Everybody wants that picture-perfect smile – but it can be a long road getting there. Braces are still the most popular orthodontic solution to crooked, misaligned, or overlapping teeth – and for good reason. They are the most efficient and surefire solution for a straighter, more attractive smile! If you’ve opted for braces after speaking with your orthodontist, there are a few things you’ll need to know.
What Are Metal Braces?
Braces are a favorite choice for orthodontists because they can help even the most severe dental issues, including:
- Jaw misalignment
- Missing permanent teeth
- Floating teeth
- Narrow palates
But braces aren’t just a tool to create better smiles – they’re also used to help improve your dental health. Tooth and bite problems can affect your chewing, cause gum disease, encourage tooth decay, and cause headaches and issues with speaking correctly.
It feels a little obvious to say “metal,” but it’s true! Traditional braces are made with stainless steel and some modern varieties are made with titanium. Both are antimicrobial to keep from staining your teeth. There are other materials available for braces today, like ceramic, but metal braces are still the best choice for severe bite or smile issues. Metal braces are extremely strong and durable – they have to be to reshape the bones in your mouth and jaw! And they also have to stand up to a year or two of brushing and chewing.
No matter what metal they’re made from, all metal braces are made of two components – the bracket and the wire. The brackets hold the wire in place and the wire creates tension that pulls on the brackets and shapes your smile into what you want it to be.
Metal brackets are usually composed of a mixture of several metals. This ensures that they are both strong and malleable enough to accomplish the job. Stainless steel, gold, titanium, and nickel are the most commonly used metals. Chromium is also often thrown into the mix to help prevent the stainless steel from corroding. Molybdenum is also a common additive used to prevent pitting and crevice corrosion in the metal.
Brackets are flat on one side so they will stay cemented to the surface of your teeth. The front of the bracket holds a slot through which the metal archwire passes. Your orthodontist may attach brackets to a whole line of teeth, or just to certain problem teeth.
Once the brackets are attached to your teeth, the archwire is threaded through the slot in the front of the brackets. This connects all of your teeth and creates tension that pulls your teeth into the appropriate formation. The wires may be titanium, nickel, stainless steel, or a titanium alloy.
Metal brackets and archwires are the main components of your braces. But your ligatures – or “bands” – are also important. Rubber bands attach the archwires to the brackets. Without them, the wires would not be able to reposition your teeth. These ligatures come in a variety of colors and you can choose a new design every time you visit the orthodontist! Many orthodontists will even let you choose a combination of colors – like red and green for Christmas!
If you are interested in metal braces, or you have questions about how to get a more aesthetically pleasing smile, contact Hodge Orthodontics. We’ll schedule a consultation with Dr. Hodge and you can talk about the orthodontic options that will work for your smile – and your budget! In light of COVID-19, we also offer virtual consultations for our at-risk patients and those who are practicing social distancing.
Living with Braces
Will my teeth hurt after I get braces?
How do I keep my teeth and braces clean?
We recommend that you use a small head toothbrush with soft bristles. The small head makes is easier to remove plaque and food from hard to reach areas. The soft bristles are important to preserve your gums. A small proxy-brush, shaped like a christmas tree, is great to to remove food and plaque around the brackets and underneath the wires.
It is also very important keep flossing your teeth during orthodontic treatment. You can use floss threaders or orthodontic flossers to help you get the floss underneath the wires so that you clean below the gum line.
What happens if I don't keep my teeth clean?
One of the most common problems we see is the development of white stains around the brackets. Those stains are mostly irreversible. They are the result of decalcification of the enamel and can progress to cavities.
Another common issues that can develop are red, swollen gums that bleed when touched. Those are signs that the gums are inflamed. In extreme cases, that inflammation can progress to the bones that hold the teeth and cause the teeth to get lose. If this condition is left untreated, it can cause tooth loss. Sometimes surgery is necessary to trim the gums that grew around the brackets.
What do I do if something breaks?
If the last bracket in the arch breaks and the wire is poking you, you can use fingernail clippers to trim the wire. That should keep you comfortable until you are able to come into the office to have the bracket repaired and the wire replaced.