Braces 101: 10 Common Braces Questions Answered

What Are The Most Common Braces 101 Questions We Hear?

At Gardner Orthodontics, so many of our Richmond braces patients begin treatment in July and August before school starts back up again. If you just kicked off your own treatment or it’s on the agenda in the coming weeks, congrats! You’re on your way to straight teeth, a healthy and aligned bite, and an amazing smile. 

We promise, once you get used to having an appliance in your mouth, you’ll forget it’s even there and caring for your braces will become second nature. In the meantime, we thought a little braces education was in order to get you off to a strong start! 

In this post, we’ll be answering 10 of the most common questions our Richmond, Virginia orthodontists get from patients who are beginning their smile journey. 

1. Does getting braces put on hurt?

First things first, does getting braces put on hurt? Not at all! The process of getting braces put on is like placing stickers on your teeth! It is completely painless (no needles are involved) and usually takes less than an hour. At Gardner Orthodontics, we engage in extensive upfront treatment planning so there are no surprises and we already know where each bracket will go. 

First, a team member will polish the surfaces of your teeth if needed. Then, Dr. Gardner, Dr. Tang or Dr. La Rochelle will stick your braces on each individual tooth using a special adhesive. They’ll thread the archwires through your brackets. If you opted for conventional braces, you’ll get to choose your elastics colors and we’ll use them to secure your wires to the brackets. If you chose self-ligating braces, you won’t need elastics or ties (but it can still be fun to pick colors for these braces too!). 

Next, we’ll let you know how to take care of your braces and we’ll walk you through what you can expect throughout your treatment. You’ll receive tips and tricks to keep your teeth and braces clean, and specialized tools to help. When you leave our office, you can go about the rest of your day. 

2. How do braces work to straighten teeth?

Braces consist of brackets and wires. The brackets are like handles that grip onto the teeth, while your wires guide your teeth into place. As your appliance exerts gentle pressure, it stimulates the natural process of bone remodeling. The bone and tissues that support your teeth change shape, allowing the teeth to move where we direct them. 

Eventually, new bone forms and the ligaments tighten back up, holding your teeth in their new positions. This might sound kind of strange, but bone remodeling happens all of the time in your body without you knowing it or feeling it. 

3. How long do braces take to work?

How long braces treatment lasts depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of your case and how well you care for your appliance and teeth during treatment. While every patient is unique, most of our Richmond braces patients finish their treatment in less than 18 months. For others, it can range from under a year to over 24 months. 

While you’ve probably seen claims for things like “Six Month Smiles” and “fast braces,” exerting too much force too quickly can be dangerous and probably won’t bring about the best results. We want to make your smile perfect.

At Gardner Orthodontics, we like to call ourselves orthodontic nerds. We use advanced technology, including state-of-the art treatment planning software to manipulate braces to give you better results in less time without cutting corners or putting your oral health at risk. We’re all about making braces as efficient and comfortable as possible. 

4. Will I experience braces pain?

Sometimes, patients are worried about braces pain the first week of treatment or after adjustments. The truth is, you should never experience real braces pain at any point. However, you will have some tenderness and sensitivity after you first get your braces put on and following adjustments. The discomfort is generally mild.

How long do braces hurt? The minor tenderness should last for a little less than a week after getting your braces put on. Following adjustments, sensitivity usually subsides in a day or two. To manage discomfort, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever (whatever you’d normally take for a headache). Sticking with soft foods, as well as cold foods and drinks, will also be helpful until you feel ready to tackle your regular diet again. 

Braces pro tip: Take an over-the-counter pain reliever right before your bonding appointment. By the time your teeth begin to feel sensitive, the pain reliever will be working!

5. How do I brush and floss my teeth with braces?

Keeping your teeth clean is one of the most important things you can do during your braces treatment. Teeth move most efficiently in a healthy mouth. Plus, your braces brackets and wires offer food and plaque the perfect places to hide and, if not brushed away, you’ll be more susceptible to cavities. In extreme cases, getting cavities with braces could mean having to have your braces removed, so you can receive treatment from your dentist. 

How Many Times a Day Should I Brush My Teeth With Braces?

Brush your teeth in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before bed. If you’re out and about and forget your toothbrush, rinse your mouth out really with water and brush as soon as you get home. 

How to Brush Your Teeth With Braces

When brushing with braces, go for a soft-bristled toothbrush and use fluoride toothpaste. Brush around the top, bottom and sides of your braces, along your gumline, and on all of the surfaces of your teeth, giving each individual tooth attention. 

Braces pro tip: The most commonly missed spots when brushing with braces are between the braces and the gumline on the upper and lower teeth. Focus on these areas and you will be a pro!

In addition to brushing with braces using a regular toothbrush, you might also want to use an interdental brush, sometimes called an interproximal brush or proxy brush, to clean the nooks and crannies around your brackets. This will ensure no plaque is left behind in those tight spaces. 

How to Floss With Braces

Learning how to floss with braces can be slightly challenging at first, but you’ll be a flossing pro in no time. One of the best braces tips is to use an orthodontic flosser. It will cut down your flossing time significantly. However, you can also use a floss threader and regular dental floss. 

Whichever floss for braces you choose, guide the floss under your braces wire and in between any two teeth. Floss up and down the side of one tooth and up and down the side of the other tooth, making a “C” shape, being sure to reach slightly under your gums. When you’re finished, move on to the next set of teeth until you’ve flossed your entire mouth. 

Can I Use a Waterpik for Braces?

