Dental braces is a type of orthodontic treatment that helps to align your teeth. In addition to giving you a beautiful smile, it also has important functional benefits like improving your bite and pronunciation, as well as making it easier to maintain your oral health.
Nonetheless, we understand that making the decision to embark on an orthodontic journey is not easy. With this comprehensive guide, we seek to answer some of the questions that you may have during the process.
How do I know if I need braces?
If you find that you are struggling with any of these conditions, dental braces can be a suitable treatment for you.
- Crowded or crooked teeth
- Big gaps between teeth
- Misaligned jaws that cause an overjet (protruding front teeth), overbite (lower teeth that bite too far behind upper teeth), underbite (upper front teeth that bite behind your lower teeth) or crossbite (upper teeth sitting inside your lower teeth — rather than on the outside)
You can either visually inspect your teeth using the mirror or try to bite down to see if your teeth fit together. When unsure, you are encouraged to visit a dentist or orthodontist so that he/she can conduct a thorough examination of your dental condition and advise accordingly.
After your braces treatment, you can expect to have aligned teeth, improved appearance, more confidence as well as better dental health.
What are the types of braces available?
There are four types of braces commonly offered in the dental clinics found in Singapore.
- Stainless steel braces
- Ceramic braces
- Lingual braces
Stainless steel braces, also known as traditional metal braces, is the most common type of orthodontic treatment in Singapore. Metal brackets are bonded onto the outer surface of your teeth and an arch wire is passed through these brackets to exert a pressure on the teeth. The pressure will help to move your teeth to the desired alignment.
Pros: Least expensive. There are plenty of colours to choose from for the elastic bands that go with your braces.
Cons: Aesthetically, this is the most obvious orthodontic treatment. If you’re looking for something subtle, the other three types of orthodontic treatment will be more suitable for you.
Ceramic braces, also known as clear braces,are largely similar to stainless steel braces, with the main difference being that tooth-coloured or translucent tooth brackets are used instead of metal brackets.
Pros: More subtle and less noticeable than metal braces.
Cons: More expensive than metal braces. Tooth-coloured brackets can stain easily from food and drinks if not cared for properly.
Lingual braces use the same material and techniques as metal braces. The main difference is that they are placed on the back of your teeth (on the side of your tongue), hence making it “invisible” from the outside.
Pros: Allows you to straighten your teeth without people knowing.
Cons: More difficult to clean. More uncomfortable and require more time to get used to. Treatment time is generally longer than other types of braces.
Invisalign is a clear aligner system which moves your teeth using a series of customised clear aligners. These aligners can be removed and generally need to be replaced every two weeks (according to the instructions of your dental professional).
Pros: Another subtle way of straightening teeth as it is almost invisible. Higher comfort level as there will not be wire poking gums or cutting inner cheek. Removable aligners allow easier maintenance of oral hygiene. Less frequent visit to the dentist or orthodontist.
Cons: More expensive compared to metal and ceramic braces. Need to wear aligners for at least 20 to 22 hours a day. May not be suitable for all types of orthodontic cases.
How long does braces treatment take?
Depending on the extent of teeth and jaw movement required, orthodontic treatment generally requires 18 months to 24 months to complete. Factors that may increase treatment time include:
- Complex cases
- Irregular attendance of orthodontic review appointments with dentist/orthodontist
- Not wearing Invisalign aligners for at least 20 to 22 hours a day
Therefore, it is important to follow the instructions of your dentist / orthodontist. They will advise on how long your treatment will take during your detailed dental consultation.
How will braces affect my daily life?
When you first start on your orthodontic treatment, your teeth may feel uncomfortable because of the pressure exerted by the braces. It will generally take a few days to get used to them.
You will also find that some of your daily routine may be affected by your braces. While these should not affect your decision to get braces, it may be helpful for you to know them beforehand.
- Keep to a soft diet when you first put on your braces or after your orthodontic adjustments as your teeth may feel tender.
- Avoid hard foods as they could break the wires or dislodge the brackets.
- Avoid sticky, chewy or sugary foods as they are likely to stay on your teeth and brackets, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Oral hygiene routine
- Brush, brush brush! Brush every after every meal and snacks to ensure that food does not get trapped in between your braces. If that really cannot be done, try to at least rinse and continue to brush at least two times a day (once in the morning and once before bed).
- Add flossing once a day to your oral hygiene routine.
- Visit your dentist / dental specialist for professional cleaning twice a year to remove hardened plaque (tartar) that cannot be removed by brushing.
With all the cleaning that needs to be done, tools like interdental brushes and floss threader can help to make your life easier. Speak to your dentist or orthodontist so that they can teach you how to use them effectively.
Hobbies and interests
- Contact sports: you are recommended to wear a mouthguard over your braces.
- Wind instrument: with some practice, you should get used to playing a wind instrument with your braces on. If you are wearing clear aligners, you can remove them and put them back after playing.
What is the financial commitment like?
There are many factors that affect the fee of your orthodontic treatment, including:
- Type of braces
- Complexity of your case
The most affordable type of braces will be metal braces. This is followed by ceramic braces, Invisalign and then lingual braces.
If your orthodontic treatment is done in preparation for orthognathic surgery (jaw surgery), the fees will be higher as well.
Most clinics will require about 50% of the orthodontic treatment fee to be paid upfront, with the remaining 50% to be collected during the subsequent review visits.
Can Medisave be used?
Medisave can only be used for surgical procedures, hence it is not applicable for orthodontic treatment.
What age is suitable to start braces treatment?
Braces is generally done at about 12 to 14 years old when all baby teeth have fallen off and replaced by a new set of adult teeth.
The American Academy of Orthodontics recommends that all children have an appointment with an orthodontist no later than age 7. This is so that if there are any issues, it can be picked up early and prevent the need for complicated treatment.
Nonetheless, it is increasingly common for adults to have orthodontic treatment now. The good news is that you’re never too old to have braces! The important thing is to have healthy teeth and gums before you start on your braces.
What is required after braces treatment?
After completing your braces, you will need to wear removable and/or fixed retainers for the rest of your life. This will prevent your teeth from moving out from alignment and the need for another round of orthodontic treatment to correct it.