Traditional metal braces are the most common type of orthodontic dental braces used to align and straighten teeth and form normal dental occlusal fit (bite). Dr. Greg Greenberg at RxSmile Orthodontics offers four varieties of dental braces: Damon® braces (self-ligating dental braces), Invisalign® removable braces, clear ceramic dental braces and traditional metal dental braces.
Traditional Metal Braces
Traditional metal braces are the most common type of braces. They are made of high-grade stainless steel, or a combination of stainless steel and titanium, making them very strong and able to withstand most treatments. These small metal brackets, which can be either silver or gold, are attached to each tooth using a specialized dental glue or dental composite resin that contains fluoride to assist in the prevention of tooth decay or caries. An archwire connects each bracket together. These ultra-strong alloys are the same as those utilized in the NASA space program. Dr. Greenberg uses the latest “self-ligating Damon brackets” that do not require-elastics. This allows for less friction, faster tooth movement and better oral hygiene. Older orthodontic technology uses elastic O-shaped rubber bands (ligatures) to hold the archwires into the brackets. A wide variety of colored bands are available so that you can personalize your smile while you wear your braces. In some cases, metal tie wires that go through the brackets can be used instead of the elastic bands. These self-ligating braces, which are the second most common type of braces, but the most common in the technologically advanced offices like Dr. Greenberg’s, require fewer adjustments and can reduce treatment time.
Over time (generally 18 to 24 months), the wires exert slow, but deliberate, pressure on the teeth to move them into the desired position. Periodically, these wires are tightened to continue the progression of movement. With the self-ligating brackets, visits are less often, at 8-10 weeks apart – easier for parents to schedule around activities and school. Your teeth may feel loose as the braces move them. Don’t worry. This is normal, as your teeth are actually moving. They will quickly strengthen once they are in their permanent positions.
During the first two weeks, the metal may irritate your gums and cheek tissue. Dental wax or a saltwater rinse usually alleviates discomfort. Because metal braces have evolved to be smaller than ever before, they are more comfortable and easier to get used to than in the past.
Advantages of traditional metal dental braces include:
- Most cost efficient
- Extremely durable
- Shorter treatment time than some of the more cosmetic braces
- Colorful elastic band choices
- Self-ligating braces available
Disadvantages of traditional metal dental braces are:
- More noticeable than other options
- Discomfort (usually only for the first couple of weeks)
Adjusting to Traditional Metal Braces
Getting your metal braces on will not hurt, but your mouth will need some time to adjust afterward. Your teeth and mouth may be sore for about a week. Following some simple guidelines can help you manage these first days:
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to reduce discomfort.
- Eat softer foods, as not to create added pressure. Yogurt, soup, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and scrambled eggs are good examples.
- Place orthodontic wax over brackets that are rubbing or irritating your cheeks. Use whatever amount makes your mouth feel comfortable.
Mouth Sores from Metal Braces
Getting used to wearing metal braces takes a few weeks. Because your mouth isn’t used to chewing with braces, you may accidentally bite the inside of your cheek. The metal can also be an irritant at first, causing small sores inside the cheeks or lips. Once your mouth adjusts, the sores will be a thing of the past. If you experience mouth sores, you should:
- Avoid acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus juices or spicy foods. These will tend to irritate a sore.
- Avoid touching a sore with your tongue or fingers.
- Use over-the-counter oral analgesics (Orajel or Anbesol) to numb the area temporarily, especially if the discomfort keeps you awake at night.
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day. Use 1/2 teaspoon of salt per cup of water.
Oral Care For Traditional Metal Braces
Once you get your metal braces, you will need to take special care to keep up your oral health. From the foods that you eat to brushing habits, keeping your braces in mind is key. You should continue your normal oral care routine, including brushing and flossing, with a few added steps:
- Take extra care when brushing your braces. Be gentle and thorough, brushing all the nooks around the brackets. A proxabrush, also known as a Christmas tree brush, is designed especially to clean in between braces and is helpful in keeping them food-free.
- Inspect your braces after you brush to be sure that nothing was missed.
- Get as much fluoride as possible (fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated tap water). Your teeth can be more susceptible to tooth decay when wearing braces. Your orthodontist may give you a fluoride mouthwash to use.
- When you have braces, brushing after every meal becomes even more important. Bring a toothbrush with you to school or work to use after meals away from home. You will need to change your toothbrush more often due to the metal on your braces.
- You can still floss your teeth while wearing metal braces, as well. Be sure not to use too much force around the archwire. The end of the floss should be pushed up through the space between the upper part of the tooth (closest to the gum) and the archwire, then worked in between the two teeth. A reusable floss threader can make flossing easier for you. Your orthodontist will assist you with any questions you may have about your oral hygiene concerning your braces.
Foods to Avoid While Wearing Metal Braces
Having metal braces will require you to adjust some of the foods that you eat. While most foods can be cut into small pieces to accommodate your braces, some foods should be avoided altogether. Especially hard foods can damage your braces and cause you to have to schedule additional appointments with your orthodontist. Foods you should avoid include:
- Hard or tough-to-bite foods: apples, corn-on-the-cob, candy, nuts, carrots
- Crunchy foods: chips, popcorn, ice
- Tough breads: bagels, pizza crusts
- Chewy or sticky foods: gum, toffee, taffy, caramels, gummy snacks, fruit bursts, licorice
Remember, wearing metal braces is temporary, so don’t get discouraged when you can’t eat something. There are plenty of foods that you can eat, like ice cream and milkshakes!
Repairing Traditional Metal Braces
Most patients experience some need for repair while wearing their metal braces. If you feel a loose or broken wire or bracket, call our office as soon as possible. While a loose wire is not an emergency, it is important to get your braces fixed and back to work quickly.
Common situations and solutions include:
- Loose band: Save the band and bring it to your appointment.
- Broken wire: Gently push the loose wire back in place as best as possible, using the eraser end of a pencil or the back of a spoon. Do not cut the wire. If you are unable to move it, put orthodontic wax over the wire until you can get to our office.
- Loose bracket: Place orthodontic wax over the bracket to hold it in place until your appointment. If it falls off, save it, and bring it with you.
Always wear a mouth guard when playing sports while you have your braces. If your mouth should be injured, be sure to check your braces for damage. Mouth guards can be custom fit for you, making them quite comfortable.
Wearing a Retainer After Metal Braces
Once your metal braces are removed, your orthodontist will take x-rays and bite impressions to ensure that your teeth are in their desired position. At this time, you will be fitted for a retainer. Retainers are usually made of rubber or clear plastic and metal wires, and fit snugly inside your mouth. Retainers are necessary to keep your teeth in place. Since the teeth are not completely settled until all the gums, bones, and muscles of the mouth adapt to the new environment, the length of time a retainer will be worn will vary from patient to patient. Typically, they need to be worn for 6 months, after which only nighttime use is necessary. Your orthodontist, Dr. Greenberg, will instruct you as to how long you should continue to wear your retainer.
Our goal at the RxSmile Frisco orthodontics office with Dr. Greg Greenberg is to provide highly personalized and comprehensive orthodontic care for our families in the Frisco-Plano metropolitan area. If you have questions about braces and would like to make an appointment with our orthodontist, Dr. Greg Greenberg, please call 972 335 1300 Monday through Thursday, or submit an online appointment request and we will respond within one business day.