Braces (Dental)

  • Medical Author:
    Donna S. Bautista, DDS

    Dr. Donna S. Bautista, DDS, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor of arts in biochemistry and cell biology. During her time at UC San Diego, she was involved in basic research including studying processes related to DNA transcription in the field of molecular biology. Upon graduation, she went on to attend dental school at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to her formal dental training, she provided dental care for underserved communities in the Bay Area through clinics and health fairs. She also worked toward mentoring high school students interested in the field of dentistry.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is the procedure for getting braces?

The initial step for obtaining braces involves a thorough evaluation and record taking with an experienced clinician. Dental impressions (molds) are taken to make models for study and X-rays are taken to look at teeth positions. Measurements are taken in the mouth as well. Once thoroughly evaluated, a treatment plan is created. This plan will specify what has been diagnosed for correction, treatment recommendations, and an estimated time for how long treatment will take. A discussion between the clinician and patient takes place where all the risks, benefits, and alternatives of treatment are reviewed.

If necessary, all dental extractions are performed prior to the placement of braces or other orthodontic appliances. For the two-phase process, appliances such as palatal expanders and headgear are used during the “phase-one” treatment to correct any developing skeletal growth problem.

For placement of traditional braces, brackets are bonded with special dental cement to all the teeth in the arch. For some clinicians, elastic spacers are placed between the molars for 1 to 2 weeks prior to placement of the brackets to make room for metal bands with attached brackets. These metal bands are typically placed around the last molars and are able to withstand the forces of chewing better than bonded brackets in the back teeth.

After the brackets and/or metal bands are in place, a metal wire (or “archwire”) is placed in the brackets and secured with elastic rubber bands (or clipped into place with self-ligating brackets). Of note, elastic rubber bands come in a variety of colors and can be an appealing component of a child's orthodontic experience.

For clear aligner braces, accurate dental impressions (molds) are taken in order to have a set of aligners made. The aligners are a sequence of clear trays that fit over the teeth to achieve movement. Each tray is worn for a period of time before progressing to the next tray.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/17/2015

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