It's been proven that humans are captivated by beautiful smiles, so it's understandable why you'd want to get dental braces for cosmetic reasons. But straight teeth don't just look better; they're healthier, too!
When teeth are properly aligned, they're easier to clean ... and when your teeth are clean and dental plaque-free, you're less likely to need a tooth filling or gum disease treatment. If you've been experiencing nagging headaches and neck pain, wearing dental braces can help correct misaligned jaw joints, which may be the source of the problem. Wearing dental braces can also help prevent excessive wear of your teeth and help you chew better.
Fortunately, today's dental braces have come a long way from the days of "tin grins" and metal mouths. So if you're reading this because you're considering taking the dental braces plunge, you'll be thrilled to learn that you can get your smile back on track without sacrificing appearance or comfort!
Dental braces are designed to help an orthodontist correct certain types of abnormal bites (malocclusions) such as an overbite, crowded teeth and gapped teeth. The type of braces you'll need depends on the type and severity of your malocclusion.
Dental braces work by applying pressure to the teeth, moving them gradually over time. Most of this pressure is applied by a metal wire called an archwire. The archwire is attached to tiny brackets placed on each tooth. These brackets used to wrap all the way around the tooth creating the look of a "metal mouth"; now they're tiny and glued on the front of each tooth. Rubber bands called ligatures go around the brackets and put added pressure on the teeth.
While orthodontists still rely on traditional metal braces for straightening teeth, there are now a variety of braces designed with your comfort and appearance in mind:
Clear Braces: Porcelain dental braces feature tooth-colored brackets made from a glass-like composite material that appears translucent.
Gold Braces: Gold braces are actually stainless steel braces overlaid in gold.
Lingual Braces: Similar to traditional metal braces, lingual braces are placed behind the teeth so that they're virtually unnoticeable.
Mini Braces: Mini braces are 30 percent smaller than their traditional metal counterparts but just as strong.
Removable Braces: Removable braces are mouthguard-like devices made of clear plastic. Invisalign® dental aligners are the most common type of removable braces.
Teenagers might also be interested in glow-in-the-dark dental braces, which can help them "light" up a room. Colored ligatures (the ties that go around the brackets) are especially popular with teenagers, who can show school spirit, celebrate the holidays or sport the colors of a favorite team. Ligatures can be changed by an orthodontist during routine archwire adjustments.
No matter which type of dental braces you wear, an orthodontic treatment plan usually consists of three stages: pretreatment, active treatment and retention. Pretreatment is when your dentist or orthodontist determines whether or not you need dental braces, and if so, which type are right for you.
Active treatment is the phase when you wear your braces; it can last up to 24 months for fixed braces and about one year for removable braces (even longer for adults). Retention takes place after your dental braces come off. Most people will wear an orthodontic retainer to help the newly placed teeth settle into their permanent home.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Natalie Pennington, DDS, March 2019