The use of braces in dentistry

Braces are devices used in dentistry for the alignment and straightening of crooked, protruding or crowded teeth so as to position them for biting correctly. In addition, braces can rectify various other flaws of the teeth, improve dental hygiene and enhance the general appearance of the face. The arm of dentistry that specialises in this form of treatment is referred to as orthodontics.

There are various types of braces and they can be made from metal, plastic or ceramic materials. Today's braces are, however, a lot less metal than they used to be and they are much smaller, lighter and clearer, so they are less noticeable when they are worn. For best results, braces are best fitted at a young age when the teeth are still developing but they should also be considered by adults if they develop problems with their teeth alignment.

Braces can be fixed or removable. Fixed braces are the most common, and they are often used when a number of teeth require correction. They are made up of brackets linked with arch wires. The arch wires are tightened periodically to move the teeth gradually into position over a period of months or years depending on the severity of the case. Fixed braces are glued to the teeth and can only be taken off by dental professionals.

Towards the end of a period of wearing braces to align the teeth, retainers may be used to prevent the teeth from falling back to their misaligned positions while the gum and bone supporting the teeth take their time to adjust to new positions. Since there is continuous tooth movement as part of normal ageing process, it is sometimes recommended that straighteners be worn after a teeth straightening treatment, on a part-time basis to prevent tooth movement.

Removable braces are used to correct minor misalignments and as deterrent for thumb sucking in young children. They can be taken out without professional assistance but it is best to leave them in place except for the purpose of cleaning or as a precautionary measure during sporting activities.

 Invisible braces or aligners can now be worn discreetly to make braces unnoticeable. Invisible braces do not require brackets and metal wires. They are simply attached to the back of the teeth to keep them out of sight. With modern equipment, perfect impressions of the patient's teeth can be created to produce customised aligners for the patient.  

Braces work excellently if they are well looked after. Maintenance and good standard of hygiene is required as they can trap food particles and cause build-up of plaque. Taking good care of the teeth and having regular dental checks will keep the teeth strong and healthy while wearing braces and afterwards.