Tips and Advice for Anyone with Braces
Thinking about getting braces? Or maybe you just got your braces and you don't know quite how to deal with them yet? Well you've come to the right place.
Braces are by far the best investment I have ever made. I've got a long way to go still but in the year and a half that I have had braces they already made a huge difference. People I went to high school with don't even recognize me anymore. But braces can be annoying and irritating and painful. Here are tips and advice I've learned over the last year and a half on how to deal with those braces and survive the years of a mouth full of metal.
Tips for Finding an Orthodontist
1: Get a Second Opinion
Usually your dentist will recommend an orthodontist or two that would be an excellent choice for your care, but you do not have to go with who they recommend. Before you start your treatment plan, the orthodontist will sit down with you and explain what kind of treatment they have in store for you. This includes how long they intend for you to wear the braces, whether or not you need surgery or teeth pulled, or if you need any special devices, etc.
If you do not like the plan being offered to you, get a second opinion. Go to the other orthodontist recommended by your dentist. Or ask friends and family who have had braces who they went to and what their experiences were. Find out who they recommend and see if a name doesn't come up twice. You can search for reliable reviews online until you find another orthodontist too.
At this point you might be thinking that you've already paid for all the x-rays and pictures of your teeth at the first doctor you visited and you don't want to pay twice for those. However, you can ask for copies of those x-rays and give them to a new expert for a second opinion, or you can have those documents sent directly to whoever you chose.
I highly recommend getting a second opinion, especially if you have a complicated case. The first orthodontist I saw said I would need at least two surgeries. They wanted to start off first by cracking open my upper palate right down the middle and then pushing the two halves apart with a rapid palate expander. Then they wanted to do a second surgery to close my open bite. Needless to say I was not happy with this idea.
So I got a second opinion. I am now a year and a half into treatment and my new orthodontist closed the open bite and got the expansion I needed on the top without any surgery at all. With the orthodontist I ultimately chose, even if I really don't have a choice I feel like I do have a choice in my treatment plan. I feel like my concerns are being heard. If you don't feel like your orthodontist is giving you a choice or not listening to you, like the professional I first saw, seek a second opinion. It may just be worth it.
2: Try a University Program
A lot of people choose to get braces through an orthodontics program at a local college. I did and it was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. Getting braces through a college or university is so much cheaper than going through a private orthodontist. The estimated amount for treatment at the private facility I initially went to was $7500 total (not including the price of the surgeries), $2000 down payment, and $150 payment each month. My insurance would cover up to $2000 of that.
At the University program I ultimately chose, it is only $3600 total for everyone, no matter what kind of treatment you get, $600 down payment, and $125 a month. The down side with most university programs is that they do not accept insurance, but you can file your own claim with your insurance yourself and see if you can get reimbursed. But in my case, even with my insurance covering part of the charges at the private facility, the University is still a cheaper option for me. And my braces have definitely been worth more that $3600. Not only do I have braces, but I just got my 5th appliance, but they never asked me to pay more.
The cheaper price is not the only thing that makes a University program a better option. Some people might consider it a disadvantage that they are not being treated by an expert in the field, but by residents who are fresh out of college. In my experience, however, it has been a benefit. My orthodontist has never seen a case like mine, as I am an unusual case, but my doctor has access to all of the teachers at his school who have seen cases like mine and can offer my doctor guidance and assistance with my case. So not only do I have the opinion of my doctor, but the opinion of his teachers as well who have decades of experience working in orthodontics. It has definitely paid off for me and could for you too.
However, with a University program you may have less options. They will not offer invisalign and you will probably have to get metal braces as they are unlikely to offer clear braces.
Tips For Taking Care of Your Braces
3: Always Do What Your Orthodontist Says
Many patients, especially children, don't do what their orthodontist says because they don't think it's necessary, they just don't want to, or they are embarrassed. But not doing what your orthodontist asks you to do in between appointments will only prolong the treatment period and lengthen the amount of time you have to wear the braces.
So if your orthodontist wants you to clean your teeth a certain way, make sure you are doing it as often as you doctor wants. When your doctor tells you to avoid certain foods, like gum or pretzels, listen to them or you could damage your braces. If your orthodontist wants you to wear box elastics, rubber bands, or some sort of other device all the time except when you are eating or brushing your teeth, then make sure you are wearing it all the time. It may be an inconvenience or hindrance to your every day life, and yeah other kids might make fun of you, but if you want those braces to come off sooner rather than later, you should probably listen to your orthodontist.
4: Take Advantage of Freebies
Most orthodontists will give you a bag of goodies after you get your braces on. This bag includes things like a toothbrush, gel to put on your any sharper edges that might be digging into the inside of your mouth, floss, a floss threader, bristles to clean under your braces, disposable picks, etc. When you run out of supplies, ask if you can have more.
