How is Life With Braces?

Eating with Braces

What can you eat? Let’s talk about what you shouldn’t eat! For the first day or so, stick to soft foods. You will need to protect your orthodontic appliances when you eat for as long as you’re wearing braces.

Foods to Avoid

Chewy foods: bagels, hard rolls, licorice
Crunchy foods: popcorn, ice, chips
Sticky foods: caramels, gum
Hard foods: nuts, candy, Jolly Ranchers
Foods you have to bite into: corn on the cob, apples, carrots
Chewing on hard things (for example, pens, pencils, or fingernails) can damage the braces. Damaged braces will cause treatment to take longer.

General Tenderness

When you get your braces on, you may feel general tenderness in your mouth and teeth may be tender to biting pressures for a couple of days. The lips, cheeks, and tongue may also become irritated for a short time as they toughen and become accustomed to the surface of the braces. You can put wax on the braces to lessen this. We’ll show you how!

Loose Wire or Band

Occasionally, a wire or band may come loose. If a wire protrudes and is irritating, use the eraser end of a pencil and carefully push the wire away from the lip or cheek. Simply get it out of the way. If irritation to the lips or mouth continues, place wax on the wire to reduce the annoyance. If something becomes loose, call our office for an appointment to check and repair the appliances. If any piece comes off, save it and bring it with you to the office.

Care of Appliances

To successfully complete the treatment plan, the patient must work together with the orthodontist. The teeth and jaws can only move toward their corrected positions if the patient consistently wears the rubber bands, headgear, or other appliances as prescribed. Damaged appliances lengthen the treatment time.


It’s more important than ever to brush and floss regularly when you have braces so the teeth and gums are healthy after orthodontic treatment. While the braces are on, remember to keep your six month cleaning appointments with your dentist.


If you play sports, you may need an orthodontic mouthguard. We suggest purchasing an over-the-counter type mouthguard for sports.

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Type of Appliances

To successfully complete the 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.

Bite Plate

A type of removable retainer used when a patient has too much overbite. Many times when we place the braces on your bottom teeth, the upper teeth will bite on the braces. To prevent this from happening, we make a bite plate which keeps your teeth slightly separated when you bite.

Forsus? (Bite Corrector)

Springs placed between the upper and lower teeth to help the teeth and bite fit together.

Elastics (Rubber Bands)

Wearing elastics (rubber bands) improves the fit of your upper and lower teeth. Wear rubber bands as instructed and remember that the rubber bands work far more efficiently if they’re worn as prescribed.


Headgear is used to treat patients whose teeth are in an “overbite,” with the uppers forward of the lowers, or an “underbite” with the lowers forward of the uppers. Headgear gently moves your teeth into the proper position. Headgear also modifies jaw growth. Don’t worry kids, headgear is only worn at home!

Herbst? Appliance

The Herbst appliance reduces overbite by encouraging the lower jaw forward and the upper molars backward. This fixed appliance is used mostly for younger, growing children and is worn for about 9-12 months.


An alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign straightens your teeth with a series of clear, custom-molded aligners. Invisalign can correct some, but not all, orthodontic problems.

MIROS (Growth Retainer)

A removable growth retainer that encourages growth of the lower jaw. It is also used to hold lower jaw growth.

Palatal Expander

The palatal expander “expands” (widens) your upper jaw by putting gentle pressure on your upper molars each time the expander is activated. Your orthodontist will instruct you about when and how to activate your expander. When you achieve the desired expansion, you will wear the expander for several months to stabilize the expansion.


Retainers may be removable or permanent. They hold your teeth in their new, correct positions after your teeth have been straightened. Your orthodontist will instruct you on how to care for your retainer and the wearing instructions. Wearing your retainer as directed is crucial to prevent your teeth from shifting.

Click here for more information on how to care for your retainer.

Separators or Spacers

Separators are little rubber bands 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. Separators do not mix well with sticky foods, toothpicks, or floss.

Space Holding Arch

A wire placed on the inside of upper or lower teeth to hold or maintain tooth space.

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Braces Diagram


  • Wear your removable retainers full time for the first 24 hours and then 10 to 12 hours per night after the first day, or until the doctor instructs otherwise.
  • Your permanent retainer will be glued in indefinitely or until you request it be removed.
  • 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 toothpaste. Use cool water because hot water will distort the retainer. 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.
  • If a white film builds up on your retainer, soak in a mixture of vinegar and water.
  • Your permanent retainer can be cleaned by normal brushing and through the use of dental floss as we have shown you.
  • When retainers are not in your mouth they should ALWAYS be in a retainer case. Pets (especially dogs) love to chew on them!
  • Orthodontic research has shown that teeth can continually shift throughout one’s lifetime and commonly occurs in the twenties. Therefore, we recommend that you wear your retainers into your early twenties or until your wisdom teeth have erupted or have been extracted. When you discontinue your retainers there is always a chance for your teeth to shift.
  • 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.

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Emergency Care

True orthodontic emergencies are very rare, but when they do occur we are available to you. As a general rule, you should call the office when you experience severe discomfort or when you have an uncomfortable appliance problem that you can’t take care of yourself. We’ll be able to schedule an appointment to resolve the problem.

You might be surprised to learn that you may be able to temporarily solve many problems yourself until you schedule an appointment with our office. When working with your appliances, you need to know the names of the parts of your appliances so you are able to identify what part is broken or out of place. After alleviating your discomfort, it is very important that you still call our office as soon as possible to schedule a time to repair the problem. Allowing your appliance to remain damaged for an extended period of time may result in disruptions in your treatment plan.

The following solutions may help you relieve your discomfort:

Poking Wire

Using a pencil eraser, push the poking wire down or place wax on it to alleviate the discomfort.

Loose Bracket or Band

If your bracket or band is still attached to the wire, you should leave it in place and put wax on it. If the wire comes out entirely, wrap the bracket with a tissue.

Loose Wire

Using a tweezers, try to place your wire back into place. If doing this and using wax doesn’t help, as a last resort use a small fingernail clipper to clip the wire behind the last tooth to which it is securely fastened. If your discomfort continues, place wax on it.

Loose Appliance

If your appliance is poking you, place wax on the offending part of your appliance.

Headgear Does Not Fit

Sometimes headgear tenderness is caused by not wearing the headgear as instructed by your orthodontist. Please refer to the instructions provided by your orthodontist. If the facebow is bent, please call our office for assistance. Surprisingly, the headgear may hurt less if it’s worn more, so be sure you’re getting in the prescribed hours.

General Tenderness

When you get your braces on, you may feel general tenderness in your mouth and teeth may be tender to biting pressures for two to three days. This can be relieved by rinsing your mouth with a warm salt water rinse. Dissolve one teaspoonful of salt in 8 ounces of warm water and rinse your mouth vigorously. Placing Orabase on the affected area may help; this can be found in a pharmacy. If the tenderness is severe, take tylenol or whatever you normally take for a headache or similar discomfort.

The lips, cheeks, and tongue may also become irritated for about a week as they toughen and become accustomed to the surface of the braces. You can put wax on the braces to lessen this. We’ll show you how!

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