Metal braces are the most tried, proven, and traditional way of moving misaligned teeth into their proper position. In some cases, it may also be the most affordable option or the only viable one.
For those who wear or soon will wear metal braces, it will be necessary to periodically have their braces readjusted. Many patients are asking, “How often do I need my braces adjusted and how does it work?”
Here are the basics of why, how, and how often you need to have your braces adjusted during your treatment period.
Why Do I Need to Have My Braces Periodically Readjusted?
Metal braces work by applying steady but subtle pressure to teeth in the desired direction over a period of months or years. This pressure can improve the shape of the jaw as well as the position and orientation of teeth, but in order to properly work, it needs to be adjusted during regular orthodontic checkups.
Technically, there is a membrane between the gums around your teeth and the alveolar bone mass into which tooth roots are naturally implanted. This membrane exercises control over the position of teeth in your jaw, and it responds to pressures exerted by dental braces.
You can get braces “installed” in a single day, but it will normally take one to three years for them to complete their tooth realignment mission. After your teeth have moved sufficiently, the wires exerting pressure on them will become looser, thus diminishing the pressure and its effects. Therefore, the wires must be tightened every so often so that the realignment process does not slow down or halt.
How Will Your Orthodontist Tighten Your Braces?
You don’t necessarily get your metal braces tightened during every single orthodontic checkup. Sometimes, they are still tight enough and you just need your teeth cleaned (especially around the brackets where it’s hard to brush and floss) and your progress monitored.
When you do have your braces tightened, the process is fairly quick and simple. First of all, your orthodontist will remove the rubber bands (ligatures) that keep the wires attached to the brackets.
Next, the archwire is taken off of all of your teeth. At this point, your teeth will be carefully examined to see how far they have moved since your last appointment. In some cases, your archwire will be too worn or stretched and your orthodontist will give you a brand new one.
After that, the old/new archwire will be slipped back into place across all your teeth, the ligatures attached, and the wire tightened to the desired amount of tension at the anchorage point (of the wire) in your mouth.
You may experience a bit of discomfort just after the wires are adjusted. This is normal. You can take a painkiller like ibuprofen, apply a cold pack, gargle with warm salt water, use an oral anesthetic, or apply a warm, damp towel. You may also need to stick to a soft diet for a couple of days following the adjustment. In general, the discomfort diminishes with each new appointment.
How Often Do I Need My Braces Tightened?
There is no hard and fast rule as to how frequently an orthodontic patient will need to have his or her braces readjusted. Usually, you need to see your orthodontist every four to six weeks but only need the braces actually tightened every six months.
There are many factors, however, that make the time interval vary from person to person. You simply have to work with your orthodontist and follow his or her instructions.
Some people think that braces must be tightened every single month, but that is a myth. That may be the case with a few patients, but usually, it’s longer intervals than that.
Consider Self-ligating Braces
Finally, it should be noted that many people today wear self-ligating braces, which means that the braces actually adjust themselves.
This type of metal braces has wiring that is super-sensitive to temperature. They are put into your mouth cold, but as they warm up from contact with your body, they naturally tighten.
You will still need frequent checkups even with self-adjusting braces. And your orthodontist will still need to monitor your progress, change wires occasionally, and give you a good oral cleaning during appointments.
There are many types of braces to choose from today, and they all work a little differently. However, these are the basics of what you need to know about how, when, and why metal braces may need to be adjusted.
To learn more about braces or to schedule an in-person orthodontic appointment, contact Beauchamp Orthodontics today!