Day-to-day Living with Braces and Orthodontics
is an adjustment and how is it done?
In a nutshell,
the elastic ligatures are changed, and sometimes the arch
wire is also changed. For a detailed description of the
procedure, read About Tightening/
I seem to be
drooling more, now that I have braces. Why?
(drool) is actually very common. Apparently your mouth
mistakes the feeling of the brackets on the inside of your
cheeks for food, and sometimes produces extra saliva to help
developed gaps between teeth which never had gaps before.
Should I be worried?
is very common for your teeth shift and develop gaps while
treatment is underway. Your bite will change many times during
your treatment. Remember than any strange gaps or bite
problems will be resolved by the time your treatment is
finished. If you are really concerned, mention it to your
Do I really
need to brush my teeth after every meal when I'm wearing
braces? What a pain!
Yes and no.
Yes, you should, because depending on what you eat, food
gets stuck in and around the brackets. Besides looking
gross, it causes tooth decay and bad breath. It also feels
yucky. Some people can't stand the feeling of food stuck in
their brackets. You wouldn't believe how much food can get
stuck -- often more than you'd imagine!
if you let the brushing slide every so often, it's not the
end of the world. Just try to be as diligent as possible on
a regular basis. At the very least, swish your mouth with
water and try to pick out any food that is stuck in your
brackets. It's also a good idea to floss each night, or at
least a few times per week. Sometimes food gets stuck
between teeth and you don't realize it until you floss it
dentists also recommend a fluoride mouth rinse, such as
ACT, which is available in most supermarkets and pharmacies,
and comes in many flavors (including bubblegum and
really hurt! What can I do to ease the pain?
In the first
weeks after you get your braces on, your mouth will be sore
and your teeth will hurt. Most people take ibuprofen
(Motrin/Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help ease
the pain. Cold drinks or cold foods (such as frozen
yogurt, milkshakes, ice cream, or just plain ice water)
may also help.
What can I
eat? Should I really avoid the foods
on my orthodontist's "don't eat" list?
It is best to eat only soft foods
that are easy to chew. Do not take big mouthfuls. Chew
carefully and slowly so that you don't gag or choke. Avoid stringy foods like melted cheese
that forms big strings, and long stringy pasta -- they will
get stuck in your brackets and may cause you to gag. Cut
your food into small pieces. No biting into large sandwiches
-- use a knife and fork until you get the hang of wearing
braces! I ate hamburgers with a knife and fork the entire 3
years I was in braces!
Read our pages of Soft Food
Suggestions to get some insight on what types of foods
you can manage. This stage will probably only last for a few
weeks, until you get used to your braces and your gums
orthodontist may have given you a list of foods that should
be avoided. These include gummy sticky foods (like Gummy
Bears), and very hard foods (like nuts or hard chips). But it
can also include things like ice cream and popcorn. Why?
Because many flavors of ice cream can include hard chunks.
The unpopped shell of popcorn can get stuck in your
brackets. Biting into any hard food might cause your
brackets to break or your wires to bend, so you must be
brackets pop off?
bracket will spontaneously pop off. There are a number of
reasons this can happen. Remember that your brackets are
glued on, so if the glue bond is broken, the bracket will
come off. If this happens to you, call your orthodontist
immediately to get it re-glued. It is normal for a bracket
to pop off occasionally. But if a bunch of brackets keep
popping off by no fault of your own, speak to your
orthodontist about it. Gluing on brackets can be tricky and
it may take a few tries to get it exactly right.
I don't want
to wear my headgear during the day. Why
can't I wear my it only at night?
to wear headgear, but it serves a specific purpose in your
treatment. If you don't wear it as many hours as your
dentist recommends, your treatment won't progress as fast,
and you might wind up wearing the headgear additional
months. It's best to just go along with what your dentist
recommends and get it over with sooner. Read A
Few Words About Headgear for more information.
do I need to wear elastics?
fine-tune the alignment of your teeth and your bite. There
are many different ways that you can wear elastics for
specific reasons. You should wear the elastics the
number of hours that your dentist recommends to help your
treatment progress properly. (Wearing them "double
time" or "double strength" to make up for
time you spent without them is NOT advisable -- that could
harm your teeth). Most people take elastics out
before a meal, brush, then replace them after a meal.
can I cope with canker sores when I have braces?
