Oral Health

28 June 2017

Need braces? Forget the 'metal-mouth' stereotype

Nowadays teeth can be straightened in a variety of ways, and some of the devices are almost invisible.

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Braces have long been a kind of geeky rite of passage, something that must be endured for a few years to ensure a lifelong smile with straight teeth.

Fortunately, braces have evolved over the years. They've become smaller and more modern, and less visible options are available for those who need them. New developments in orthodontic procedures are leading to an increase in adult patients.

Not only for geeky teens

Straightening teeth is not just for kids and teens. The South African Society of Orthodontics says that orthodontic procedures are not restricted to kids and teenagers, but can be done on anyone at any age.

While the South African statistics could not be found at the time of publishing, The American Association of Orthodontics said one out of five orthodontic patients is over age 21.

The average time a person needs to wear braces is two years, but the time can be longer or shorter depending on the individual. Retainers are worn nightly after a person no longer has braces. The retainer helps maintain tooth position so that the bone in the tooth can solidify in the new position, according to the FDA.

Braces aren't just for cosmetic purposes. According to the South African Society of Orthodontics, poorly arranged teeth are more susceptible to breaking and it's easier for food particles to get trapped, thus making it harder to clean teeth. 

Different methods

Your dentist or orthodontist will determine what type of braces are best for you. There are different options available:

  • Metal braces move teeth by applying pressure and typically consist of small brackets cemented to the teeth, connected by a wire and held to the brackets by rubber bands. The wire is regularly tightened to gradually shift your teeth and jaw. These types of braces may be clear- or tooth-coloured to make them less obvious. Some people like to personalise the look of their braces with coloured rubber bands. A big drawback to metal braces is that it's easy for food to get stuck in them. Dental care and regular, careful brushing is very important to maintain good oral hygiene.
  • So-called invisible braces, or aligners, are made of clear plastic material and worn over your teeth to straighten them. You'll wear each custom-made aligner for a few weeks, and then get a new one for the next stage of your treatment. This approach gradually moves teeth into the correct position. Aligners are removable and need to be taken out before you eat, brush and floss. It is much easier to maintain good dental hygiene with aligners than with metal braces.

Read more:

Brackets hardly have to show

Dental specialities

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Ask the Expert

Oral health expert

Dr Imraan Hoosen qualified from the Medical University of South Africa in 1997. Together with his partner, Dr Hoosen now runs a group of dental practices around Johannesburg (Lesedi Private Hospital, Highlands North Medical Centre , Brenthurst Clinic, Parklane Clinic, Simmonds Street Medical and Dental Centre, Soni Medical Centre- Newclare). Dr Hoosen can be contacted on 011 933 4096.

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