Orthodontic treatment refers to the process of straightening and moving your teeth around, improving the way they look and the way they work. Plenty of us have crooked or crowded teeth - but for some people, badly aligned teeth can go beyond the aesthetic and start to cause real problems. Teeth that stick out are more likely to be damaged. When teeth don’t meet correctly in your mouth, it can cause jaw and joint problems as a result of the strain misalignment puts on the muscles on your jaw - you might even get headaches.
Luckily, your local orthodontist can come to your rescue, using orthodontic treatment to correct the problems in the placement of your teeth, improving their appearance and helping you to bite more evenly.
Who can get braces?
The best time to move teeth around is during childhood - after you have the right number of teeth - but more and more adults are having orthodontic treatment, especially with a number of discrete options entering the market recently, including clear aligners and orthodontic systems that are placed on the inside of your teeth rather than facing outwards.
How long will it take?
Unfortunately there’s no catch-all answer for this one - as the length of your treatment will depend on how severe the problem is. You might have braces for a few months, or for a couple of years - but for most people, the process will take one to two years. Orthodontic braces typically need to be adjusted every four to six weeks as your teeth shift into position. Your orthodontist will invite you in for a tightening and will use the appointment to check on your progress. You might find that your teeth feel a little uncomfortable immediately after you’ve had your braces adjusted, but this will settle.
How should I care for my brace?
Because you’ll be seeing your orthodontist pretty regularly, your dental team will be able to spot any issues with your teeth as they arise - but you need to take extra care while you have braces, to avoid discolouration once your braces are removed. Clear your teeth carefully every day, and make sure you’re cleaning between your teeth - special floss is available for people who have braces, or you can invest in a water pick to make sure you’re clearing away any plaque that might be hiding. Do your best to cut down on sugary foods and drinks, and be aware that sticky or hard foods may cause damage to your brace.
What happens afterwards?
Once your treatment is complete, the braces will be removed - but your teeth need to be held in position throughout the ‘retention’ period, and you will be given a retainer designed to hold your lovely straight teeth in position while the gum and bone around them settles - these are available as removable moulds that slide over your teeth, and are typically worn while you sleep - but you can also opt for fixed retainers, which will be attached to the back of your teeth. You might find that even after the retention period is finished, your teeth might move a little - it’s normal for this to happen throughout your life, but it’s unusual for teeth to move around enough that you’ll need more treatment - so orthodontic work can be considered permanent.
Not what you’re looking for? Take a look through our archives to find the dental procedure you’ve been offered, and to learn more about what to expect when you’re in the waiting room.