Yup, you can use a Waterpik for braces, too. Keep in mind, using a Waterpik, or water flosser, doesn’t replace regular flossing and will be an extra step in your oral hygiene routine. That said, most of our patients find it to be well worth the couple of extra minutes. Using a waterpik for braces is super helpful for dislodging stubborn food bits, zapping plaque that you missed when brushing and flossing, and giving your gums a little extra love. 

6. How can I stop my braces from rubbing against the inside of my mouth?

braces 101 questions answered

Braces irritation is common at the start of your treatment, because the brackets and wires can rub against the inside of your cheeks and lips. The soft tissues in your mouth will “toughen up” in about two weeks and the irritation will go away. While you’re waiting for this to happen, there are a number of ways you can deal with it:

Use Orthodontic Relief Wax

Orthodontic relief wax is wax for braces that serves as a buffer between your mouth and your appliance. If you’re dealing with irritation, it will be your BFF. 

How to Put Wax on Braces

Gently dry off the parts of your braces that are irritating you with a clean tissue or piece of gauze. Break off a small piece of your braces wax and roll it in between your fingers to warm it up. Stick it directly on your braces. 

Swish With a Saltwater Rinse

Swishing with saltwater is a tried and true, natural way to promote healing, reduce oral inflammation and decrease the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth. 

How to Make a Saltwater Rinse

Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water. Swish the solution around in your mouth, letting it sit on the irritated areas. Spit it out and repeat until you’ve finished the whole glass. You can use a saltwater rinse several times throughout the day.

Try an Over-the-Counter Solution

A topical anesthetic like Orabase will temporarily numb mouth sores or irritated soft tissues. Apply the ointment directly to the affected area using a cotton swab. 

If you find that it’s too messy or you don’t like the numbing sensation, you can also try a product such as GUM® Rincinol®. The mouth sore rinse encourages healing and creates a thin, invisible barrier that protects the nerve-endings from your braces. 

7. What foods can I eat with braces and what should I avoid?

You can still eat most of the foods you love when you have braces, with a few exceptions. As we said, at the start of treatment, your teeth may feel sensitive. So, when it comes to what to eat with braces the first week or if you have tenderness after an adjustment, soft foods are the way to go.

The best soft foods for braces include:

  • Yogurt
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Smoothies
  • Ice cream or pudding
  • Milkshakes
  • Protein shakes
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Pancakes
  • Soft breads like sandwich bread
  • Pasta and soft-cooked grains (noodles, macaroni and cheese, rice, couscous, quinoa, etc.)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Soft cheeses
  • Milk or a milk alternative like soy milk or oat milk
  • Ripe fruit
  • Applesauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Steamed and soft-cooked veggies
  • Soft-cooked meats or fish
  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole

As for the foods to avoid with braces, skip anything that could damage your braces or appliance. You’ll also want to be sure to cut or break foods into small, bitesize pieces and chew with your back teeth. Never bite or tear into foods with your front teeth with braces. This will mean taking corn off the cob, taking meat off the bone and thinly slicing raw apples and carrots. 

The foods you can’t eat with braces include:

  • Hard foods – pizza crust, unpopped popcorn kernels, certain chips, hard candy, nuts, large pieces of raw apples and carrots, etc.
  • Chewy foods – beef jerky, tough cuts of meat, hard chewy bagels and rolls, etc.
  • Sticky foods – caramels, toffee, taffy, Starburst, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, licorice and other sticky treats

8. Do I still need to go to my general dentist during my braces treatment?

Yes! In addition to regularly brushing and flossing, visiting your general dentist for normal check-ups and cleanings is a key to braces success. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, scheduling a visit every six months should do the trick. However, if you have oral health concerns, you may need to see your dentist more often. Sometimes Dr. Gardner, Dr. Tang or Dr. La Rochelle will suggest seeing your dentist for an extra cleaning between your six month cleanings if they believe it would help keep your teeth healthy.

Your dentist will check for issues like tooth decay and gum disease. If they do detect a problem, treating it earlier can reduce the odds that you’ll need to have your braces removed to deal with it. 

During professional cleanings, the hygienist will use special tools to get rid of hardened plaque (tartar) that you can’t eliminate at home by brushing and flossing. This will go a long way in keeping your teeth and gums healthy

9. What happens if I have a broken braces bracket or poking wire?

A true braces emergency is rare and things like a broken braces bracket or poking wire, while annoying, aren’t emergencies. If your appliance does break, call our office and we’ll let you know if you need to come in for a repair appointment. To keep yourself comfortable, try the following:

  • Gently slide the broken bracket back into position and place braces wax on it to prevent irritation and hold it in place.
  • If the bracket is at the back of the mouth and comes off the wire completely, cover it with a clean piece of tissue and remove it from your mouth, being careful not to accidentally swallow it. You can cover any remaining wire in wax so it doesn’t irritate your cheek.
  • If your braces wire is poking you, use a clean cotton swab or the eraser end of a new pencil to gently push the wire out of the way and against the nearest tooth. Cover it with wax to stop it from poking you until we can trim it. 

10. How often will I have appointments at Gardner Orthodontics during my treatment?

Being the tech-savvy practice we are, we’re all about making treatment as convenient as possible for our patients. We use cutting-edge, heat-activated, shape-memory archwires and advanced braces that require fewer adjustments. 

This means you can go longer in between check-ups without compromising your results. While it will depend on your treatment plan and needs, most braces patients visit us every 8 to 10 weeks. There you have it, all of the braces basics you need to know to start your treatment off on the right foot and ensure it’s a huge success. If you have any questions or you’re ready to get started with clear braces, metal braces or self-ligating braces in Richmond, VA, give us a call today!

Gardner & La Rochelle Orthodontics in Richmond, VA