What are braces?
Dental braces correct the alignment of your teeth or jaw function. They consist of small brackets connected by wire that fix to your teeth. The wires put pressure on the teeth and pull them into the correct position. Braces generally take around one to two years to be effective.
If you’re thinking you might want to get braces, you’re not alone. According to the Australian Orthodontics Association, 55% of Australians feel self-conscious about their teeth and 64% of us would like to do something to fix our smile.
Who gets braces?
People usually get braces when they are between 10 and 14 years old as this is when the head and mouth are still growing. However, as our teeth shift with age, it’s also not uncommon for adults to get braces as well.
Who will fit your braces?
An orthodontist will usually fit your braces. An orthodontist is a dentist with at least three extra years of specialist training.
According to the Australian Society of Orthodontists, Orthodontists in Australia must have:
- completed an accredited registered general dental degree
- at least two years of clinical experience as a general dentist prior to their specialist training
- completed an accredited three-year full-time university degree in orthodontics
- specialist registration in the field of orthodontics.
You can check if your orthodontic practitioner is a registered specialist orthodontist at the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
Understanding do-it-yourself orthodontics
It’s important to know that peak bodies for dentists and orthodontists in Australia and overseas strongly advise against using do-it-yourself orthodontic services. This is because they could make any existing dental problems worse and even lead to tooth loss, and damage to your gums, jaw joints or jaws.
Providers of do-it-yourself dentistry appliances are also usually unregistered providers of health services.
The companies offering these services usually promote them as being quicker and cheaper than specialised orthodontic treatment. Their treatments can include whitening kits, aligners and orthodontic treatments, mouth guards and occlusal splints.
What to expect when you get braces
At your first appointment, the orthodontist will work out the tooth movements needed to straighten your teeth and align your jaw. They will also create a treatment plan for you. The orthodontist will also confirm the date that you’ll get your braces.
The day after you get your braces, Orthodontics Australia recommend you do the following:
- keep pain relief handy – you could try Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
- eat soft foods – you could try soups, bananas or pastas
- brush your teeth after eating –you could try a soft travel brush and carry it with you
Caring for your teeth when you have braces
It’s important to keep good oral hygiene when you have braces as it’s easier for food to get stuck between teeth and for plaque to develop.
Brushing your teeth
Orthodontics Australia recommend using a toothbrush with a soft head or an electric toothbrush when you have braces. They also recommend brushing your teeth after every meal, instead of twice a day.
You should start off with brushing at the gum line of your teeth and holding your brush at a 45-degree angle towards your gums. The hold your toothbrush at a downward angle on the top of your brackets, and then at an upward angle to clean the bottom of your brackets.
Flossing your teeth
Flossing is an important part of good oral hygiene. It helps to clear our food particles and plaque. It can be hard to use the usual flossing string when you have braces, so you might want to try interdental brushes or a floss threader. These are usually available or supermarkets and pharmacies. It’s a good idea to floss gently and slowly so that you don’t put too much pressure on your braces.
Food to avoid
Orthodontics Australia recommends that you avoid eating the following foods when you have braces:
- chewy foods such as hard rolls
- crunchy foods such as popcorn
- sticky foods such as caramel and chewing gum
- hard food such as nuts
- sugary foods such as lollies
- foods that you need to bite into forcefully such as apples, raw carrots and corn
Instead, you can eat soft foods that are low in sugar and don’t need too much chewing. These can include foods like mashed potatoes, soup, rice and pasta. To find out more, read safe food for braces at the Orthodontics Australia.
Orthodontics Australia recommend avoiding sugary foods and drinks as these can cause staining around your brackets. These stains will be even more obvious when your braces are taken off.
It’s also a good idea to stop habits like chewing on pen lids or your nails as this can cause damage to your braces.
While all of this may sound like a lot of work, the best thing about braces is that they won’t be permanent. After some time, they’ll be removed, and you’ll be able to show off your new smile!
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Healthcare professional.