What Are Braces & How Do They Work?

Dental braces are used by a licensed orthodontist to correct a variety of dental conditions. Orthodontic care goes beyond just creating a healthy smile. Your orthodontist carefully positions your teeth to ensure the overall health of your teeth and gums.

Braces can correct dental misalignments such as gaps, crooked teeth, crowding, and more. They also help prevent major oral health issues like tooth decay. Without proper orthodontic intervention, using braces, or another form of care, serious oral health concerns can result.

The goal of quality orthodontic care is to provide patients with a lifetime of oral health and overall health. Your whole body’s health begins with your mouth. If your teeth, gums, and bite aren’t healthy, the issues will affect the rest of your health, too.

Braces are applied directly to the teeth and achieve results in different ways. Your treatment journey depends on the type of appliance suggested by your orthodontist. Metal braces are the most common form.

They use stainless steel brackets affixed to the teeth, connected by a thin, flexible wire. Over a period of 6 to 36 months, depending on your case, your teeth will shift into their correct positions.

Your orthodontist may need to include other components to shift the teeth, jaw, or bone in the correct direction. Headgear, rubber elastics, and expansion devices are all used in certain cases to ensure the dental braces deliver the desired results. Not all patients require additional equipment, though.

The following guide has answers to all your braces questions

Braces Colors

Patient smiling with colorful braces

Many braces treatments use colorful rubber bands to secure the metal brackets to the wire. Colored bands are a fun way to personalize your brackets during treatment and a great feature for kids and adults alike.

Your doctor will switch out your rubber bands during your orthodontic visits. This gives you the ability to change your look every month, or stick to your favorite color scheme!

Some ideas for rubber bands include seasonal colors or colors representing your school or favorite sports team. Some offices offer glow-in-the-dark rubber bands!

Braces vs. Invisalign Aligners

Braces and Invisalign treatment are both safe and effective options. Braces use a permanent, fixed appliance, while Invisalign treatment uses removable clear aligners. There are great benefits to both – it’s just a matter of which is right for you.

Braces tend to be less expensive than Invisalign aligners and are more often covered by state insurance. Invisalign removable aligners are less noticeable and provide a more streamlined, subtle appearance.

Interested in the differences between braces and Invisalign aligners?

What Are the Different Types of Braces?

Metal Braces

complete metal braces guide

Metal braces, also called traditional braces, are the most commonly used to correct dental problems and help move the teeth. They have two main components: brackets and wire. An individual bracket is applied to each tooth, and a bendable wire is threaded through each bracket. The brackets put pressure onto the teeth to gradually move them in the desired directions for straightening your teeth.

Traditional metal braces are the most commonly used and the least expensive, but they are also the most noticeable.

Explore the truth about metal braces and dispel common myths in our informative article: '5 Metal Braces Myths You Can Bust Right Now.' Discover the facts and benefits of metal braces

Ceramic Braces

what are ceramic braces

While they use a similar style, ceramic braces are less noticeable than metal. They’re designed to match the shade of your teeth to make them less visible by making them tooth-colored. It’s also possible for the wire to match your teeth and blend into your smile. This makes them popular for patients who want a more discreet treatment.

Lingual Braces

Lingual Braces Components at Orthodontist

Lingual braces are similar to metal and ceramic braces, with an even less noticeable appliance than ceramic braces. This kind of treatment is nearly invisible. Lingual braces are placed on the backside of the teeth on the top and bottom. This discreet style is attractive, but lingual braces come with a number of challenges.

Self-Ligating Braces

Self ligating brackets

Self-ligating treatment can be designed with metal or ceramic brackets. Rather than using rubber bands, this style utilizes brackets with clips to hold onto the wire. Self-ligating braces can be more comfortable and less prone to food debris getting stuck between brackets and wire.

Invisalign Clear Aligners

invisalign patient male

Invisalign aligners use removable, clear plastic aligners; one for the top row of teeth and one for the bottom, as needed. Each set is worn for 1-2 weeks, gradually correcting your smile over time. Each set of aligners is made especially for you by your orthodontist.

