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Metal Mouth: Living With Braces

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Contrary to what some kids may think, braces are not instruments of torture or embarrassment brought upon them by their unfeeling parents. Braces are tools for correction of an assortment of problems.

If your teeth are crowded or crooked, or if they overlap, braces can straighten things out. If you have malocclusion which means a bad bite, braces can make things right.

Malocclusions come in two types. An overbite occurs when your upper jaw is bigger than your lower jaw. An underbite is the situation when your lower jaw is bigger than your upper jaw.

Your dentist will recommend that you go to a specialist called an orthodontist if your teeth or jaws are not properly alignment. Your orthodontist will be able to tell you what if any actions and devices are needed.

How do teeth and/or jaws become out of proper alignment? Sometimes these things happen as a result of early tooth loss, accidents, thumb sucking or tooth decay. Other times, it is just a matter of heredity.

No age group has a monopoly on braces. Children as young as 6 years of age, on up to adults get braces.

An orthodontist will check your bite, and ask about any other problems related to the teeth. For instance, do you have a hard time chewing? Is swallowing difficult? Do your jaws pop or click?

X-rays will tell the orthodontist the positions of your teeth, and show permanent teeth that have not yet erupted.

The usual arrangement involves wires and rubber bands. Wires move teeth over time, and rubber bands adjust alignment.

I had braces in my teens, about forty years ago. Back then the traditional bands of metal on metal were the only option. I was regaled with names like Metal Mouth by other kids who thought they were geniuses.

Though human nature hasn't changed, it is your good fortune that braces have. They come in a variety of styles now.

Brackets may be made of stainless steel but they can also be made of clear or white plastic or ceramic. Be aware though that plastic brackets can eventually become discolored. Ceramic and plastic brackets can also create greater friction with wires.

Not all braces grace the outer surfaces of the teeth. Lingual brackets which go in back of the teeth are also available.

Mini-braces are, as the name implies, smaller than traditional braces.

Some braces can be taken out. Aligners which are plastic trays that move the teeth, replace rubber bands and wires for clear removable braces.

Not everyone can use them though. They are generally only suitable for people who do not have problems with their bite.

If you need headgear, in most cases, you won't have to wear it all day every day. Often, it need only be worn at night. The headgear pulls back on a wire attached to your back teeth, helping to adjust the position of your teeth in this way.

With or without headgear, you can feel pretty self-conscious wearing braces. But as someone who went through it, there's nothing like the feeling you'll have when they finally come off.

You've lived with the discomfort, made the investment. Now, it's time to smile.

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