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5 stages of getting braces – personal experiences and tips

Getting braces can be a big event for anyone.  The decision itself and the orthodontist procedures can be quite daunting, especially when there are so many unknowns. On the first day that I got braces last fall, I was hectically googling to understand what to expect. However, none of the articles had comprehensive information. If you are someone who is considering getting braces or just got them, I want to share my braces experience here step by step in hopes this will help you understand what to expect, tips on getting the best result from your investment, and most importantly bring some comfort.

Summary

Here is a quick run-down of my situation and braces:

  • Braces: clear metal wires with brackets on both top and bottom tooth, no springs
  • Adjustment: tooth alignment (no bite adjustment)
  • Duration: 8 months, with permanent retainers after treatment
  • Age: 23
  • Preparation: extracted all four wisdom tooth prior to getting braces

1. The decision

This is the only part of the process that I won’t go into too many detail. Because everyone will want to get braces for different reasons. Personally I’ve always wanted braces because my tooth are badly aligned. However, I never found a good time that worked until last fall to finally go ahead with braces.

2. Research and consultation

Research is very important, something I wished I did more of if I got another chance. Consult more than 1 orthodontist and do research on different types of braces and their pros and cons. A brief overview of the different types of braces:

TypeLookAdvantagesDisadvantages
Metal BracesLeast Expensive
Most effective
Allows kids expression
through coloured bands
Most noticeable
Limit you from eating hard
and sticky foods
Ceramic BracesLess noticeable than
metal
Most effective, like metal
More costly than metal
May stain more easily
Lingual BracesInvisible from outsideHarder to clean
More costly than other types
May be more uncomfortable
Less effective for severe cases
Routine adjustments take longer
than metal or ceramic braces
InvisalignNearly invisible
Allow you to eat and drink
anything (removable)
Only available for teens and adults
Less effective for severe cases
May be more costly than others
Treatment may take longer
Require brushing teeth after eating
to prevent staining

source: http://happytoothnc.com/types-of-braces/ 

I decided to get braces with the dentist office I do my checkups and cleanings so I am already familiar with the orthodontist. Still, I went in for a consultation where the doctor took some pictures of my tooth, gave me an analysis whether the 6-month braces procedure (ceramic type) was possible for my case. Because I didn’t have any major bite issues, I was eligible for the shorter treatment timelines (thank god!). And I was also happy to find out that I didn’t have to extract my canines (from my before picture you’ll see my canines protrude a lot!).

My before picture, some seriously misaligned teeth 

3. The big day

Getting braces is no simple procedure, here is a run-down of what happens before and on the day you actually get braces put in.

  • Appointment to take molds of your teeth (this will be fairly straightforward and painless, although the squishy material they use to make molds tastes pretty bad :P)
  • Eat all your nuts, crackers, apples, and hard foods before getting braces (I forgot this and even got Häagen-Dazs nut covered ice cream bars the day before and was unable to eat them!) Conversely, prepare some soups / soft food for the 2-3 days after the big day – your mouth will definitely be sour and you won’t be chewing on anything soon.

   vs.    

  • Getting braces put on was long but fairly painless. My appointment was ~1.5 hours. The orthodontist cleans your teeth, put glue onto the desired spots, and then glues brackets into place. Once the brackets are firm, the orthodontist will install wires which will apply pressure and serve to move your teeth into the right places.

  • Going home, it was very weird to have a layer of metal between my lips and my teeth but it didn’t hurt. However, I finally realized braces was no simple procedure when I had dinner. It was impossible to chew on anything because my teeth was sore and biting down hurts like crazy – so I literally broke food into pieces with utensils and swallowed.
  • Personally, the soreness and pain subdued after approximately a week and I was able to chew more properly. (I cut those Häagen-Dazs bars on the 3rd day with a knife and ate them though! Too much temptation.) For some people this recovery period can be longer so don’t get alarmed. If you’re worried, check with your orthodontist.

4. During the treatment

Some small items that helped me incredibly to prepare for yourself:

  • Dental wax – your orthodontist will give you a small box of wax and you can also purchase more from the drugs store if you run out. The idea is the soft interior of your lips will not like protruding metal – so putting on wax on the brackets can help ease the pain. Personally, I only used wax when the rubbing is really bad. Most often, you just have to wait it out until the blisters heal and your lips are used to the addition. T_T

  • Dental toothpicks – the thread-through floss that my orthodontist recommended for flossing actually didn’t work for me since my braces tightened the space between my teeth and it hurts like crazy to jam floss into those spaces. Instead, I bought some toothpicks to get to those areas and it’s also so much easier to use!

  • Mouth wash – the guideline is that you should brush your teeth after every meal while having braces. That may not be realistic in all situations. Personally at work, sometimes I just don’t have the time to brush after lunch and this is where mouth wash is a life saver. Using mouth wash gave me comfort that I’m taking care of my teeth while being also fairly convenient to use.

  • Lip balm – I can’t even start to count how many times I fell asleep with my mouth open, drooling, and woke up finding my lips totally dry. Frequent use of lip balm is recommended and this habit actually persisted with me even after braces removal. My favorite is Vaseline with aloe since this is a little thicker than normal lip balm and perfect for my situation.

Mostly my braces experience was quite smooth. I went back to the dentist office approximately every month to get my braces re-adjusted. After each adjustment I had to deal with soreness for a few days until the teeth get used to it but not too bad otherwise. Months 3-4 my teeth moved significantly and it was quite amazing to see the changes. In month 4, my orthodontist also prescribed elastics which ties my upper and lower teeth together and this was THE most painful part of my entire braces experience. Luckily, I only had to wear elastics for just over a month but I would never want to go back there. (Small tip: wear elastics as often as you can as instructed, do not think it’s okay to not wear for a couple of days. This will delay your treatment and only means you have to wear elastics even longer!)

5. The results!

The day I finally got my braces off was unbelievable. Honestly when I first got braces and when it was hurting I thought the end was so far. But it finally came, and with another long procedure, my braces came off. I stare at myself in the mirror, smiling, with nothing on my teeth and it feels unreal. Everything was worth it.

   My before and after comparison (8 months) 

That being said, I was still caught by surprise so that’s why it’s important to do research and ask your orthodontist lots of questions. So I knew that I would have to wear retainers at night, but I didn’t know my orthodontist planned to put in permanent retainers for me. To my dread, after removing the brackets on the front of my teeth, my orthodontist started gluing small brackets to the back of my 12 front teeth, 6 upper and 6 lower. My dream of being free of metal in my mouth was crushed. Googling as soon as I got home, I learned sometimes permanent retainers replace or are used in conjunction with removable retainers and they are kept in for as many years as possible. So this fact took some time to get used to, but at least I won’t have to worry about consistently wearing my clear removable retainers (which surprisingly hurts!).

 

I was hectically Googling during many stages of my orthodontist procedure and looking back I wished I had stumbled upon someone else’s brace journey and learned what to expect in advance. So I hope this help you whether you’re considering getting braces or is already in the process.

Good luck! Cheers to a beautiful smile. 🙂