There have been several changes and advancements in the orthodontics field in the last few years, and metal braces are the most popular treatment option. They are the gold equivalent as far as orthodontic treatment is concerned and the most cost-friendly solution too.  However, to achieve the best possible results after treatment with metal braces, ensure an expert orthodontist carries out the procedure.

At The Downey Dentist, we have the orthodontic expertise, training, and tools to restore your smile. Whether you’re young or old, our orthodontists will cater to your needs and devise an effective treatment plan to address your specific problem. If you wish to obtain orthodontic services in Downey, California, call us any time, and we’ll attend to your needs right away.

Metal Braces Overview

Metal braces are also known as traditional braces. They’re a proven technique for straightening teeth, correcting facial asymmetries, and teeth alignment. Metallic braces are one of the first orthodontic treatment appliances for crooked or misaligned teeth. Still, they’re a common option in orthodontics despite having other kinds of braces.

Composition of Metal Braces

Because braces are supposed to stay in the mouth for a lengthy period, they’re made from high corrosion-resistance materials and those with sufficient strength. Thus, standard traditional braces are made from high-quality titanium or stainless steel alloys. They comprise of:

  • Metallic Brackets— These are the devices attached to your teeth. They’re the ones people see when you smile or talk. These are made of gold, stainless steel, nickel, and titanium. Chromium and molybdenum are also added— chromium prevents stainless steel corrosion while molybdenum prevents pitting and crevice corrosion. The dentist attaches these brackets to your teeth using special polymerized dental cement and visible light. The brackets have slots that archwires pass through.
  • Metallic archwires— A metallic archwire is a wire made of metal, and it passes through the slots within the metal brackets. These wires are either made from β-titanium, stainless steel, or nickel-titanium alloys. Currently, nickel-titanium alloy is the most commonly used than the other two due to its memory and superelasticity. The rigidity and thickness of an archwire define the force generated onto your teeth. Generally, flexible archwires are initially used to gradually align teeth before rigid wires (such as stainless steel) instigate major teeth movements.
  • Orthodontic ligatures— Orthodontic ligatures are also commonly called rubber bands. They are simply the elastics used to hold archwires into place in the metallic brackets. There are different colors of ligatures such as blue, red, pink, green, purple, violet, silver, maroon, yellow, grey, black, orange, clear, white, etc. Even shades of these colors are available, for instance, indigo blue, royal blue, light blue, dark blue, etc. You can choose your ligatures’ color at each appointment when they’re replaced with new ones.

Even though their surface may appear to be the same, metal braces have undergone dramatic changes over the years. They now have a lower profile, smaller brackets, and upgraded archwires that can move teeth effectively and quickly.  Today’s braces are less obtrusive and more comfortable than they have ever been. If you used metal braces as a teenager or child, you would be surprised how much they’ve changed nowadays.

Other Types of Braces

We mentioned that apart from metallic braces, there are also other types in the market, including:

  • Clear aligners— These are also known as invisible braces. They are colorless, plastic trays that fit cozily onto the teeth. They exert pressure on the teeth to move them into their proper positions and correct a patient’s smile. You take off the invisible braces to brush, floss, or eat, but you ought to have them on at least twenty-two hours a day for them to work. Your orthodontist might also place tooth-colored attachments over your teeth to secure the invisible braces in place.
  • Lingual braces—Lingual braces contain the same components as traditional braces, but the brackets are fixed to the back of the teeth, facing the tongue (lingual). Since they are behind the teeth, these braces are virtually invisible.
  • Ceramic braces— Ceramic braces are similar to metal braces, but they use tooth-colored or clear brackets instead of metallic silver or grey brackets and wires. Therefore, these braces are not noticeable as much when you open your mouth to smile or speak.

Who Is the Right Candidate for Metal Braces?

Metal braces are suitable for any patient whose teeth are generally healthy, from children, teenagers to adults, who wish to correct dental imperfections like:

  • Gummy smile— This is when your upper lip is shorter or your upper jaw is enlarged, exposing too much gum tissue.
  • Open bite— When your front teeth don’t touch, exerting pressure on the back teeth, making chewing less efficient
  • Overjet— Overjet is commonly a result of thumb sucking as a child. The upper front teeth protrude too far from the lower teeth.
  • Crossbite— This is where your bottom or top teeth fall outside or inside the opposite teeth, making chewing hard.
  • Overbite— Overbite happens when your front lower teeth bite too closely to the gum by the upper teeth.
  • Crowding— crowding is usually genetically caused. However, it could also occur due to thumb-sucking or nail-biting. Crowded teeth can be crooked, overlapped, turned, and affect your bite.
  • Too much space between teeth— this is the opposite of crowding.