Although it can be more costly than other types of treatment patients often request Invisalign treatment. It’s more subtle, can be removed for proper cleaning, and doesn’t come with food restrictions.

Many patients also find them more comfortable compared to other treatment options. The experience of Invisalign is similar to wearing a retainer. You may even improve your oral hygiene while undergoing Invisalign treatment.

Do You Need Spacers?

Spacers are generally used for a week or two before braces treatment, to create small gaps between certain teeth. Spacers are usually used on the back molars, where metal bands will be attached. The spacers are made of rubber or metal.

If your orthodontist uses them for your case, you will only wear them for 1-2 weeks. Spacers may feel uncomfortable, like a piece of food trapped between your teeth with braces.

Are Braces Painful? Some Tips for Pain Relief

Pain is different for everyone, so not everyone will experience pain during treatment. However, discomfort or pain is a common experience for braces patients of any age. It takes a while for your mouth to get used to the new appliance. The adjustments may cause irritation after your monthly orthodontic visits.

You can take over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or apply ice to the sore area. Most pain subsides away after a few days.

What Can & Can’t You Eat with Braces?

Certain foods are best to avoid with braces, especially hard or sticky foods like candy, nuts, and popcorn. Anything hard you have to bite into with your front teeth could stress the brackets. Crunchy foods should be cut into small pieces that you can chew with your back molars

Avoiding these foods will protect the appliance and prevent breaking or stressing the brackets and wire. In addition, some foods easily get stuck between the brackets and under the wires. Which can cause bacteria and plaque to grow on the teeth and cause decay.

How Much Do Braces Cost?

Typically, you can expect to pay between $1,700 and $6,000 for treatment. The costs vary depending on your orthodontic provider, case severity, treatment length, and the region where you live.

Insurance can help cover the costs. Most state insurance plans cover some or all of the cost of metal braces for qualifying children and young adults. It may be harder to find insurance coverage for adults or for treatment with specialty orthodontics like Invisalign aligners.

Your insurance provider and your orthodontist will have more information about using insurance for coverage. Your orthodontic provider may offer cost-saving measures such as monthly payment plans, family discounts, and seasonal savings.

Can You Get Braces for Free?

smiling woman happy about free braces

It is possible to get certain treatments fully covered for qualifying individuals.

For instance, state insurance plans and Medicaid/CHIP may cover braces for children and/or young adults. However, this coverage requires a diagnosis from your child’s orthodontist that their condition is severe. Most orthodontic conditions do not qualify as severe.

For some people, it’s possible to get approved for coverage from a state insurance program or Medicaid/CHIP. Your orthodontist must submit x-rays, photos, and a treatment plan for the insurance provider to review.

Your insurance provider can help you find out whether you can get them fully covered for your child. Your orthodontic provider can offer more information about how to use insurance for braces treatment.

How to Get Braces

This begins with scheduling a consultation with a local orthodontist. You may get a referral from your dentist, but a referral is not necessary. You can go directly to the orthodontist to see if your teeth can be straightened with braces.

At the orthodontist’s office, the doctor will examine your teeth and gums. They may take pictures or x-rays to get a full image of your dental structure. The support team will discuss payment options with you, and then you will be ready to begin treatment.

How Long Do You Need to Wear Braces?

You can expect to wear them from between 6 months to 36 months. The average length is usually 18 months to 24 months, about two years. Treatment times vary depending on your specific case, the severity of your dental misalignment, and the complexity of successful treatment. Your orthodontist will be able to provide a more exact estimate of treatment length for your specific case.

What is the Perfect Age to Get Braces?

Patients can begin treatment once most of their adult teeth are grown in, usually by 11 or 12 years old. Young patients between 11-14 can expect more reliable and long-term results. While older patients can take a bit longer because the bones are still growing and are more receptive to orthodontic realignment.

Some orthodontists may recommend orthodontic treatment for patients starting at 8 years of age. Patients of any age can expect excellent results with braces treatment.

Braces Treatments, Before and After

Braces Before And After Header

Braces are known to transform smiles using the same tried and true methods that have worked for generations. We have compiled several real Diamond Braces patients who have corrected their smiles using braces.