teeth and moulded around them by firm pressure with the fingers and then biting pressure.

However, because braces cause teeth to constantly move, these mouthguards may need to be remoulded every couple of weeks to start with, then less often as your teeth straighten.

 

In Conclusion
To minimise treatment time and reduce the chance of problems you should always remember to:

  • Keep your teeth and gums clean.
  • Minimise sugary food and drink consumption.
  • Follow instructions.
  • Report any problems promptly.

If you have any questions or concerns no matter how trivial you may think they are, please ask a staff member.