At times, based on your specific condition, you’ll have different other orthodontic options such as Incognito, Synergy R, and Invisalign. The ideal way to know what option is best for you is to have a dentist evaluate your needs and preferences during a consultation.

How Metal Braces Are Installed and How they Work

The orthodontist attaches metal brackets to your teeth directly using a bonding agent. Before, metal bands were used. The orthodontist welded the brackets onto the bands and cemented them separately on every tooth surface. However, this is now outdated since it wasn’t esthetically pleasant at all. 

After they attach the brackets to the teeth, the orthodontist inserts an archwire into the bracket slots and holds it in place using orthodontic ligatures. Archwires come in various dimensions and can shape differently. Essentially, among three components, an archwire is the component that generates the force needed for teeth movement. That’s why it’s the most active. The brackets and the orthodontic ligatures are passive elements.

The archwire runs through all the slots in the brackets up to the rear teeth (molars). The rear teeth form an anchorage unit. The orthodontist then attaches the wire to these molars using a buccal tube welded on a molar band. The molars are known as the anchorage unit since they’re multi-rooted teeth and firmly secure the archwire. They can also pull your front teeth with slight or no change in their position.

Whenever force is exerted, the brackets pull the wire and hold it in place. At the same time, the wire is posteriorly secured and tightened in the buccal tube. The activated/tightened archwire moves and relaxes, putting pressure on all teeth (back and front teeth).

Since the front teeth are one rooted and have a smaller surface area, they easily move into the necessary position. The back teeth are multi-rooted, have comparatively a large surface, and act as an anchorage unit. Therefore, they resist the force by slightly moving,  if required or without moving at all.

The type and thickness of the archwire define the amount of force generated onto your teeth. The force then realigns or moves the teeth in their correct positions.

Your orthodontist goes over all your options at your initial consultation and discusses your lifestyle, what you need to achieve with your treatment, and any other factor they should consider before deciding what kind of treatment you want.

After fitting the braces, your orthodontist will need to check you almost every month to ensure the braces exert enough pressure on the teeth. They will adjust the archwires so that they’re sufficiently tight to move the teeth. He/she will also replace the ligatures. In given cases, metal braces alone will not be sufficient to shift your jawbone and straighten the teeth. That is when your orthodontist will recommend headgear.

What to Expect After Undergoing Treatment

After the orthodontist has fitted the braces, it’s common to experience difficulty speaking and eating for the first few days. But your mouth soon becomes accustomed to the added appliances, and they become part of it.

You may also experience some pain and discomfort when the orthodontist is installing or adjusting the braces or at the initial stages of using the headgear or rubber bands. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help you relieve the pain. Inform your specialist if you’re experiencing severe pain after every adjustment. He/she may make the adjustments differently.

Metal Braces and Allergic Reactions

Some patients are allergic to particular metals like nickel. If you are allergic, your orthodontist will use other materials instead. Patients may also be allergic to the latex gloves the orthodontist uses. Braces could at times irritate gums, leading to swelling. This isn’t an allergic reaction, but it’s something to check.

The Cost of Metal Braces

Orthodontic-related cases vary extensively from one patient to another, so do the costs. However, among the available types of aligners, metal braces are the most affordable.

The treatment cost varies depending on the position of the teeth, how complex the treatment is, and the extent of correction needed, ranging from mild crowding, severe crowding to proclination. The cost goes up if bone growth redirecting is necessary using orthopedic treatment accompanied by orthodontic treatment. This is most common in developing children.

After the orthodontist diagnoses your condition and comes up with a treatment plan, they will tell you the precise cost and period of treatment. In the U.S, the average cost for an orthodontic treatment ranges from $3,000 to $5,000.

