Parenting Perspective: What's the 411 on Braces?

(Louisa Stokes)
November 29, 2011 11:57:43 AM PST
Braces have come a long way since the days of stiff wires, metal rings, rubber bands and terrible pain.

Now, the braces can be bonded/glued to every tooth, reducing the need for the bands. And dentists use smaller, non-metal braces that can often be put on the inside of the tooth where they're invisible.

Whether you need braces is a question only your dentist can answer. But you can find answers to most other questions on the website bracesquestions.com.

Here's a synopsis to give you an overview if you or your child is considering straightening out their teeth:

1. Do braces hurt? The first 2-3 days are painful while the teeth, lips and gums adjust to the new hardware in your mouth. But experts say the pain should be better by days 4-5. You can take aspirin or an over-the-counter pain reliever to help.

2. You do not need shots for braces.

3. Orthodontists usually put braces on the upper and lower tiers to straighten teeth and correct for an under- or overbite. On a rare occasion, they'll just put braces on upper or lower.

4. Can you get braces if you play a wind instrument, scuba dive or place sports? Yes, there are lip guards and mouthguards to protect your teeth during all these activities. You can even get one custom made. You obviously want to avoid breaking the braces and having to start over.

5. You're never too old to get braces. Adult bone is more mature than children's bones, so treatment takes slightly longer but it's never "too late."

6. You can return to school or work the same day that you get braces. And you can even get braces if you're pregnant, but you'll need permission from your obstetrician to have an x-ray taken. Also because of hormonal changes your gums may swell.

7. Crowns and bridges don't interfere with braces. Have missing teeth is also not a problem with braces. Orthodontists work with the existing teeth.

8. Tongue piercings do interfere with braces and are not recommended.

9. If you're allergic to nickel, which most braces are made of, just tell your orthodontist. There are nickel-free braces that can be special-ordered.

10. You can still get braces if you have jaw joint problems or TMD. It depends on the severity of the joint issues. You may have to see an orofacial pain specialist first.

11. You still have to go to the regular dentist if you wear braces.

Braces can give you a straighter smile and can prevent poor chewing problems and toothaches. But sometimes you don't need braces, just a series of clear trays to straighten the teeth, such as Invisalign.

If you decide to go for it, braces come in several snappy electric colors. They stay on from months to years, depending on the tooth issues. And you'll often need a retainer at night to keep the teeth from going back to their original positions over time.

It's not a cheap choice to make, so do your own research before going to the dentist and orthodontist. You may decide a straighter smile is worth it.

Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.

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