Orthodontic Braces – 10 Commonly Asked Questions

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1. When is the best time to schedule a consultation with the orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children see an orthodontist for an evaluation no later than age seven. There are a few orthodontic problems that should be corrected at that age. If your orthodontist determines that no treatment is necessary at that time, he or she will be able to offer you guidance on when to start treatment or when to bring your child back for re-evaluation.  For adults, treatment can be started at almost any age as long as the gums and bone surrounding the teeth are healthy.

2. Do I need braces?

Need is a strong word. Very few people need braces. A person who has a severely protrusive jaw, who cannot chew because of his underbite needs braces (in addition to jaw surgery procedures). For most people, getting braces or orthodontic treatment is an elective treatment to straighten teeth and correct mild to moderate bite problems.

3. Do braces hurt?

For the most part, braces do not hurt. The braces simply glue to your teeth. The day after you get braces, your teeth may start feeling sore and may stay sore for a few days. The soreness usually peaks during days 2-3, but should start getting better by days 4-5. Future adjustments may or may not cause you discomfort depending on what is being done to your teeth. To alleviate the discomfort, you can take whatever pain medications you would normally use for a headache.

Because your lips, cheeks and tongue are not accustomed to rubbing against the braces, you may experience sores. The sores may last for one to two weeks until your lips, cheeks, and tongue get used contacting your braces. If there is part of the braces that is irritating your mouth, you can place orthodontic wax to help smooth the rough area of the braces. After your lips, cheeks and tongue get used to the braces, you may even forget you have them on.

4. Do I need shots?

No shots are generally needed for orthodontic treatment. However, if your orthodontist refers you out for other procedures such as extractions, surgical exposure of teeth, or miniscrews, you may need a local anesthetic.

5. How often will I have orthodontic appointments?

Getting the braces on may take up to three appointments if special appliances are needed. Once the braces and needed appliances are on, orthodontic appointments are typically scheduled every 4-8 weeks, though there are certain times where more frequent monitoring is needed.

6. Are there foods I cannot eat while I have braces?

Yes. Stay away from Hard foods (nuts, chips, hard candy, pizza crust), Sticky foods (caramel, taffy, gum), Popcorn (due to the kernels), and Whole fruits (such as biting into a whole apple). Avoid biting on ice. In addition, do not bite into meats with bones such as chicken or ribs. All of these precautions are to minimize risk of breaking your braces.

7. Do I need a referral from my dentist to see the orthodontist?

No. While dentists can refer patients to the orthodontist, many patients actually are referred to the orthodontist by family and friends of existing patients. Exceptions to this rule may be if you are in an HMO plan that will only allow you to see certain orthodontists.

8. Can I get braces just on my top or bottom teeth?

That depends. Besides straightening your teeth, orthodontists are also concerned about correcting your bite if needed. Many times, if only one arch is treated, the bite will still be uncorrected. Over time, a malocclusion (bad bite) could cause damage to your teeth, tissues, and jaw joints.

9. What are elastics and what do they do?

Elastics are removable small rubber bands that are worn to move your teeth in ways braces alone cannot. Elastics are used most often to correct bite problems. If you need to wear elastics, your orthodontist will tell you how to put them on, and whether you have to wear them all the time or only at night. Make sure you wear the elastics as directed by your orthodontist or your treatment may not progress.

10. Will my teeth straighten out over time?

Probably not. Teeth need space to unravel and straighten. In most cases, the space available for the front teeth decreases after the first molars erupt around age 6.

Dr. Stephen Yang is a Board Certified Orthodontist and Senior Editor at, a website about Orthodontic Braces, clear braces, and Invisalign cost. Use the Orthodontist Directory, watch braces videos, or read about getting braces at

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