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Dental Braces and Retainers: Types, Care, What to Expect


April 15th, 2022

Dental braces and retainers are essential in the dental industry. They’re the best and least invasive treatment for popular dental corrections like:

  • Spaced teeth
  • Open, over, under, and crossbite
  • Crowding of teeth
  • Misaligned jaw

This article looks at the different types of retainers and braces, how to care for them, and what to expect during treatment.

Different Types of Braces and Retainers and What You Should Know About Them

Metal Braces

These are the most common types of braces. They are what most people think about when they hear the word braces. As the most popular dental correction tool, it’s only logical that our list starts with them.

Metal braces have cemented brackets on each tooth, attaching to the front and back of the tooth depending on whether you’re getting traditional or lingual braces. Regular braces also have bands wrapped around the back molar, but this isn’t always the case.

How to Care for Metal Braces

Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day

Experts recommend brushing twice a day for two minutes each session if you have metal braces. While shopping for brushing equipment, opt for a toothbrush with soft bristles and fluoride toothpaste.

If the braces have removable components such as rubber bands, take them off first as they can be a choking hazard. Start brushing from the top, moving the toothbrush in smooth circular motions across each tooth. Ensure to brush on top and below the wire connecting the braces to get rid of any foodstuff that might be stuck and prevent tartar buildup.

Once you’re done with the top, repeat the same on the bottom teeth before rinsing your mouth. Ensure you also brush your tongue gently but thoroughly as the last step.

Floss and Use Mouthwash

Regardless of how hard you try, a toothbrush will have difficulty reaching all the nooks and crannies in between your teeth. We advise flossing at least once a day to help dislodge any debris the toothbrush misses.

Ensure you get between each tooth and remove every particle stuck in between your teeth – a threader is the best flossing tool for this purpose.

After brushing and flossing, finish everything off by rinsing with mouthwash.

Use an Oral Irrigator

While different from flossing tools, oral irrigators serve a similar purpose to dental floss. However, their working mechanism is different.

An oral irrigator works by spraying a jet of pressurized water on the target teeth and gaps. Most of the time, this stream of water is enough to dislodge any food particles, ensuring your oral hygiene is pristine.

Water Pik is one of the popular oral irrigators in the industry. However, if it’s your first time using these teeth cleaning gadgets, you’ll need practice to perfect your oral irrigator teeth cleaning skills.

Check in the Mirror

It pays to confirm that you’ve done the job right when you’re done cleaning your teeth. Stand in front of the mirror and inspect your handiwork. While at it, check out your smile and see how the braces are improving it.

It’s also time to inspect the braces and ensure everything is in place. If you identify any abnormalities, you may want to speak to your orthodontist for proper interventions.

What to Expect with Metal Braces

When you first get your braces, you may feel some pain and discomfort. However, that will reduce with time, and you’ll get more comfortable.

You may also develop sores inside the mouth if the braces scrape your gums, inner lips, or inner cheek. Additionally, your teeth may be sore, especially when you’re eating. Fortunately, most of these conditions improve as you get used to the braces.

Another thing to expect is a visit to your orthodontist approximately every 6 to 8 weeks. During these visits, the orthodontist will replace wires, tighten them and the bands, and conduct other maintenance and medical enhancements to ensure the braces work as intended.

Typically, patients will have to wear their braces for anywhere between 1 and 3 years depending on the severity of their condition.

Clear Braces

There are multiple types of clear braces. The most common clear braces are made out of ceramic or plastic. Clear braces are less visible than metal braces, thus best for self-conscious people and adults who don’t want to draw attention to their dental treatments.

In addition to these, Invisalign, clear tray-like aligners, have gained popularity as one of the best invisible dental correction tools.

How to Take Care of Clear Braces

Brush Your Teeth After Every Meal

While brushing your teeth in the morning and evening could be sufficient, we recommend brushing after every meal. While at it, ensure every bracket is clean and free from debris.

Avoid Certain Foods

The point of getting clear braces is that you want an inconspicuous solution to align your teeth. Avoiding specific foods ensures you don’t stain your aligners, which could make them unsightly.

Foods to avoid include but are not limited to:

  • Coffee
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Foods with artificial colors

If you must have any of these foods and drinks, brush your teeth immediately after to reduce the chances of staining your clear braces.

Clean Your Brackets and Aligners

If your clear braces are permanent, ensure you have them cleaned professionally every 6 months. However, we recommend cleaning removable clear braces (which most are) regularly, especially if you leave them on while eating.

Floss and Use Mouthwash

Flossing and using mouthwash is standard procedure for the best oral health, even when you don’t have braces. These two are some of the best ways to ensure every particle a toothbrush might leave gets dislodged from the spaces between your teeth.

What to Expect With Clear Braces

Unlike metal braces, which are typically permanent, many clear braces are removable. So, cleaning them is easier than cleaning metal braces.

In addition, while clear braces and retainers such as Invisalign work slower, they need less maintenance, so you don’t have to book an appointment with your orthodontist as often.

However, you’ll need to go back for regular check-ups every 10 to 12 weeks. The biggest disadvantage with clear braces is that they’re costly, sometimes running you back more than twice the cost of regular metal braces.

Key Takeaway

Dental braces and retainers are excellent for fixing dental issues. However, they work differently. Their main difference is that braces fix severe problems while retainers are best for mild cases.

If you’re looking for either solution, feel free to get in touch with us for a consultation.

Contact Camilo Riaño: Your San Francisco Orthodontist


77 Van Ness Ave #303
San Francisco, CA 94102

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