Braces 101


Now that you have your braces, how do you take care of them? It's important for you to know how to properly take care of your braces throughout your entire orthodontic treatment.


Don't worry, you'll be eating popcorn and snacking on potato chips again in no time! However, before you can start enjoying some of the treats you love, you will need to take special care to avoid any foods that could damage your new appliances.


  • Chewy foods — bagels, licorice, hard rolls

  • Crunchy foods — popcorn, chips, ice

  • Sticky foods — caramel candies, chewing gum

  • Hard foods — nuts, hard candies

  • Foods that require biting into — corn on the cob, apples, carrots


  • Dairy — soft cheese, pudding, milk-based drinks

  • Breads — soft tortillas, pancakes, muffins without nuts

  • Grains — pasta, soft cooked rice

  • Meats/poultry — soft cooked chicken, meatballs, lunch meats

  • Seafood — tuna, salmon, crab cakes

  • Vegetables — mashed potatoes, steamed spinach, beans

  • Fruits — applesauce, bananas, fruit juice

  • Treats — ice cream without nuts, milkshakes, Jell-O, soft cake


After your braces are put on, you may feel general soreness in your mouth, and your teeth may be tender for three to five days. If the tenderness is severe, take ibuprofen or whatever you normally take for a headache or similar pain. Until your mouth becomes accustomed to the appliances, your 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. You may also experience some canker sores or blisters. Wax can help alleviate the discomfort, as can rinsing your mouth with a warm saltwater mouthwash. Dissolve one teaspoonful of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, and rinse your mouth vigorously.

Loose Teeth

If your teeth begin feeling a little loose, don't worry; this is normal! Your braces must first loosen your teeth to move them into the right position. Once your teeth have been repositioned, they will no longer be loose.

Loose Wires and Bands

Don't be alarmed if a wire or band comes loose as this happens occasionally. If a wire protrudes and is irritating, carefully use a blunt instrument (back of a spoon or the eraser end of a pencil) to gently push the irritating wire out of the way. If irritation to the lips or mouth continues, place wax or wet cotton on the wire to reduce the annoyance. Call our office as soon as possible for an appointment to check and repair the appliances. If any piece comes off, save it and bring it with you to the office.


It's more important than ever to brush and floss regularly when you have braces! We want to make sure that your teeth and gums are healthy after orthodontic treatment. When you get your braces, we will review the proper way to brush and floss to maintain a healthy and beautiful smile. Some of the risk factors of poor oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment include cavities, decalcification of enamel ("white spots"), and gingivitis/periodontitis (gum disease).

Patients having a difficult time maintaining good oral hygiene may require more frequent visits to the dentist for a professional cleaning, and adults who have a history of gum disease should be monitored by a periodontist during orthodontic treatment.

Playing Sports With Braces

Playing sports while wearing braces is not a problem at all – as long as you wear a mouthguard! Being hit in the mouth while wearing braces can be a very painful experience, and a mouthguard can help protect your lips and cheeks from trauma. Please ask if you have any questions regarding the mouthguard you are currently using, or if you would like us to provide you with one.


Traditional Metal Braces

Traditional metal braces are the most common type of braces and are more comfortable today than ever before. Made of high-grade stainless steel, metal braces straighten your teeth using metal brackets and archwires. With metal braces, you have the option of adding colored elastics (rubber bands) for a more unique and colorful smile.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces are made of clear materials and are therefore less visible on your teeth than metal braces. For this reason, ceramic braces are used mainly on older teenagers and adult patients who have cosmetic concerns. While they are visually less prominent, they do require more attention to oral hygiene as ceramic braces are larger and more brittle than their metal counterparts. For these reasons, ceramic braces tend to be used on upper front teeth more than lower teeth.


Invisalign® uses a series of invisible, removable, and comfortable aligners to straighten your teeth. And, no one can tell you are wearing Invisalign because it's invisible! Not only are the aligners invisible, they are removable, so you can eat and drink what you want while in treatment, plus brushing and flossing are less of a hassle. The aligners are comfortable and have no metal to cause mouth abrasions during treatment.


To successfully complete your orthodontic treatment plan, patients must work together with the orthodontist. The teeth and jaws can only move toward their corrected positions if the patient consistently wears the elastics (rubber bands), headgear or other appliances as prescribed. The following paragraphs describe the types of appliances that may be used during your treatment.

Separators (Spacers)

Separators are little rubber rings that may be placed between your teeth to push them apart so that orthodontic bands may be placed during your next appointment. The separators will be removed before we place the bands. To prevent separators from being removed prematurely, please avoid eating sticky foods and do not try to floss around them.

Palatal Expander

The palatal expander (widens) the upper jaw by putting gentle pressure on the upper molars each time an adjustment is made. We instruct our patients how often to activate the expander.

Lower Lingual Arch

This appliance is very important for our younger patients. It helps to hold space open for adult teeth when deciduous (baby) teeth are lost prematurely or normally. In most cases this appliance can prevent the need for extractions due to crowding.

Bite Buttons

Bite buttons are made from small amounts of plastic bonding material. They are placed behind the upper teeth to assist in opening a deep bite. In addition, they can be placed behind the bottom teeth to aid in jumping a tooth out of crossbite.

Herbst® Appliance

The Herbst appliance reduces overbite by encouraging the lower jaw to grow forward and the upper molars to move backward. This fixed appliance is used mostly on young, growing children and is worn for about 12 months. It takes children approximately 4 days to adjust to this appliance.

Pendulum Appliance

The pendulum appliance is used in lieu of headgear on our older preteen and teenage patients. It gently pushes the upper molars backwards to create space for overly crowded teeth. Patients find it is very comfortable and will usually wear it for 3-4 months. After the required movement has been achieved a holding bar will be placed to maintain the correction for a few months.

Habit Appliance

A habit appliance is used to help patients who have difficulty stopping finger or thumb sucking habits. This appliance usually resolves the problem in days.

Miniscrews (TADs or Pins)

A miniscrew is a temporary device anchored to your dental bone to give the doctor 100% control of moving your teeth. They are only used in the toughest of situations when the doctor requires greater control of your braces. They have been routinely used in Korea and Japan for years, but have just recently (in 2003) gained acceptance in the United States. Because of this new technology, some patients who otherwise might have needed orthognathic (jaw) surgery or dental implants (to replace missing teeth) can be treated with braces alone without surgery.

Elastics (Rubber Bands)

Wearing elastics (rubber bands) helps correct the bite of your upper and lower teeth by locking the teeth into a perfect alignment. It is important that the patient wears the elastics as prescribed to successfully complete their orthodontic treatment.


When you get your braces off, wear your retainers as instructed by the doctor. Take your retainers out when eating… and always put retainers in their case! (Most appliances are lost in school lunch rooms or restaurants.)

Clean retainers thoroughly once a day with a toothbrush and liquid soap. Use warm but not hot water. Brushing retainers removes the plaque and eliminates odors. Efferdent® or other orthodontic appliance cleaners can be used, but these do not take the place of brushing. When retainers are not in your mouth they should ALWAYS be in a retainer case. Pets love to chew on them!

Initially, you may find it difficult to speak. Practice speaking, reading, or singing aloud to get used to them faster. Retainers are breakable, so treat them with care. If retainers are lost or broken call us immediately. If you have any questions or concerns about your retainers, or your retainers need adjusting, call us. Do not try to adjust them yourself.

Always bring your retainers to your appointments. Retainer replacement is expensive…with proper care they will last for years! Remove retainers when swimming. Keep retainers away from hot water, hot car dashboards, pockets, the washing machine, and napkins.