There are many
ways to cope with canker sores. If the sore is near a
bracket, you can put some dental wax or dental
silicone on the bracket to create a barrier, then apply some
canker sore medication to the sore area. For more detailed
information, read Ouch! I Have a
ceramic (non-metal) braces stain?
themselves usually do not stain. It's the elastic ligatures
that hold the arch wire to the bracket that stains. These
are changed at each adjustment, when you get fresh clean
ones. So, if your ligatures or power chains stain, you'll
only have to live with it for a short time.
foods stain the ligatures of your braces the worst?
curry, mustard, black coffee, and red wine create the worst
stains. For more details, read Help!
Did I Stain My Braces?
of ligatures or power chains resist stains the best?
Clear or white
ligatures show yellow stains the worst. The best colors,
according to ArchWired readers (and my own personal
experience) are: smoke, pearlescent, glow-in-the-dark, and
any dark vibrant colors. I have also worn light blue, which
turn a pleasant teal color when stained by curry (i.e., blue
ligatures plus yellow curry make greenish blue ligatures).
change my elastic ligatures ("o rings") myself at home?
orthodontist has given you the go-ahead to do this, it is
NOT recommended! Yes, there are places on the web where you
can buy elastic ligatures and power chains, but even THEY do
not recommend that you change them yourself at home. The
reason is: putting extra pressure on your teeth at
inappropriate intervals can interfere with your treatment.
Read Changing Your
Own Ligatures for more information on why it is a bad
idea to change your own ligatures.
I smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes with braces on my teeth?
Yes, you can
smoke or chew tobacco, but both of these habits will stain
your ligatures and may possibly stain ceramic brackets.
it OK to have braces if you are pregnant, or plan to become
pregnant women have had orthodontic treatment. Your teeth
may be a bit looser than average because of the hormonal
changes and the effect on your periodontal ligaments. But as long as you maintain good periodontal
health, it shouldn't be a problem to wear braces if you're
pregnant. For a reader's perspective on the subject, read Braces
you wear braces if you snorkel or scuba dive?
Yes, you can.
It's probably best to have the braces on for a few months
before snorkeling or scuba diving, so you can get used to
the extra hardware in your mouth. For a reader's perspective
on the subject, read Braces
you wear braces if you play a wind instrument?
Yes, you can.
Several companies make
and lip protectors specifically for this
purpose. Ask your orthodontist for one that he/she
recommends. Some orthodontists can make a custom lip guard
can I keep my braces clean after eating at a restaurant or
who have braces carry a little dental kit to help them in
such situations. A dental kit should contain a dental pick,
some floss and floss threaders, a toothbrush, and some
toothpaste. A travel cup is also a good idea. All these
items are compactly offered in a product called
Braces Survival Kit.
wire at the end of my braces is poking my cheek. What should I
This is always
an annoying and tricky situation. If possible, gob a bunch
of dental wax at the end of the wire to stop it from poking
you. You can also try a bit of cotton. Call your dentist or
orthodontist and ask to come in ASAP so they can clip the
wire. Please don't suffer needlessly with a poking
wire. After a day or two it can really painfully tear up the
inside of your cheek, so don't wait to get it clipped! Some orthodontists let you come in "as
needed" for a clipping without an appointment.
the way, the wire pokes you because your teeth have moved,
displacing the end of the arch wire. Although this is
annoying, it's a good sign that your treatment is
braces and sports?
the sport, it is probably a good idea to wear some sort of
lip protector or mouth guard so the braces don't cut up the
insides of your mouth (and also to protect your teeth and
braces). Light contact sports will be made safer with a
lip protector. Many heavy contact sports require a
larger mouth guard. If you are not sure what is appropriate
for you, ask your orthodontist. Sometimes, orthodontists
make custom-fitted mouth guards and lip protectors.
should I get my teeth cleaned when I have braces?
recommend that people get their teeth cleaned twice per
year. For people with braces, this is especially important.
Even if you brush and floss very well, a professional
cleaning will ensure that you don't develop decay. When you
have braces, you should consider getting one or two extra
cleanings per year. They do not take off your arch wires or
brackets to do a cleaning. They usually work around your
braces, or use a device called a Cavitron, which is like a