Why you Should Go for Metal Braces

Given that so many other treatment options are available, you may be wondering why metal braces are still the most popular option among several patients. Here are the reasons why these braces are still popular and why they should be at the top of your considered treatment options:

  1. They’re a tried and tested treatment option— Orthodontists have been using metal braces for decades for this single reason— they work excellently.
  2. They’re often the fastest treatment option— One patient is different from the other, and aligners might have a comparable treatment duration to metal braces in some cases. However, in other cases, traditional braces work much faster than the alternatives. This is especially true when patients are unwilling or unable to have their aligner on for the required amount of time every day. 
  3. They’re customizable— Children enjoy choosing different colored elastics at every appointment, making their metal braces an avenue for self-expression.
  4. They’re affordable— They are not only less expensive than invisible and ceramic braces, but your dental insurance is also highly likely to cover them.
  5. They’re durable— Metal braces are made of stainless steel, making them stronger than clear and ceramic braces, and they are designed to last for the period of your orthodontic treatment.
  6. They’re constantly working to achieve teeth straightening— Since they are attached to teeth at all times, they function 24/7.  Clear plastic braces only work when you are wearing them. If you have difficulty adhering to the required twenty-two hours of wear a day, it could cause problems, often leading to a more extended treatment time. 
  7. They work excellently in complex situations— Aligner technology has advanced over the years, making them an ideal option for many patients. However, we still have orthodontic cases whereby metal braces are the only available treatment option or the preferred option.

How Long Will You Need to Wear Metal Braces?

The period required to have metal braces on varies from one patient to another, depending on:

  • The severity of the problem.
  • The amount of space in your mouth.
  • How healthy the supporting bone, gums, and teeth are.
  • The distance the teeth will have to travel.
  • How closely a patient follows instructions.

Averagely, once the orthodontist fits the metal braces, they usually stay intact for one to three years. After they come off, you may need to wear a retainer constantly for the first six months. After that, you’ll have to put it on only while you are asleep, but you might do it for several years.

How to Care for Teeth With Metal Braces

Metal braces can attract plaque and food particles that may stain the teeth if not removed. Most orthodontists suggest brushing after each snack or meal with fluoride-containing toothpaste and cautiously removing the food particles that might have stuck in the braces. Others will also recommend or prescribe a fluoride-containing mouthwash, which reaches places a toothbrush cannot reach. An AirFlosser or Waterpik also helps to remove stuck food.

Note that these appliances are delicate. If they break, they can lead to the teeth shifting in the wrong direction and lengthy treatment. Avoid hard, chewy, or sticky stuff, including nuts, ice, hard candy, popcorn, chewing gum, gummies, chewing candy such as caramel, tough-to-bite, or hard foods like bagels or apples, carrots, and hard pretzels.

What You Can Do if a Wire or Bracket Break

Broken braces, protruding wires, or loose ligatures may be problematic but rarely need emergency treatment. However, contact your orthodontist for an appointment to address the problem. In case you have sustained a severe facial or mouth injury, seek help immediately. The following are steps to take to handle common issues until you’re able to visit your specialist:

  • Loose brackets— Smear a little orthodontic wax to reattach the brackets temporarily. Usually, your orthodontist gives you the orthodontic wax after installing the braces. Don’t try cutting the wire since you may accidentally inhale it down your lungs or swallow it. If you develop mouth sores due to the poking effect of the wire, rinse the mouth using an antiseptic rinse or warm saltwater. You can also use a dental anesthetic to numb the area.
  • Loose ligatures— Loose ligatures will have to be recemented or replaced. Save the ligature and visit your orthodontist for them to be repaired.
  • Broken or protruding wires— Use the pencil eraser to shift the archwire to a less irritating position. If that isn’t possible, put a little orthodontic wax on the protruding end.

Find a Downey Dentist Near Me

Addressing your dental problems is a valuable investment as it improves your smile, the first noticeable things in a human, and restores your confidence and self-esteem. Metal braces are one of the ways to solve these problems. Having metal braces fixed should be done accurately and carefully since they are meant to last a lifetime. Thus, you want to find an expert orthodontist to perform the treatment procedure.

At The Downey Dentist, we help patients seeking orthodontic services in Downey, California. We treat every patient as an individual with unique needs and goals. We’ll work hand in hand with you to evaluate your smile properly and devise a customized treatment plan to obtain your desired results. To reach out to us for our services, including a consultation, contact us today at 562-746-0350.