My orthodontist clinic has an entire station devoted to these supplies and any patient can go and load up on what they need at any time. I have not bought a toothbrush since I started treatment, because every time I need a new one, I just pick one up there. Same with any of the other supplies I use.
Personally I don't use the gel, because I've never really needed it anywhere but my back teeth and it is pretty much impossible to get the gel to stick to your braces in the back. But I fully take advantage of all of the other freebies they offer.
5: Speak Up
If you are at the end of your appointment and your Doctor asks you if everything feels okay in your mouth, make sure you tell them the truth. What I mean is, say you have a wire that is kind of poking you in the cheek in the back, but it's not that uncomfortable. You are definitely going to want to ask you Doctor to fix it, because it may be weeks before your next appointment and during those weeks the problem is only going to get worse and become more painful. It might go from slightly uncomfortable to the wire is stabbing you in the mouth every time you eat or talk. So let them know before you leave.
It something feels loose, let them know. It may save you from having to make an extra appointment to get something fixed or replaced. Or if something is digging into your gums have them fix it before it really becomes painful. Don't let anything slide because when it comes to braces, the problem always gets worse over time. And don't worry about sounding whiny or like a complainer, I am pretty sure your orthodontist is used to it.
6: Get in the Habit of Brushing Your Teeth Everyday
It takes a couple of weeks of doing something everyday for it to become a habit. So get in the habit of brushing your teeth at least twice a day everyday. Do it at the same time everyday so it becomes second nature. And don't miss a single day. If you miss just one day, you are more likely to continue missing more and more days of brushing your teeth. So make sure, every day after breakfast and before bed that you are brushing your teeth.
When you are brushing your teeth, a toothbrush will not be enough. If your orthodontist does not supply you one, invest in the two brushes in the picture above. One is a baby brush for brushing around your braces and the other is a bristle attached to a handle for brushing under your wire. Both are absolutely necessary when brushing. Usually, I brush with a toothbrush first to loosen and get rid off any big particles stuck in my braces. Then I use the baby brush to brush around my braces before finally using the bristle to get under the wire.
Follow up with a good mouthwash. Anything with alcohol in it will burn your mouth and irritate any sores or anywhere your braces have dug into the inside of your mouth. If you can find it, try instead ACT's mouthwash designed for braces. It's the best I've tried so far. It doesn't burn your mouth and this brand foams when you swish it around helping to loosen and get rid of any food stuck in your braces that brushing may have missed.
If you do not take good care of your braces, you will notice white spots starting to form around the metal. Those are cavities. They can form very quickly if you don't brush everyday. Your gums may become swollen and gross too if you don't brush regularly. This may delay your treatment, or if it gets bad enough may stop your treatment all together. So take good care of your teeth! Otherwise you're paying thousands of dollars to fix teeth that if you don't take care of will just fall out in a few years!
7: Invest in a Waterpik
When you have braces, flossing is a pain in the butt. Usually your orthodontist gives you a kind of tool known as a floss threader. You have to put your floss through it, then literally thread it under your braces and through your teeth. It is a lot of work.
So instead, invest in a waterpik. Using a waterpik usually makes a watery mess, but it is less time consuming and easier to do then the process mentioned above. Plus using a waterpik will get all those food particles out of your braces.
8: Carry Disposable Picks
Whether it is disposable bristles or disposable toothpicks, make sure you carry them around with you all the time. Carry them in your purse, wallet, or backpack and take them everywhere. You can't always brush your teeth after you eat, but that doesn't mean food won't still get stuck in your braces. So carry disposable bristles or toothpicks to get rid of that unsightly food from your teeth in the bathroom or at a mirror at your locker before returning to public. This can save you a lot of embarrassment in the future. The picture on the right shows you the kind of things I am talking about. I get the disposable bristles from my orthodontist, but the disposable picks can be found at any pharmacy, such as Rite Aid, Walmart, Walgreens, etc.
Tips for Eating With Braces
9: Always Toast Your Bread
This may sound like very weird advice, but it is actually extremely useful to know. This is something I learned the hard way: if you are going to eat bread, always toast your bread, especially if you are going to eat a sandwich. Bread is a very soft and mushy food, and when you bite into a sandwich, or a burger bun, the soft bread sticks to your teeth like glue. Literally just huge gobs of bread get stuck in your braces. It is a pain to get all of that bread out of your braces at once, because it doesn't come out as a chunk, it comes out in little pieces. It is very annoying. If you toast your bread first, you won't have this problem. So save yourself the trouble and toast your bread.
10: Chew on Your Back Teeth
Rather than tear into a sandwic or a burger, it is better to cut or tear your food into small pieces and then chew on your back teeth. This way not only is food less likely to get stuck in your braces in the front, it is less irritating to your mouth. If you chew on your back teeth, the inside of your lips isn't rubbing against your braces so it is less likely to get sore. You are also less likely to damage your braces and risk having another unscheduled appointment if you cut things up first. Plus it is just easier to chew with your back teeth.
