At Empress Walk Dental, we take pride in offering our patients the latest and greatest in orthodontic technologies. Long gone are the days when the orthodontic patient had to look like a preteen with a mouth full of metal. Instead of dealing with all of that, our patients have many excellent treatment options that are designed to work with their lifestyles.
These new treatment options often take less time than traditional metal braces; in some cases, the patient can be finished with their orthodontic treatment in less than a year! Of course, every patient is unique and there are some situations in which the patient will be in treatment for more than a year.
There are many other advantages to these innovative new treatments. For example, the Invisalign system of braces, which relies on a series of clear plastic aligners worn for about 2-3 weeks per aligner, are perfect for fixing minor crowding and spacing problems within the mouth. These aligners are very convenient for the patient’s lifestyle because they can be taken out of the mouth in order for the patient to eat, drink, and take care of their teeth by brushing and flossing. Traditional metal braces often come with special dietary restrictions, such as no popcorn, no chewing gum, no biting into apples, etc. With Invisalign, our patients are free to eat whatever they would like. Perhaps best of all, because the plastic aligners are clear, they are nearly invisible — no one has to know that the patient is wearing braces at all!
In addition to new types of braces, we have also invested in computer-aided technologies such as CAD/CAM, which help our dentists and orthodontists plan out the best treatments for their patients, including Invisalign treatments. These technologies are another way in which we are able to streamline the length of our patients’ treatment time.
Another innovation we have adopted here at Empress Walk Dental is the use of titanium implants, which we place inside the bone on the side of the mouth and palate to aid in moving the front teeth back to make more room for the other teeth. Additionally, in some cases we attach magnets to the molars of an orthodontic patient; the magnets lift and reposition the teeth underneath the molars.
New technologies come onto the market all the time, and Empress Walk Dental places a high value on being on the cutting edge of our craft. We prioritize bringing innovations in dentistry and orthodontics to our office as soon as we see the value for our patients.
Okay, So I Think I Need Braces. Now What?
The first step towards a new and beautiful smile is setting up an initial consultation with our Empress Walk Dental orthodontists. At the consultation, the orthodontist will interview you about your previous dental history, look at x-rays of your teeth and mouth, and thoroughly examine your mouth. Your orthodontist’s goal is to recommend the course of treatment that is best for you. This means that if you don’t really need braces, the orthodontist will tell you so and possibly recommend an alternative treatment to solve your problem(s). On the other hand, if orthodontic treatment is appropriate given your situation, the orthodontist will formulate a customized treatment plan for you, including which treatment is the best option for you and how long you can expect the treatment to take.
Next, if you are getting traditional metal braces, you will sit back in one of our procedure chairs while your cheeks are retracted in order to keep your teeth both dry and visible for the placement of your braces. Before the braces are put on, your teeth will be polished and air-dried to create a proper surface with which the brackets will bond. A special conditioner is the next step in the process. After 30 seconds with the conditioner sitting on the teeth, the conditioner is cleared off and the teeth are prepared with an adhesive primer to help the brackets stick.
Once the teeth have been prepared, the back of the brackets are coated in a special orthodontic cement. Then, the brackets are carefully placed onto their spots on your teeth and any extra cement is removed. A high-intensity light will harden the cement so that the brackets will stay in place. After the brackets are firmly in their correct positions, the dental arch wires are threaded through the brackets.
You can expect the entire process of getting braces put on to take around 10-20 minutes depending upon the elements necessary to treat your particular condition. In the first four to six hours after your braces placement, you will most likely feel some tightness and later soreness. Some patients find themselves consuming ice cream or other soft foods on the day that they have their braces installed due to the soreness they are feeling. We recommend that our patients use over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) to counteract this pain. Usually, the pain will go away after three to five days or so
Adjustments and Braces Followup Appointments
Over the course of your orthodontic treatment with traditional metal braces, you will need to come to our office for regular adjustment appointments. These appointments give your orthodontist the opportunity to monitor the course of your treatment, but more importantly, to adjust the arch wires so that they are moving your teeth according to plan. The arch wires are kept in place by elastic ties, but these ties stretch and weaken as time goes on, and they must be replaced so that your treatment can continue to progress. If your orthodontist sees something amiss in your treatment, adjustments can be made at these followup appointments to correct any issues before they have a negative effect on the final outcome.
