ABC’s Of Braces: Everything You Need To Know Before Starting Treatment

Even with all the advances orthodontics has seen in recent years, traditional braces are still one of the best tools we have for creating beautifully aligned smiles for patients of all ages. Braces have been a favorite method of treatment for orthodontists for a long time, and have a pretty impressive track record when it comes to straightening and aligning teeth, as well as improving oral health overall.

When you decide to begin braces treatment with Szymanowski Orthodontics, it can be exciting. After all, you’re about to set out on a journey that will lead to a straighter, healthier smile! However, many patients have questions and concerns they want to discuss before the braces are actually placed. Because we always want you to feel confident in the trust you’ve placed in us, we’ve put together this outline that includes everything you need to know before beginning orthodontic treatment. Keep reading below for the ABC’s of braces treatment!


What are  braces made of?


Typically made from a mix of stainless steel, nickel, ceramic, or other high-quality materials, brackets are the part of braces that we attach directly to your teeth. They have tiny hooks or doors over which the wire is threaded, and are long-lasting and durable. Brackets are secured by closing the door or by applying an elastic over the top of the wire.


Tooth glue is technically a form of the same composite bonding material we use for tooth-colored fillings or sealants. This adhesive is used to attach the brackets to the teeth. In some cases, we may choose to use metal bands on the back teeth in conjunction with the glue to give braces more leverage and stability.


This thin piece of metal runs from one bracket to another. During the treatment process, we change the shape and curvature of the wire, and this is what actively moves the teeth in the desired directions. For some patients, we will use the wire to attach all the bottom or upper teeth together. For others, we may choose to just cut the wire strategically if connecting only a few teeth makes more sense for the treatment plan.


Almost everyone will need elastics at some point in their treatment plan, but they’re especially important for patients who need bite correction. Elastics are most often strung between an upper bracket hook and a lower bracket hook, pulling the upper teeth backwards to correct an overbite, or the lower teeth backwards to correct an underbite. We use rubber bands for many different situations, but they can be really useful when we want to bring the upper and lower teeth together successfully.

There are many other terms that you may hear in connection with braces, including:

Orthodontic bands

These stainless steel rings are cemented to the teeth using dental bonding agents.  They provide an anchor for braces and other orthodontic appliances, but they aren’t used with all patients.


Spacers are small elastic “donuts” or rings that can be used to create tiny spaces in between the teeth when needed. We typically use spacers before bands are placed. You may sometimes hear them referred to as separators.


How does the treatment process work?

During your first visit to our Sacramento practice, we’ll introduce you to some of our team and show you around. We’ll take diagnostic photos and x-rays, and Dr. Szymanowski will perform a thorough oral examination. This will allow him to correctly diagnose any oral issues and suggest the best treatment options for them. Once you’ve decided on a customized treatment plan together, we’ll schedule you for an appointment to begin the orthodontic process. This will usually be the day we put your braces on.

Your treatment plan includes information on how each tooth needs to be moved in order to get it in the best possible position. Dr. Szymanowski will decide how to place the brackets on your teeth based on this information. Once the brackets have been attached, the wire will be inserted. As we mentioned above, a bend in the wire is how we encourage specific and precise movements, because these bends provide different types of pressure on different teeth. For example, helping a tooth that is twisted to turn and face the right way, or aligning one tooth that is too far forward with one that is too far back.

This process of tooth movement is called remodeling, and involves minor changes in the bone that surrounds the roots of teeth. When pressure is put on the tooth, cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts form around the tooth’s root. The pressure of the wire works with the osteoblasts and osteoclasts to create a negative pressure on one side of the tooth. At this site, bone is removed. On the other side of the tooth, bone is reformed. This pressure and remodeling slowly moves the tooth into the desired position.

It’s important to understand that the remodeling process can only occur if constant pressure is put on the tooth. Once the pressure stops, the tooth will begin to settle into its new position. However, most teeth start to drift back to their old positions over time. This is why you’ll be given a retainer once your braces come off. As long as you wear them as directed, a retainer will help keep your teeth in their new, improved positions and prevent any natural drifting.


Caring for your braces

Caring for your braces can come with a bit of a learning curve, but with a little patience and a lot of practice, you’ll get the hang of it in no time! Dental hygiene is a good example of this. Braces create numerous nooks and crannies that can trap food particles and other debris, so it’s essential that you clean your teeth and gums daily.  

We recommend our braces patients brush their teeth thoroughly at least two times each day with fluoride toothpaste, especially after meals and before bed. Pay close attention to the areas between the brackets and gums, carefully cleaning between the wires and teeth, and scrub firmly to get rid of plaque. Interdental brushes can also be used to fit in between the wires and the teeth, and make it easier to remove hard-to-reach plaque and food debris.

Flossing is also an essential part of maintaining oral health, and it should be done at least once per day. If you find regular floss difficult to manage, try a floss threader! Oral irrigators like a Waterpik are also an excellent option. These instruments shoot small, high-pressure streams of water onto the teeth, targeting food debris and plaque that can form between the teeth and braces. They shouldn’t take the place of brushing and flossing, though.


Food restrictions

Food restrictions can be a challenge, but they are necessary to protect both your braces and your teeth. During treatment, you’ll need to avoid anything too crunchy or too chewy, like chips, ice, gum, some raw fruits and veggies, popcorn, and many kinds of candy. While this can be frustrating, remember that food restrictions are only temporary! Your hard work and dedication will be more than worth when we take your braces off and reveal your beautiful new smile.


Estimated treatment times

Generally, patients want to know how long they’ll be in braces more than any other aspect of treatment. There’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question, since each smile is unique and each patient responds to treatment in their own way. On average, the active stage of orthodontic treatment can last anywhere from 6-24 months, but this can be longer or shorter, depending on the particular case.

Teen girls smiling and laughing with braces

Get a straighter, healthier smile with Szymanowski Orthodontics

The first step in any orthodontic journey is a consultation with an experienced orthodontist, and at Szymanowski Orthodontics, this initial visit is free! If you’re in Sacramento or the surrounding communities and would like more information on how braces can give you a healthier smile, get in touch with us today. The smile you’ve always wanted is waiting here for you!