When Will My Braces Come Off?

The most common question patients ask us is “When will my braces come off?”. More often than “What can I eat with braces?” or “Can I still play my favorite sports?” Patients want to know how long they’ll have to deal with braces at all. It’s an understandable question. Braces are hard to brush and floss around, they come with food restrictions, and they can be a source of embarrassment for teens at school or professionals in the workplace. 

It’s common for patients to be excited to begin treatment, but it’s standard for every patient to begin to wonder when they’ll finally get those brackets off. Even though each patient is given an estimated treatment time wearing braces when they start, patients always hope they’ll be the exception that gets their braces off early. 


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How to Handle Orthodontic Emergencies

At some point during your treatment, something will go wrong with your braces. At home, on vacation, or running on a sports field, it can spark fear to feel your braces start to break. These orthodontic “emergencies” are actually relatively minor, even if they don’t seem that way at the moment! Your orthodontist is well equipped to reattach a wire or a bracket, or adjust a loose or poking piece of metal. But, it’s always best to be prepared. So, there are some things to do after a braces emergency to make sure your treatment continues without a hitch.


Common Orthodontic Emergencies

So what are some common orthodontic emergencies we see? Most of these incidents revolve around a part of your braces becoming loose and then subsequently painful. Some of these issues would include a displaced wire or a bracket coming loose from its bonding. These two issues are minor and can be easily fixed by your orthodontist. Sometimes when a bracket comes loose it could fall out of your mouth. This is an extreme situation, and you should try your best to keep the bracket and take it to your next orthodontic appointment. 

Another common emergency is elastics or rubber bands falling off of your braces. These are also minor issues, and as long as you aren’t in severe pain, can be dealt with easily at your next orthodontists appointment.

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Your Habits and Your Teeth

As we know, it’s common for young children to put anything and everything into their mouths. This curiosity about the world around them is normal, and unless it carries into later childhood, is beneficial to development. Habits like nail-biting, thumb sucking, using a pacifier excessively, and tongue thrusting as you swallow all have negative long-term effects on your oral health. What’s more, these bad oral habits can cause disease or other health problems all over the body. 


Self Soothing: Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use

Children are born with a natural sucking reflex, which is why they tend to gravitate towards thumb sucking or get attached to a pacifier as a self-soothing tool. This impulse disappears around the four-month mark, but most children keep the habit for much longer. The natural timeline for thumb sucking or severe attachment to a pacifier is between six and seven months, or between ages two and four. This is natural, and most children end up growing out of any habitual thumb sucking or pacifier use by age four at the latest. Stopping this habit by age four is ideal, and usually results in no long-term orthodontic issues, because the habit is long gone by the time that permanent teeth begin to grow in. 

These self soothing methods are problematic for several reasons. But primarily it is an issue because the pressure applied to teeth through the continuous sucking motion can cause issues with tooth positioning and the growth of the jaw bones. This can later manifest in an open bite, buck teeth, or underdeveloped lower jaw and chin. 

Orthodontists usually recommend that children and parents work to break these habits on their own before treatment starts. If that fails, there are appliances that an orthodontist can install that make thumb sucking and self-soothing less pleasurable for the child. 


Nail Biting

Many children and kids in their early teens bite their nails. This bad habit allows dirt and disease from the fingers into their mouths and can cause multiple orthodontic issues. Biting your nails is bad for your general and oral health because you’re introducing bacteria and dirt into your mouth. The germs and grime you ingest while biting your nails can cause illness and the consistent biting is hard on your enamel. Biting your nails can also negatively impact your orthodontic treatment schedule. 

Chewing your nails results in unnecessary wear on your teeth. It weakens the enamel and can even lead to chipping or the teeth becoming crooked. When you have braces, chewing your nails slows down orthodontic treatment. In addition to weakening the roots and making the teeth susceptible to unplanned movement, biting your nails can also displace brackets and wires. This makes your braces less effective and can result in more appointments to fix appliances or brackets. 


Tongue Thrusting

Tongue thrusting should begin to stop on its own, like thumb sucking does. Like thumb sucking the physiological reason for tongue thrusting becomes obsolete with development. Tongue thrusting has to do with how someone swallows. When toddlers swallow, their tongues push against their teeth, and as they grow older this should transition to the tongue applying pressure to the roof of the mouth during the swallowing process. Some people never grow out of swallowing with their tongue on their teeth. This is what orthodontists refer to as tongue thrusting, or more formally orofacial muscular imbalance.

The teeth cannot withstand the consistent pressure of the tongue as they grow, which causes them to grow crooked and spaced incorrectly. Therefore, tongue thrusting eventually causes tooth displacement and an open bite. Oftentimes other non-orthodontic underlying issues must be addressed before orthodontic treatment can become effective. These underlying issues must continue to be treated beyond orthodontic treatment as well to maintain the work your orthodontist has done. This of course means wearing your retainer, but also means that your dentist or another doctor may address a second issue with you. 

Why You Need to Floss Everyday

Flossing isn’t the most exciting part of your nightly routine, but it’s essential to your oral health. Maintaining that excellent oral health is an integral part of your orthodontic journey! Before we get into how to become an expert braces flosser, here’s some more information about why flossing is so critical in the first place. Flossing is just as important as brushing your teeth to prevent gum disease, cavities, and bad breath. Flossing helps eliminate the accumulation of harmful bacteria and plaque resulting from food particles that get trapped between the teeth and under the gum line. These are places that the toothbrush can’t always reach! 


Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Why Flossing is Important
  • How Often You Should Floss
  • Why is Flossing so Important with Braces?
  • What’s the Best Way to Floss with braces?

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Everything You Need to Know about Your Expander

A common first step of orthodontic treatment is an expander. Expanders, or palatal expanders, are orthodontic appliances that increase the space between the halves of the upper jaw. While that sounds scary and painful, expanders are very common and relatively painless! Many young, growing orthodontic patients have expanders, and they can help make sure you don’t have to undergo surgery later!


In This Post, We’ll Cover

  • What is an Expander?
  • Do Expanders Hurt?
  • Why You Need an Expander
  • How to Tighten an Expander?

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Food and Your Braces

One of our most common questions from patients is “What can I eat with my braces?” or “What foods do I have to give up?” and we have a few simple guidelines to share. Getting braces is a big change, and on top of the wires, brackets, or Invisalign trays, there’s a whole new set of habits you must get used to.

 Luckily, we’re here to help and answer any questions you may have during treatment! If you keep these in mind, your smile and diet will be happy and healthy!


Suggestions and Tips for Braces Eating

When eating with braces, we always recommend brushing after meals. If you forgot your toothbrush, you could run to the bathroom and swish some water around to loosen stuck food particles. 

If a bracket or wire comes loose while eating, you should call your orthodontist as soon as possible to replace or repair it. Keep any pieces of your appliance that fall out for your appointment! As always, contact your orthodontist with questions – we’re here to help! 

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