Getting your braces. What you should know


Getting your braces

Braces are devices used in orthodontics that align and straighten teeth. They also help position teeth with regard to a person’s bite, while also aiming to improve dental health. Braces are often used to correct under bites, but also malocclusions, overbites, open bites, deep bites, cross bites, crooked teeth, and various other flaws of the teeth and jaw.  Braces can be either structural or cosmetic. Braces can be applied with other orthodontic appliances to help widen the palate or jaws and to otherwise assist in shaping the teeth and jaws.

Unanticipated length of treatment

Orthodontic treatment with braces can last around 2 years, but this is a mere estimate. It can be that your braces can take longer to be effective than what was planned. There is significant variability in each patient in how fast the teeth move, as well as cooperation and growth issues. Therefore, the orthodontist will give an estimate on treatment length for each individual, but this may change as the treatment progresses.


Risks and complications

Orthodontic treatment is normally not risky, but there are some minor risks. These risks and benefits of treatment should be looked at before making a decision. These risks include:

Toothache and slight discomfort

When the rubbers spacers are placed to make space for the braces, and when the braces are fitted, you may feel some mild discomfort. But your teeth will get used to the orthodontic equipment and your teeth begin to move. Drinking cold drinks may make the pain worse. You may find that drinking coffee will help to reduce the pain, unless you want to use over-the-counter pain relief medication.

Scratches and ulcers

It is common with braces to get some small scratches and ulcers on the inside of your mouth. These will last for a few days, until your mouth gets used to the shape of your braces. To overcome this you can apply orthodontic wax to the braces or use cotton balls to protect your mouth during this initial phase.

Gum infection

It is vital to maintaining good oral hygiene particularly if you are wearing braces as food can get stuck in between your braces. Poor oral hygiene can lead to gingivitis and gum infection which can slow down the movement of your teeth. This will prolong your treatment. Even worse is that the infection can cause irreversible damage to the tissues which support your teeth.

Enamel demineralization

Enamel demineralization, where the enamel wears away on the tooth, can happen for the period of wearing braces. It is mostly triggered by sugar, which starts a decay process in the enamel. If left to progress, over time this demineralization can lead to cavities and tooth decay, which appears as white or yellow stains on the teeth.

You will need regular check-ups to see spot signs of enamel demineralization and the development of cavities so that they can be treated sooner rather than later. But you can reduce the risk by avoiding sugary food and drinks, brush after every meal and rise your mouth out with a mouthwash.

Root shortening

For some patients, the length of the roots of their teeth become shorter during treatment. It’s nearly impossible to predict whether or not it will happen to you. But some people are more prone to it than others. Overall, root shortening doesn’t have significant consequences, but on very rare occasions it may threaten the longevity of the tooth.

Tooth vitality

As orthodontic treatment moves the teeth, some pre-existing conditions, such as trauma or decay, might be worsen by wearing braces. The movement the tooth undergoes during treatment might further aggravate the tooth. While very rare, this can lead to the tooth becoming discolored or requiring root canal treatment.


An additional rare but serious complication whilst being treated with braces is ankylosis. Ankylosis is a fusion of the tooth root to the bone. If a tooth has fused to the underlying jaw bone, braces will be unable to move the tooth. Thus all of the adjacent teeth will start to move around the ankylosed tooth. This is a serious complication that would not allow proper alignment of the teeth and bite. A history of trauma where a tooth had completely come out of the mouth and been reimplanted by your dentist has a high rate of Ankylosis. It can be difficult to predict whether a tooth has become ankylosed prior to braces. X-rays and clinical examination may provide diagnosis of ankylosis only in certain situations.


This isn’t a complication so much as a potential consequence, the possibility of a relapse. This is if movement and shifting of the teeth after the braces are removed. You will be given retainers following treatment to prevent relapse, and if these are not worn as instructed, the risk of relapse is very high, especially immediately after the braces are removed. More so, there is a trend for teeth to move even a few years after braces, but this is often due to normal age-related changes, which occur to varying degrees in almost every patient.