11: Drink Lots of Water
There are two main reasons why you should drink water. The first reason is soda and juice can be very corrosive to your teeth and can easily cause cavities. So if you vow to drink only water you cut the risk of forming cavities. If you cut out all sugary drinks and only consume water you may also lose weight.
The second reason why I like to drink water after eating, is because you can swish the water around in her mouth to loosen up some of the larger chunks of food stuck in your braces. You can do this indiscreetly by swishing and spitting the water out into the sink, or discreetly by swishing it around in your mouth once or twice and then swallowing if you're say on a date and and don't want your date seeing you with food stuck in your braces. There is no guarantee swishing water will get all of the food out, but it can help.
12: Avoid Crunchy Foods
This is one your orthodontist will probably tell you. Crunchy foods can damage your braces. I still eat them anyway, but crunchy foods such as potato chips, Doritos, etc, can be a danger to eat. They easily get stuck under your braces. If you have an expander, or metal bands, or a bar running along your teeth, they can easily get stuck under the bar or expander, or in between the metal bands. Then it is not only annoying, but can be painful and hard to get out. Plus the pieces can be sharp and stab you in the mouth, while not always painful, it can be uncomfortable.
13: Invest in Soft Foods
After an adjustment, your teeth will be very sore and it will hurt to chew for a few days.Therefor it is wise to invest in softer foods that don't require chewing. Some of your options include protein or breakfast shakes and smoothies. I have literally gone a day or two just drinking smoothies and breakfast shakes, they are a lifesaver. Other options inclue yogurt, pudding, cottage cheese, ice cream, jello, applesauce, mashed potatoes, etc. Make sure you stock up before the appointment otherwise you are likely to just not eat for a few days, which is great for weight loss, but not a healthy choice. The following tip can also help you a lot with the problem of pain after an adjustment.
Other Tips and Advice
This tip will be a lifesaver: take Tylenol one hour prior to your appointment. Tylenol will be your best friend during this long process. Your orthodontist doesn't really want you to take Ibuprofen or Aspirin while you have braces. As my Doctor explained it to me, it is because Tylenol allows swelling which you need to move your teeth, while Ibuprofen and Aspirin do not allow swelling. I don't know why it is important, but it is. Taking Tylenol, therefore, an hour before your appointment will be a lifesaver.
During your appointment, your orthodontist is usually doing a lot of work on your mouth. Either putting in new devices, giving you your braces for the first time, putting in a new wire or just making routine adjustments. Adjustments hurt, horribly. So take Tylenol before your appointment and as often as you can after the appointment to keep from feeling the majority of the pain. Usually by the next day you will start to feel better.
15: Avoid Getting Hit in the Face
This may seem obvious, and it is, but it is harder than it seems to accomplish. Try, though, to do everything you can to avoid getting hit in the face. Not only can getting smacked in the face by an object damage your braces or loosen them, it hurts...a lot. My dog once hit me right in the mouth with his giant nose (I have a German Shepherd so he is a huge dog with a hard head) and it was quite painful. After my dog hit me in the mouth, my braces left a nice long cut from canine to canine on the inside of my mouth on the top and my bottom lip got caught in between my canines on the top and bottom resulting in a nice big cut and fat lip.
Thankfully the blow did not damage my braces, but it was not a pleasant experience. Unfortunately things like this are sometimes unavoidable.
If you get a canker sore or if your braces are really digging into your mouth, put a little orajel where it hurts to sooth the pain. Wherever you apply orajel and the sore and area surrounding almost instantly goes numb. It is a weird feeling to say the least. Personally I have only used Orajel once and didn't like it. But if you are in pain go for it.
Note that orajel is not something you put on your teeth if they hurt, it is for irritated skin inside your mouth.
17: How to Fix Common Problems at Home
Did your wire come loose? Is it poking you in the cheeks or gums? Did your spacers pop out and you're not sure how to put them back in? Did your bracket break? Or are you unsure of how to make the gel stick to your teeth so a particular sharp edge stops rubbing into a sore spot?
Watch the video to the right from bracesquestions.com and they can help you solve some of the minor problems that pop up in between appointments. For major problems, or for problems that cannot be fixed from home, call your orthodontist. They will either tell you what you can do in the meantime or they'll have you pop real quick to get it fixed.
Spacers are usually the first thing you get and they will mostly likely be the most painful part of the braces process. Don't let this scare you. After you experience the pain of spacers, nothing else compares and your braces won't seem that bad in comparison. All you gotta do is tough out those spacers for a week or so and it'll get better.
And don't forget to smile more! Braces are nothing to be embarrassed about! Your teeth may not be perfect yet, but they are getting there, so don't be afraid to show off your smile!