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Frequently asked orthodontic questions

How do braces feel?

Most people have some discomfort after their braces are first put on or when adjusted during treatment. After the braces are on, teeth may become sore and may be tender to biting pressures for three to five days. Patients can usually manage this discomfort well with whatever pain medication they might commonly take for a headache. Dr. Costanzo will advise patients and/or their parents what, if any, pain relievers to take. The lips, cheeks and tongue may also become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become accustomed to the surface of the braces. Orthodontic wax applied to an offending bracket will help relieve discomfort. Overall, orthodontic discomfort is short-lived and easily managed. Once patients have become accustomed to their braces, they may even forget they have them on.

Are there less noticeable braces?

Today's braces are generally less noticeable than those of the past. The brackets are smaller and are bonded directly to the teeth, minimizing the "tin grin." Brackets can be metal or clear depending on the patient's preference. Some of today's wires are made of "space age" materials that exert a steady, gentile pressure on the teeth, so that the tooth moving process may be faster and more comfortable for patients. A type of clear orthodontic wire is currently in an experimental stage. Another option may be the use of a series of plastic tray aligners (Invisalign) instead of traditional braces to correct some problems. Dr. Costanzo will advise which type of orthodontic appliance will best correct your problem.

Do teeth with braces need special care?

Yes. Patients with braces must be careful to avoid hard, sticky, chewy and crunchy foods. They must not chew on pens, pencils or fingernails because chewing on hard things can damage the braces. Damaged braces will almost always cause treatment to take longer, and will require extra trips to the orthodontist's office.

Keeping the teeth and braces clean requires more precision and time, and must be done every day if the teeth and gums are to be healthy during and after orthodontic treatment. Patients who do not keep their teeth clean may require more frequent visits to the dentist for a professional cleaning. Dr. Costanzo and staff will tell patients (and/or their parents) how often to brush, how often to floss, and, if necessary, suggest cleaning aids that might help the patient maintain good dental health.

Can I still play sports if I wear braces?

Patients who are active in contact sports, whether in organized programs or just games in the neighborhood, should wear a mouth guard. Talk with Dr. Costanzo about the kind of mouth guard to use while the braces are on.

What is patient cooperation and how important is it during orthodontic treatment?

Good "patient cooperation" means that the patient not only follows the orthodontist's instructions on oral hygiene and diet, but is also an active partner in orthodontic treatment. Successful orthodontic treatment is a "two-way street" that requires a consistent, cooperative effort by both the orthodontist and patient. To successfully complete the treatment plan, the patient must carefully clean his or her teeth, wear rubber bands, headgear or other appliances as prescribed by Dr. Costanzo, avoid foods that might damage braces and keep appointments as scheduled. Damaged appliances can lengthen the treatment time and may undesirably affect the outcome of treatment. The teeth and jaws can only move toward their desired positions if the patient consistenly wears the forces to the teeth, such as rubber bands, as prescribed. Patients who do their part consistently make themselves look good and their orthodontist look smart.

Why are retainers needed after orthodontic treatment?

After braces are removed, the teeth can shift out of position if they are not stabilized. Retainers are designed to hold teeth in their corrected, ideal positions until the bones and gums adapt to the treatment changes. Wearing retainers exactly as instructed is the best insurance that the treatment improvements last longer. It is normal for teeth to change with increasing age.

What can I do to get my braces off sooner?

Follow the instructions Dr. Costanzo gives you with regards to oral hygiene (keeping your teeth and gums clean) and wearing your appliances (e.g.: elastics, headgear, etc.) Your cooperation may help speed up your treatment.

What happens if something breaks?

If a portion of the appliance breaks and you are experiencing pain or discomfort, call our office immediately for advice on dealing with the problem. If needed, Dr. Costanzo or one of his assistants will see you ASAP to remedy the situation. If a portion of the appliance breaks and there is no discomfort, please call our office during regular office hours to schedule an appointment for repair.