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You may have seen people with gaps between their teeth, overlapping teeth and protruding teeth. This can sometimes happen as different-sized jaws try to accommodate all 32 teeth in human adults. While this was once seen as unappealing, the standards of beauty are shifting now. For example, a gap in the teeth is seen as desirable in some fashion models in the West.

But aesthetics aside, some of these conditions can have repercussions for oral health. For example, overlapping or "crowded" teeth can be difficult to clean which makes them more prone to gum diseases and cavities. Dental braces can help to correct these conditions. The parts of braces are:

  • Brackets: These are the square-shaped object placed on the outer surface of the teeth. They can either be metallic (silver in colour) or made of ceramic (clear, tooth coloured).
  • Archwire: The archwire is placed in the middle of the brackets and helps to hold the teeth together as a single unit. Each bracket has a horizontal space where the wire is placed. The archwire can either be metallic silver or white in colour.
  • Bands: The bands are the metallic rings that are placed on the first molar on each side (two uppers and two lower). These molar bands act as anchors and help in pulling the rest of the teeth.
  • Modules: These are "o" shaped rubber rings which are used to engage and hold the wire inside the brackets. These rings are available in various colours.

The brackets are placed on the surface of the teeth with the help of a material called composite. The composite has a soft rubber-like consistency at room temperature and sets into a hard shell-like form with the help of a UV light source.

  1. Teeth braces types
  2. What is the duration of braces treatment?
  3. How are braces placed and removed?
  4. Precautions for teeth braces
  5. What are the benefits of braces?
  6. What are the side effects of braces?
  7. How much do braces cost?

The function of all types of braces is the same, they help in the movement of teeth in the required direction. Braces can be divided into three categories: 

  • Traditional braces: In this type, the brackets (either metallic or ceramic) are placed on the front (the visible) surface of the teeth. The brackets are placed with the help of the composite. Either a metallic or white coloured wire is placed in the centre of the bracket and is secured in place with the help of a module.
  • Lingual braces: These comprise ceramic braces which look exactly like the tooth surface. The idea was to reduce the visibility of the brackets. Lingual braces were placed on the inside surface of the teeth - these braces are not used any more because they lead to oral ulcers and speech difficulties like lisping.
  • Invisalign braces: As the name suggests, Invisalign is an invisible aligner. Invisalign is a series of 18-30 custom-made, mouth guard-like clear plastic aligners. They are removed every two weeks and are replaced with new ones. The new aligners are made after taking mouth impressions.

Read more: Home remedies for mouth ulcers

Braces treatment takes longer than any dental procedure, as the treatment involves the movement of teeth within the bone. The force applied to the teeth is just enough for the movement of the teeth without causing any harm to the teeth.

The duration of braces treatment varies from case to case. The treatment is said to be complete when the teeth get to the desired position. The minimum time period for a braces treatment can be eight months and the maximum time period can be up to four years.

This is how braces are placed on the teeth:

  • A cheek retractor is used to pull the cheek away from the teeth for better visibility of the teeth.
  • Then round metallic bands are placed on the molars and secured with the help of a dental filling cement.
  • The brackets are placed on the rest of the teeth (incisors, canines and premolars) with the help of composite.
  • Once the brackets are placed, the required wire is placed over the brackets.
  • The wire is secured in place with the help of modules.

After the treatment is done, the doctor removes the modules first, followed by the wire and then the brackets. The brackets are removed with the help of a bracket removing plier. Then the bands are removed with the help of a band remover and the teeth are cleaned with ultrasonic scaling.

After the removal of braces, the impression of your teeth is taken and a custom-made retainer is given to you for each jaw. Retainers hold straightened teeth in place while the surrounding gum and bone adjust to their new position. Retainers can either be removable or fixed.

It can take patients up to two weeks to get accustomed to the braces after they are put in. The patient may feel uncomfortable and find it difficult to eat and speak. He or she will be asked to:

  • Avoid biting directly into fruits like apples and guavas.
  • Avoid chewing gums and caramel candies as they can get stuck to the brackets and break them.
  • As brushing and flossing can become difficult because of the braces, the doctor may prescribe orthodontic brushes which would help in easy cleaning of the teeth and interdental space (space between the teeth). Mouthwash should be used on a regular basis to avoid cavities and bad breath.

Braces treatment has various benefits:

  • It aligns the teeth in a better functional position.
  • It helps in improving the ability to chew.
  • Properly aligned teeth are easier to brush and clean.
  • Food does not get stuck in straight teeth, so they are less prone to cavities. 
  • Braces help in repositioning the protruding teeth which are more prone to fractures and other injuries.

Read more: Oral Hygiene Tips: How to Brush, Floss and Mouthwash

The side effects that may be noticed during braces treatment are:

  • The person may feel some discomfort while eating and speaking in the beginning.
  • Some people may feel mild pain in the jaw due to the force applied by the wire.
  • Due to the movement of the teeth in the jaw, some parts of the jaw bone may show decalcification (loss of calcium). This gets resolved on its own with time.
  • It gets difficult to take care of the teeth and the gums with braces on, thus, the person may suffer from gum diseases like bleeding gums and gingivitis.
  • A rare and severe side effect of braces is root resorption. When the braces stay on the teeth for a long period of time (two to three years), the tip of the root of the teeth deteriorates, making the root smaller.

Braces treatment can be expensive and requires a lot of patience as the results are not immediately noticeable. The cost of the treatment varies for different braces. Here is an indicative price list:

  • Metallic braces: The cost of metallic braces starts from Rs 20,000 and can go up to Rs 50,000.
  • Ceramic braces: The cost of ceramic braces starts from Rs 30,000 and can go up to Rs 80,000.
  • Invisalign: The cost of Invisalign starts from Rs 1 lakh and can go up to Rs 3 lakhs.
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