Top 10 frequently asked questions about dental braces are: Do braces
hurt? What causes crooked teeth? Can I get my braces off sooner? Are
there clear or less noticeable braces? Can I get braces just on my top
or bottom teeth?
1. Do braces hurt?
For the most part, braces do not hurt. The procedure of getting braces
simply involves gluing the braces to your teeth. The day after you get braces, your teeth may
start feeling sore and may stay sore for a few days. The soreness
usually peaks during days 2-3, but should start getting better by days
4-5. Future adjustments may or may not cause you discomfort depending
on what is being done to your teeth. To alleviate the discomfort, you
can take whatever pain medications you would normally use for a
Because your lips, cheeks and tongue are not accustomed
to rubbing against the braces, you may experience sores. The sores may
last for one to two weeks until your lips, cheeks, and tongue get used
contacting your braces. If there is part of the braces that is
irritating your mouth, you can place orthodontic wax to help smooth the
rough area of the braces. After your lips, cheeks and tongue get used
to the braces, you may even forget you have them on.
2. What causes crooked teeth? If
you have crooked teeth or a bad bite you probably inherited these
traits. However, losing some baby teeth early or indulging in harmful
habits such as thumb or fingersucking can also cause your teeth to be
3. When is the best time to schedule a consultation with the orthodontist? The
American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children see
an orthodontist for an evaluation no later than age seven. There are a
few orthodontic problems that should be corrected at that age. If your
orthodontist determines that no treatment is necessary at that time, he
or she will be able to offer you guidance on when to start treatment or
when to bring your child back for re-evaluation. For adults, treatment can be started at almost any age as long as the gums and bone surrounding the teeth are healthy.
4. Can I get my braces off sooner? Unfortunately,
orthodontic treatment time is limited in part to how quickly or slowly
your bone can remodel, thus allowing your teeth to move. In younger
patients with less-developed bone, teeth tend to move faster than in
older patients with more-developed bone. Some patients think that if
the orthodontist “tightens” the braces more, the teeth will move
faster. Indeed, the teeth need force in order to move. However, there
is an optimal force that moves teeth, and increasing the force level
after the optimal level has been reached may actually cause damage to
the bone and surrounding tissues, and may slow down tooth movement. The
best way to ensure that your braces come off on time is to not break
anything, wear your elastics and prescribed, and keep your teeth and
5. Can I get braces just on my top or bottom teeth? That
depends. Besides straightening your teeth, orthodontists are also
concerned about correcting your bite if needed. Many times, if only one
arch is treated, the bite will still be uncorrected. Over time, a
malocclusion (bad bite) could cause damage to your teeth, tissues, and
6. Do I need a referral from my dentist to see the orthodontist? No.
While dentists can refer patients to the orthodontist, many patients
actually are referred to the orthodontist by family and friends of
existing patients. Exceptions to this rule may be if you are in an HMO
plan that will only allow you to see certain orthodontists.
7. Are there clear or less noticeable braces? Yes.
Compared to 30 years ago, braces have gotten smaller and can be
directly bonded (glued) to teeth. The bands or metal rings that used to
be placed on every tooth now only need to be placed on the back teeth,
if they are placed at all. Besides smaller braces, there are also
clear braces or even lingual braces that are bonded on the tongue-side
of the teeth. Another option to straighten teeth is not to use braces
at all, but a series of clear aligners such as Invisalign. Your
orthodontist can determine which option would be best for you.
8. Can wisdom teeth (third molars) cause crooked teeth? Research
has shown that wisdom teeth or third molars do not necessarily crowd
teeth. In fact, some people who have had their wisdom teeth removed
still get crowding, while others that still have their third molars
erupted or impacted do not have crooked teeth.
9. What is an orthodontist? An
orthodontist is a dentist who has completed an additional two to three
years of full-time training at an accredited residency program after
graduating from dental school. During their residency program,
orthodontists learn to diagnose and treat dental, facial, and jaw
problems. Orthodontists typically limit their practices to the field of
orthodontics to focus on correcting misaligned teeth and jaw problems. When
choosing an orthodontist, you are not only getting someone who has
undergone significant additional training, but someone who deals with
orthodontic problems every day. How many years of schooling does
an orthodontist have to go through? If we start calculating at first
grade, orthodontists must graduate high school (12 years), college (4
years), dental school (4 years), and orthodontic residency (2-3 years).
So by the time they finish their orthodontic training, most
orthodontists have been in school for 22-23 years!
10. Do I need shots? No
shots are generally needed for orthodontic treatment. However, if your
orthodontist refers you out for other procedures such as extractions,
surgical exposure of teeth, or miniscrews, you may need a local
Dr. Stephen Yang is a Board Certified Orthodontist and Senior Editor at
Bracesquestions.com, a website about getting braces on, taking care of
your Dental Braces, and getting braces off. Read about the cost of
braces, watch braces videos, or Find an Orthodontist at
View this original article in context at the Top 10 Orthodontic Braces Questions.