Everyone knows what braces are, but not everyone understands exactly what getting braces entails. We know what they look like and what they’re supposed to do, but how exactly does that process go? Well, our orthodontists at Orthodontics LA are here to answer those questions for you today. Here’s what you can expect at the orthodontist through your entire treatment and how to get started if you haven’t had a chance to look into it.
→ At Your Initial Consultation
Okay, you’ve completed the first step and scheduled an initial consultation with your orthodontist of choice. After much research, you’ve decided this is the best orthodontist for you and you’re ready to get the smile of your dreams! Simple, right? Maybe not.
At your initial consultation (complimentary with Orthodontics LA), you and your orthodontist will discuss the following: oral history, needs, and goals for orthodontic treatment.
- Oral and medical history: If you have a history of periodontal disease or dental decay, the orthodontist will need to know. Orthodontic treatment puts a lot of pressure on the teeth and surrounding structures, so patients need stable bone and gum health to withstand the force of tooth movement.
- Personal needs: Are you involved in contact sports? Do you need a discreet orthodontic treatment to suit your professional or social lifestyle? If so, we try to have a conversation with patients about their needs, so we can accommodate them as best as we can.
- Orthodontic goals: As orthodontists, our focus for orthodontic treatment is creating an even, balanced bite that is healthy, strong, and fully functional. We want to align our goals with our patients in terms of treatment length, diagnosis, orthodontic options, and cost.
The purpose of this meeting is to decide what orthodontic treatment works best for you by getting a full understanding of what your current situation is and future expectations are with the doctor.
The first appointment is also the perfect time for the orthodontist to take the necessary steps to plan your orthodontic treatment. At Orthodontics LA, Dr. Artin or Dr. Mel will perform a physical examination of your mouth, take digital photographs, and conduct x-rays to see what structural and superficial changes need to be made. Common orthodontic problems that are identified at this time are:
- Overbites: Upper teeth that protrude over the lower teeth
- Underbites: Lower teeth that protrude over the upper teeth
- Anterior crossbites: Upper teeth that fall behind lower teeth on one side
- Posterior crossbites: Lower teeth that fall behind the front teeth one side
- Gaps: Large spaces between teeth
- Crowding: Not enough space for teeth to grow in properly
- Snaggle teeth: Irregular teeth that stick out or grow at odd angles
Once a diagnosis has been made, you and your orthodontist can plan out what steps need to be taken next. As you can see, no orthodontic treatment is actually implemented at this stage. Instead, it’s more about getting you comfortable with what’s to come in the future. If you decide to move forward with the orthodontic treatment, it’s a great time to schedule your next appointment where you’ll actually get the braces or Invisalign fitted!
→ Getting Your Braces
Life is frightening simply because you never know what it’s going to throw at you next. However, orthodontics isn’t like that because your orthodontist will brief you on exactly what to expect at your process. A lot of people get nervous about getting braces, but there’s really no reason to be scared at all. The process is fairly quick and almost painless!
So, how do orthodontists even put braces on?
Fast forward a few weeks and you’re back at the orthodontist’s office. Most orthodontic offices have a similar process for affixing braces to the teeth:
- First, the teeth are thoroughly cleaned and prepared, so the brackets will stick properly to the teeth.
- Then, the orthodontist will bond brackets to your teeth using a type of dental glue or cement.
- After, wires are placed against the brackets and secure them using ligatures.
- Ligatures are elastics that go around the bracket and hold the wires in place. They’re usually the brightly colored pieces that you see on the braces.
- After that, the dentist will professionally dry your teeth with a blue light to make sure everything is intact.
The procedure is usually 1-2 hours. It can be longer or shorter depending on your situation. If you have a lot of overlapping teeth, it can be difficult for the dentist to affix every bracket quickly.
Okay, so what about Invisalign?
Invisalign is a very different orthodontic treatment than braces. Instead of getting brackets and wires placed on the teeth and periodically tightened, it’s a clear aligner system that’s custom molded to your teeth. The orthodontist will use modern technology to create multiple clear trays that are switched out every two to three weeks. The trays are clear and completely removable, so patients can take them out themselves when they eat or brush their teeth.
Are braces going to hurt?
The process of getting braces doesn’t hurt, but they can be a little annoying. If you feel metal wires or brackets protruding into your mouth, let your orthodontist know and they can make adjustments.
→ During Your Orthodontic Treatment
The average time for orthodontic treatment is 18 months to 24 months, but it can be as short as 6 months to 36 months. Your orthodontist will update you on your progress as the treatment goes on. It may take a while to get used to braces or Invisalign, but most of our patients catch pretty quickly.
After you get braces, you still need to visit the orthodontist periodically. Different orthodontic treatment requires different things. In general, you will need to visit the orthodontist a few times throughout your treatment period to make sure things are working as planned. For most cases, schedule visits accordingly:
- Invisalign: Most providers recommend patients to change their aligners every 2 weeks. However, your orthodontist can always give you a few sets of aligners at a time to reduce the number of times you need to visit the orthodontist.
- Braces: On average, braces patients get their braces adjustments every 4 weeks. You can ask your orthodontist about when to get your braces tightened or elastics changed.
- Damon braces: Self-ligating braces require significantly fewer orthodontic visits and shorter treatment time because the sliding mechanisms will automatically tighten and straighten out the teeth without manual adjustment. Patients will only need to see the orthodontist for checkups and wire adjustment.
Ultimately, the frequency at which you’ll need to visit the orthodontist depends on your personal situation and treatment plan. It’s also important to maintain your braces with the appropriate dental hygiene and diet. The orthodontist will give you guidelines about what you can or can’t eat and how to clean your teeth with braces or aligners.
→ Getting Your Braces Off
Finally, it’s the moment of truth! You’re finally getting your braces off, so what can you expect? Well, many people start seeing results after a year, but it can take longer depending on your situation. For example, if you have an underbite, it might an extra month or so to realign the top and bottom teeth with elastics. It can also be difficult to notice any changes in your teeth with braces in the way, but there will be noticeable changes once you get them off! The process of removing braces is nothing to be worried about. Most patients are excited to finally see their teeth after the orthodontic treatment. Here’s what to expect:
- The orthodontist will remove the wires, then the brackets.
- The cement used to bond the brackets to the teeth will then be cleaned away.
- The teeth will then be professionally cleaned to ensure there is no glue left.
Make sure to take good care of your teeth when you have braces on because teeth are more susceptible to decay, calcification, and staining with braces because it’s harder to reach certain areas of the mouth.
Even though your smile is beautiful and straight post-braces, there’s still work to be done. The orthodontist will create custom retainers for patients, so the teeth maintain their alignment well after the orthodontic treatment. There are three types of retainers:
- Hawley: Traditional retainers are made of plastic and molded to fit the mouth. There is a metal band that goes around the teeth to keep them in place.
- Essix: Patients can also get clear trays, like Invisalign, that keep the teeth in place. They work like Hawley retainers and they’re completely removable.
- Permanent: A bonded or permanent retainer keeps the teeth in place 24/7 and cannot be removed. It’s a metal wire that’s bonded to the back of the teeth. The orthodontist may recommend this to patients who are unlikely to remember to use removable retainers.
Orthodontics LA is an orthodontist’s office based in Encino and Glendale. We offer orthodontic treatment to children and adults. If you’re interested in getting braces, feel free to give us a call!