Tooth movement typically does not happen until at least three weeks have passed, so your adjustment appointments will usually be scheduled every 3-10 weeks. Some of the newer wires that are available, however, do not require such a frequent adjustment schedule, so it could be longer between your appointments if you are using one of these wires.
At the adjustment appointment, your orthodontist will take off the arch wires so that you can brush and floss your teeth without them on before replacing them in your mouth. You will be given new colored elastic ties to keep the arch wires in place. Many patients, particularly our younger patients, enjoy choosing the colors that they want their elastic tie to be. If there happen to be new treatment options available to you, your orthodontist will communicate that information to you at one of your adjustment appointments.
Just as when your braces were first put on, you will feel some soreness and/or tightness in your mouth after having new arch wires installed. As a reminder, taking an over-the-counter pain relief drug such as ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help alleviate this pain.
Life with Traditional Metal Braces
Our patients who wear traditional metal braces must take very good care of them in order to maximize the success of their treatment. This means that they must brush and floss quite often, but they must also use interdental brushes, a water pik, and/or fluoride mouth rinses to help reach the underneath the dental arch wires. If your teeth are neglected while you are wearing your braces, you may damage the enamel on them. Therefore, our Empress Walk Dental orthodontists recommend bushing your teeth at last three times daily and that you carry a toothbrush with you to school or work so you can brush your teeth after lunch.
Traditional braces patients must also avoid certain foods that make them particularly likely to break a bracket. Some of these such foods are hard candy, sticky foods, apples, and very sugary or acidic foods. Many of these foods are capable of breaking the bond between the tooth enamel and the brackets, or even of breaking the braces themselves.
The Braces Removal Process
On that happy day when you arrive at the orthodontist for your braces to be removed, you will find that the removal process is very straightforward. All that happens is that the orthodontist will gently break the bonds between the brackets and your teeth while leaving the adhesive behind as an additional layer of protection for the tooth structure. After the brackets have all been cleared away, the rest of the bonding cement is taken away using a tool that is similar to the one used in repairing a cavity. Unlike when you have a cavity filled, however, there is not really any pain associated with this procedure. The “worst” symptom we have ever seen in someone who had just gotten their braces removed was slightly inflamed gums, which typically goes away in just a few days provided that the patient keeps up with their oral hygiene.
What Happens After the Braces Come Off
One or two weeks after you have your braces taken off, you will return to our office so we can give you a retainer. In some cases, we are able to create a retainer before you before you leave the office during your removal appointment. While some people may mistakenly see retainers as being an optional part of the treatment process, we heartily disagree. Rather, the retainer is an absolutely essential element. In the days following the removal of the braces from your mouth, your teeth are going to be doing everything they can to return to their original positions because that is what comes “naturally” to them. The retainer plays a vital role in keeping your teeth from counteracting all of your treatment efforts. Since it’s molded specifically for your mouth according to what your mouth is supposed to look like post-braces, the retainer reminds your teeth where they are suppose to be.
Our orthodontists usually recommend that our patients wear their retainers 24/7 during the first six months after getting their braces taken off, and then at night only thereafter. Your orthodontist will give you more specific information for your case at the necessary time. We also recommend that our patients visit our office for a regular teeth cleaning (or prophylaxis) as soon as possible after the removal of their braces. Oftentimes, there is still some leftover orthodontic cement in the patient’s mouth that needs to be removed. At this time, your dentist may also mention tooth whitening to you; in some cases, your teeth may be one color where the brackets were located and another color everywhere else, and this is a problem whitening treatments can fix. Occasionally, we have patients ask us if they can have their teeth whitened while they are still wearing their braces. This is certainly possible, but we advise against it simply because if you whiten while wearing braces, you may find after your braces are taken off that you have a discrepancy between the color of your teeth around the brackets and underneath the brackets. You would then need to undergo another whitening treatment to correct this mismatch.