If you or your child have just gotten new braces, you might be wondering what happens at a typical orthodontic visit or checkup. Since braces are worn for about two years, it helps to understand what else is involved and how it will impact your life. Here we look at what you can expect during a typical orthodontic visit.
How Often Are Braces Adjusted?
Your orthodontic dentist will determine how often you should visit for adjustments. Adjustments are important to orthodontic treatment as they tighten your braces to help ease your teeth into place. On average, adjustments are scheduled every four to six weeks. This is because this is roughly how long the cell regeneration process takes following an adjustment.
Orthodontic treatment is designed to shift your teeth, which also breaks down gum and bone cells. They need time to regenerate before the next adjustment can take place. It also depends on the type of braces you are wearing for treatment. Here are the two most common braces and how often you will need to see your orthodontic dentist for adjustments:
Traditional braces are metal brackets adhered to your teeth. Adjustments include tightening the wires, as well as replacing the rubber bands worn with the braces. While the first appointment to have your braces “adhered” to your teeth can take as long as two hours, your adjustment appointments are quite quick. You will only be in the office for about 15 or 20 minutes every four to eight weeks. Your dentist will continue to monitor your progress and might change how often they want to see you.
Invisalign® and Clear Aligners
Invisalign or clear aligners do not require wires or brackets. Instead, the treatment involves wearing a series of clear plastic trays that are changed every two weeks or so. Like metal braces, they slowly ease your teeth into the ideal position. However, unlike metal braces, adjustments are not required. Instead, you swap out the trays at home based on the schedule recommended by your orthodontic dentist.
As well, there is no timely appointment required to apply the braces. Instead, a computer is used to take digital scans of your teeth, and then you simply pick up your aligners when they are ready. Some orthodontic dentists will have you pop in for checkups every now and then to monitor progress, but no adjustments are involved.
What Can I Expect From A Typical Orthodontic Visit?
A typical orthodontic visit for traditional braces requires an adjustment or “tightening” of the wires. Your orthodontic dentist will evaluate progress to determine what adjustments they will make. This can include not just tightening the wires but, in some cases, replacing them. Here is what to expect during your orthodontic visits:
- Rubber bands removed: Orthodontic dentists remove the “elastic ligatures” attaching the archwire to the brackets. The rubber bands are required to improve how your upper and lower teeth or jaw fit together to form a proper bite. They keep everything aligned.
- Archwires removed and adjusted: The archwires are removed so your orthodontic dentist can examine your progress. The archwires are the main part of your braces used to move your teeth into their desired position. Your dentist will decide if they can use the same size or need to replace the archwires with a thicker, stronger wire. The first wires used are much more flexible, applying gentler force on the brackets so they don’t come off. However, as your treatment progresses, stronger wires are applied to provide better control over the teeth shifting. Archwires are usually replaced about five times over the course of your treatment.
- Rubber bands replaced: Once the archwires are adjusted or replaced, new elastics are inserted.
The entire process takes under 30 minutes, depending on how much work is involved. If new archwires are required, you can expect to be in the chair for the full 30 minutes. However, as mentioned above, you should be done within about 15 minutes in most cases.
How Will I Feel After A Typical Orthodontic Visit?
Most patients experience some discomfort for three to five days following their adjustments. This is much more noticeable at your first adjustment. How sore you feel depends on the ideal positioning of your teeth. The further they have to move, the more likely it is you’ll experience soreness. You can take an over-the-counter pain relief medication prior to your appointment to keep you more comfortable during the adjustment. However, by the sixth month of treatment, you will feel more comfortable after each appointment.
Be sure to tell your orthodontic dentist if you feel anything poking your tongue or cheek before you go. They will take care of the wire right then and there, so you won’t damage the soft tissue in your mouth.
If your teeth are sore, it’s best to stick to soft foods until the soreness is gone. After the first appointment, this can last for several days. Some good foods to try include yogurt, scrambled eggs, and smoothies. Just keep in mind some patients are sensitive to hot and cold, so smoothies might make the discomfort worse. In general, avoid anything too hot, too cold, or too chewy.
What Does A Dentist Look For At A Typical Orthodontic Appointment?
What your orthodontic dentist looks for at your appointments really depends on the purpose of your treatment. For example, if you’re just straightening a few teeth, they will be looking at the progress of the shifting as well as any unexpected movement. If you are expanding your mouth to allow teeth to erupt properly, they might take measurements and make comparisons with previous appointments. If the jaw is being realigned, they will be more concerned with bite.
Age can also impact appointments. Adults will be expected to see slower progress as their teeth and jaws are permanent and denser. Children and teens have more movement as they are still developing density. As a result, younger patients will see faster progress than adults.
How Should Patients Prepare For A Regular Orthodontic Visit?
As mentioned above, you can take a mild over-the-counter pain relief medication before heading out to your appointment. This will keep you comfortable during the adjustment. Also, you want to ensure you are following your orthodontic dentist’s instructions to see the best results. This includes continuing to practice regular oral hygiene and taking care of your braces.