An often cringe-worthy but humorous time in many people’s lives can be linked back to the adolescent days of braces. The phase of thousands of tiny rubber bands, frequent trips to the orthodontist, desperate need for toothpicks and awkward smiles for yearbook and prom pictures. While the evolution of dental braces has come a long way and now offers a variety of aesthetic and comfort options, most of the goals remain the same in seeking to straighten and align the teeth and bite of the patient.
Orthodontists are specially trained beyond that of dental school, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). They specialize in the straightening of teeth and aligning the jaw, and are abreast of all cutting-edge treatments and medical technology that benefits patients. This can include what many people had prior to recent years: traditional metal braces or other more creative solutions such as toothcolored or nearly invisible braces made from clear ceramics; lingual braces, which are placed on the inside of teeth; or Invisalign, which consists of see-through aligners that are molded specifically to the patient’s teeth.
The AAO explains that because of the advances in dental technology, the length of treatment for most youth is characterized as “relatively fast,” so long as the patient adheres to their doctor’s orders. This can mean staying proactive in the brushing, flossing, professional cleaning and diet requirements. Equally as important is attending the regularly scheduled appointments with the orthodontist that is working on creating a more desireable smile. The average length of orthodontic treatment is 22 months.
While it can be more common in recent years that adults are seeking orthodontic care, it is recommended by most practicing orthodontists that children as young as 7 begin seeking consultation. This is due to the incoming of permanent teeth, which can begin to show signs of overcrowding and an uneven bite. The AAO states that age is not a factor on when to receive braces, as healthy teeth can be moved around at any point. Ultimately, the goal continues to be a set of teeth that not only look better, but function better as well. The obvious benefit of seeking orthodontic care at a younger age is to receive the improved appearance and functionality sooner. Only very few children would begin intensive orthodontic treatment as early as the age of 7, but the ultimate goal is early intervention.
Wearing braces can mean a number of =things for an adolescent or young adult. For some, the most challenging obstacles can be the shift in appearance. To ease some of those concerns, it’s best to have a discussion with one’s chosen orthodontist on what the best option can be if the aesthetic of the braces is a priority. For others, the change in lifestyle and diet can prove just as frustrating. The do’s and don’ts of eating with braces is mostly simple – but that still doesn’t mean it’s easy. Approved foods are mostly soft or tender, including soft fruits and steamed vegetables. Dairy products such as yogurts and cheese can be good alternatives to tougher foods. Tender chicken, turkey, lunch meat and seafood are also encouraged. Foods to avoid are related mostly to sugar content and texture. It’s suggested to avoid chewy, crunch, sticky and hard foods. This can include breads, like bagels, popcorn, chips, caramels, gum, nuts and hard candy. Additionally, foods in which one must bite into can also be avoided, such as apples, corn on the cob and carrots.
The AAO offers information on many frequently asked questions for those wanting a more in-depth informational guide on braces. Some facts range from insurance and financial queries to security issues such as if braces will set off metal detectors (they don’t). The most common narrative offered, however, is that each person’s case and treatment is unique, and the best option is to consult a trained orthodontist. It’s even suggested to consult a second opinion should the patient and their family see fit.
– Katie Ho