How braces work
Several factors can contribute to misaligned teeth, among them the strength of your facial muscles, the position of your lips, and your method of swallowing. Although they are stereotyped as an awkward adolescent rite of passage, in recent years orthodontists working on braces for adults have greatly improved the available options.
All braces work by applying pressure on your teeth to move them into a more pleasing or comfortable position. Traditional braces work by means of brackets and an adjustment wire. The brackets are glued to the front of the teeth, and the wire, threaded through and held in place by the brackets, puts continuous pressure on misaligned teeth, causing them to slowly move over time. From time to time (most typically every four to eight weeks) an orthodontist will adjust these wires to fine-tune the changes to your smile. Although treatment time is linked to the severity of the original condition, most people complete their initial treatment in about two and half years.
The next phase of treatment is called the retention treatment, when patients will wear a retainer to keep their teeth from shifting back into their old positions. During this stage of treatment, you will gradually reduce your use of the retainer from full-time (for perhaps six months) to only periodically at night or not at all.
Types of adult braces
The brackets used as the base of braces may be made from metal, plastic, or ceramic. Ceramic brackets, which have a translucent color that helps them blend in with your natural tooth color, are the most inconspicuous. Lingual braces (also known as ibraces) are another option, with brackets glued instead to the backs of your teeth. Damon braces are a special type of bracket that replace the traditional ties with a special closing mechanism to hold the archwire.
Alternatives to adult braces
Many people with only mild misalignments or gaps can manage without the use of braces. Dental composite or porcelain veneers are a good alternative, as is the popular Invisalign family of products.