Some kids can't wait to get braces. Others are a little worried about what it will
be like or how they will look. It can help to learn more about braces, which straighten
your teeth and make your smile even better looking.
Lots of kids don't have perfect teeth, so don't worry if yours aren't straight.
Take a look at most of your classmates. Many of them probably don't have straight
teeth either. Sometimes teeth just don't grow in evenly.
Your teeth might be crooked, or your upper and lower jaws might not be the same
size. If your upper jaw is bigger than your lower jaw, that's called an overbite.
If your lower jaw is bigger than your upper jaw, you have an underbite.
Either way it's called malocclusion
(say: mal-uh-KLOO-zhun), a word that comes from Latin and means "bad bite." Malocclusion
is just a word that dentists use to describe the shape of your mouth.
Your dentist might notice one of
these problems during a regular visit and recommend that you see an orthodontist
(say: or-thoh-DAHN-tist). This person, who also might be called a braces specialist,
can determine whether you need braces.
Types of Braces
If your parents had braces, you may have seen pictures of them with their mouths
full of metal. Today, braces are much less noticeable. Metal braces are still used,
but you might be able to get clear braces or braces that are the same color as your
teeth. There are even braces that go behind your teeth where no one can see them.
The wires that are used in braces today are also smaller and better than they used
to be, and they're made of a space-age material that straightens your teeth faster
and easier. The rubber bands that go along with braces come in funky colors now, too.
So you could have black and orange ones for Halloween!
How Braces Work
Braces straighten teeth by putting steady pressure on your teeth and by staying
in place for a certain amount of time. Most kids just need regular braces with wires
and rubber bands doing their jobs to keep pressure on the teeth. The wires on your
braces help to move your teeth, and the rubber bands help to correct the alignment
(say: uh-LYNE-munt), which is the way your teeth line up.
If your teeth need a little extra help, you may have to wear head- or neckgear
with wires attached to your teeth. If you do have to wear headgear, don't panic! You
probably will only have to wear it while you sleep or when you're at home in
Everyone has to wear braces for different lengths of time, but most people usually
wear braces for about 2 years. You'll want to take special care of your teeth after
the braces come off. You may need to wear a retainer,
which is a small, hard piece of plastic with metal wires or a thin piece of plastic
shaped like a mouthguard. Retainers make sure your teeth don't go wandering back to
their original places. Your retainer will be specially molded to fit your newly straightened
After you get your retainer, your orthodontist will tell you when you have to wear
it and how long — you might have to wear your retainer all day and all night
for 2 years; you might have to wear it at night for 6 months; or you might have to
wear it every other night for many years. It just depends on your teeth.
Life With Braces
Braces act like magnets for food, so you need to keep your teeth especially clean
while you have them on. You'll want to brush after meals and be extra careful to get
out any food that gets stuck in your braces.
Your orthodontist also may give you a special flosser you can use to floss in and
around your braces. When your orthodontist changes your wires, ask if you can do a
quick floss (it'll be easier without the wires).
You won't have to go on any special diet when you have braces, but you'll want
to avoid some foods that are problems
for braces. Stay away from popcorn, hard and sticky candy, and especially gum. Sugary
sodas and juices can cause a problem, too, because the sugar stays on your teeth and
may cause tooth decay. You can have these drinks, but be sure to brush afterward.
Because braces put pressure on your teeth, you might feel uncomfortable once in
a while, especially right after the orthodontist makes adjustments. If you have pain,
ask your mom or dad to give you a pain reliever.
If you ever have a loose wire or bracket, or a wire that is poking you, you should
see the orthodontist right away to get it taken care of. If your orthodontist can't
find a problem, he or she may give you some soft wax that you can stick on the bracket
that's bothering you. Then it won't rub against your mouth.
So braces can be inconvenient, but lots of kids have them and they are definitely
worth the trouble. When will you know for sure? On the day your braces are removed
and you can see your new and improved smile!