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Despite being a hugely popular way to straighten teeth, braces are still shrouded in mystery. Before you have the opportunity to sit down with an orthodontist, most of your fact finding will probably happen online. The internet can be a great source of information, but beware – not everything you read will be reliable.
To help sort the fact from the fiction, we’re going to tackle some of the most common myths about braces.
1. Braces are unattractive
The biggest myth of all. For a long time, braces have been synonymous with metal train tracks, and historically they’ve been portrayed as ‘uncool’. Until now.
Train tracks have risen through the fashion ranks. They’ve graced the catwalk as well as famous faces including Gwen Stefani, Emma Watson and Serena Williams. You can even buy fake braces, although we really wouldn’t recommend them.
What’s more, if you really don’t like the thought of a visible brace, you can straighten your smile with an ‘invisible’ one! Choose from clear, removable aligners or lingual braces, which are fitted behind your teeth and virtually undetectable.
2. Braces are just for teenagers
Braces may be a right of passage for many teens, but increasingly adults are getting in on the action. There’s no upper age limit for orthodontic treatment, so it’s never too late to improve your smile.
‘Invisible’ braces have undoubtedly helped to boost the popularity of orthodontic treatment among adults; helping them to straighten their teeth while friends and colleagues remain none the wiser.
Some adult patients think they may not be suitable for braces because they have fillings, veneers or crowns already. But these can usually be accommodated and shouldn’t be a barrier to treatment.
3. It takes years to straighten teeth
There’s a degree of truth to this myth. Sometimes it can take a couple of years to achieve the ‘perfect’ smile. Particularly if your case is very complex or you require multidisciplinary care (help from different specialists).
On average, orthodontic treatment takes around 12 to 18 months to complete. However, if your only concern is the appearance of your front teeth – and you’re happy with the way they bite together – treatment can be completed in less than a year. Sometimes within a matter of months.
eBrace Visual has been specially designed to straighten the front six or eight teeth. This is sometimes referred to as ‘short-term orthodontic treatment’ or ‘cosmetic orthodontic treatment’. As well as taking less time, you may find it’s more affordable than comprehensive orthodontic treatment.
4. Braces are a permanent solution
This is an important one. Unfortunately, braces aren’t a permanent fix. Once they’re taken off, your teeth are likely to move again. This is thanks to elastic fibres, which are stretched during orthodontic treatment, pulling your teeth back to their original position.
The good news is that there is a solution. After orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist can – and should – provide retainers. These can be fixed or removable (you may be given both) and their job is to simply hold your teeth in their new position.
Retainers need to be worn indefinitely. At any stage, even years down the line, if you stop wearing your retainers, your teeth could move. Conveniently they’re very discreet, and removable aligners only need to be worn at night long term.
5. You can only wear braces once
While everyone now appreciates the importance of retainers, they haven’t always been such a priority. Sometimes they weren’t provided at all; or they were only recommended for a few years; more often than not they would go missing or break and not be replaced.
Unfortunately, these scenarios will most likely have led to ‘orthodontic relapse’, which is where your teeth drift back to their pre-treatment position. Undoing all your hard work.
Some patients think that it’s not possible to have braces again. But the sooner you take action, the quicker your orthodontist can put things right. Because orthodontic relapse is such a common occurrence, there are braces that have been specially designed to treat it discreetly and efficiently.
6. Braces are uncomfortable
Again, there’s some truth to this statement. Your mouth is very sensitive, and it will take you a few days to adapt to wearing a brace. At first, you may find that your teeth ache and your brace irritates the inside of your mouth – or your tongue in the case of lingual braces.
Any initial discomfort should quickly improve. During your treatment, you may find that your teeth ache for a day or two each time your orthodontist adjusts your brace. This is normal and nothing to worry about. You can take over-the-counter pain relief to help ease any discomfort. Most of the time you should forget that you’re wearing a brace.
Some patients worry that it will hurt when their brace is fitted or removed. Rest assured this isn’t the case. Tell your orthodontist if you’re feeling nervous so they can talk through your concerns and put you at ease.
7. Veneers are a faster alternative to braces
It’s true that veneers can be used to straighten teeth, but we wouldn’t consider them a direct alternative to orthodontic treatment. While they can achieve similar results, the journey and its impact on your oral health is very different.
Braces simply align your own teeth, whereas veneers involve disguising crooked teeth with a fake façade. To fit veneers, your dentist will usually need to remove some of your tooth’s enamel – its protective layer (otherwise the veneers could look bulky and unnatural).
Once this enamel is gone, it’s gone forever, and you’ll always need to wear veneers. So bear in mind that they’ll need replacing approximately every 10 years. The results of braces, on the other hand, can be maintained indefinitely with the help of retainers.
8. There’s no difference between an orthodontist and a dentist
Orthodontists and dentists can both provide orthodontic treatment, but they have different levels of training and usually experience. Orthodontists train to be dentists, before they go on to complete specialist training in orthodontics. In the UK, this is a three-year full-time course. They’ll then go on to be listed as a specialist in orthodontics with the General Dental Council.
Dentists have usually had less training in orthodontics, which is sometimes limited to a particular brace. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have orthodontic treatment with a dentist, but consider the experience of the clinician when making your decision. Many dentists will competently treat straightforward cases and refer more complex ones onto a specialist.
9. Braces can cause tooth decay
Braces can’t directly cause tooth decay. But they can make cleaning your teeth trickier, which could lead to a build-up of plaque, and eventually tooth decay.
To keep your teeth pristine during your treatment, your orthodontist will show you how to clean around your brackets. With a little extra time and care, your oral health shouldn’t be affected by braces. You can buy special brushes and floss that will help you to reach every surface.
Another reason to keep your teeth clean is to avoid stains. If your teeth discolour during treatment, you may find that you’re left with lighter patches on the front of your teeth where your brackets were positioned. This isn’t a problem with lingual braces, but it’s always a good idea to brush thoroughly and cut back on things that stain teeth such as cola, coffee and red wine.
10. You can’t wear braces if you have a nickel allergy
If you have a nickel allergy, you may think that braces aren’t an option, with most metal braces containing nickel in some shape or form. But as we’ve already discovered, braces don’t have to be metal – and you can opt for clear, removable aligners, which contain no metal whatsoever.
However, not everyone is suitable for clear aligners, and there are some complex cases that only fixed braces can tackle effectively. Some patients also don’t like the thought of having to take their brace in and out for eating and drinking.
For these situations, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are metal braces that don’t contain any nickel. eBrace, for example, can be made using various materials, including gold alloy.
For the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about braces, make an appointment to see an orthodontist. Click here to find your nearest eBrace provider.