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Braces and orthodontics – solutions and risks

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Teeth that are crooked, jaws that are misaligned and other irregularities of the jaws, mouth and teeth not only affect your appearance, but can also make eating, chewing and even speaking clearly a challenge.

Your dental health professional can get your mouth back into good working order and improve your smile with dental braces. In most cases, your dentist will refer you to a specialist in correcting problems with the jaws, teeth and mouth called an orthodontist.

Dental braces (orthodontics) come in a variety of configurations depending on the areas and level of correction needed.

Orthodontists frequently apply braces during the early teen years when permanent teeth have replaced baby teeth, but work on some problems can begin at an earlier age.

Adults, too

Adults can also benefit from the corrective solutions braces offer, although resolution may take longer than for adolescents.

When your jaws and teeth are misaligned, you can't bite down effectively. In severe cases, chewing may be difficult or painful. In addition, it may be difficult to make certain sounds required for clear speech.

Some of the problems corrected by dental braces include:

Over-bite (top front teeth overlap bottom teeth), under-bite ​(lower teeth extend beyond top teeth), crooked teeth and other jaw problems.

Depending on your particular problem, you may wear braces or other orthodontia devices for one to three years.

Braces consist of metal bands and brackets along with wires used to gently move teeth into the proper position. Other devices the orthodontist use include expanders to make room between the teeth for the bands and wires, headgear, which help move the upper jaws into place and a retainer often worn after the braces are removed.

Your orthodontist has a range of devices and techniques to correct problems with your jaws or teeth. New technology and procedures help users adjust to braces quickly.

Dental braces and appliances can make cleaning the teeth a challenge. While wearing braces, you should avoid sugary foods, especially sticky ones that can become lodged in the area around the braces. This can promote tooth decay.

Likewise, hard foods can break parts of your dental braces.

Follow directions

Your orthodontist will provide you with instructions on cleaning and care of your braces. It is important you follow these instructions to avoid problems later.

Some dental braces can cause cuts and tears if you receive a blow to the mouth. Ask your orthodontist about participating in sports (organized or recreational).

Correcting orthodontia problems often occurs in phases. Depending on the correction required, your orthodontist may apply the braces, adjust them periodically and have you wear a retainer after the braces are removed. Cases that are more complex may require additional steps.

Your orthodontist will describe the plan of treatment and an estimate of how long it will take to correct the problem. If you do not follow the orthodontist's instructions, it may take longer to correct your problem than originally estimated.

With some patience and a commitment to follow your orthodontist's instructions, you can anticipate a healthy, functional mouth and a smile worth showing off.​​