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Navigating Your Adult Braces Journey

Deep Green Philly
Apr 22, 2018 · 8 min read

Looking back, it’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment when I realized I absolutely needed to get braces. Was it that time during a routine checkup when the dentist said to me, “You should definitely consider braces”? Or was it the moment I was subjected to an unusually jarring passive aggressive comment at a social gathering? In any case, by the time I made the decision to seriously investigate getting my teeth fixed, the situation had become unsustainable on several different levels.

If you’re readin g this you might be like me and needing braces for a mixture of medical and aesthetic reasons. Or you might simply be wanting to straighten up your smile before a wedding, career change, or because you’ve read all the articles saying how people with straight teeth are considered more intelligent and trustworthy. Whatever your reason for considering adult braces, it’s important to mentally prepare yourself before you actually embark on your journey.

It’s true that technology has progressed very far since the olden days of things like this:

These days braces are nothing like how they used to be, so it won’t be too bad, but anyone who tells you that it will be a walk through the park is setting you up for a rude awakening. Of course individual cases vary, but regardless, braces will mean a significant change to your usual dental hygiene routine and eating habits. There will be other things you need to consider as well depending on what type of braces you decide on. Hopefully you’ll find some of the tips and info here useful.

Soup & Smoothies

Let’s start with what might be one of the most difficult aspects of braces: the need to change your diet. Hard, crunchy foods like chips and pretzels are more likely to snap off the brackets. Tough to chew foods can dislodge the wires. So this means no nuts, hard candy, taffy, bread/pizza with hard crusts, beef jerky, tough meats, or harder to chew raw vegetables like carrots. Soda, sugary drinks, candy and sweets should be avoided or reduced to avoid the buildup of plaque around your braces.

I personally had a lot of success with soups — relatively easy to make and easy on the braces. Smoothies also became a staple of my diet, especially during the first few months of treatment when my gums were sore and I was still adjusting.

No Smoking

Before the braces were put on I had managed to cut down to about one or two cigarettes a week. Still, my goal was to quit altogether and the braces were actually a major motivating factor. My orthodontist told me that smoking while wearing braces would defeat the entire purpose of treatment. And of course there was no way I would pay for braces and then mess up the process by continuing to smoke. Going cold turkey while adjusting to the dietary changes was very stressful for the first month or so, but once I got over that hump I was able to appreciate the benefits of quitting — more energy, clearer skin, and of course overall better health.

If you smoke marijuana you might want to consider either quitting or switching to edibles because, as with cigarettes, the effects of smoke on your gums can interfere with treatment.

Canker Sores and other annoyances

One side effect of having a bunch of metal in your sensitive mouth 24/7 is the likelihood of developing canker sores. These sores develop because the mouth is shocked by the sudden appearance of metal rubbing against the inside of this very sensitive area. They will subside once your body adjusts to the new reality. This will be your saving grace:

Along with Anbesol you might also need to get some dental wax. Especially during the beginning of treatment you will have to contend with the discomfort of braces rubbing and pressing against the inside of your mouth. This can be especially annoying at night when you’re trying to sleep. Dental wax can be placed on the wires and brackets to reduce friction and irritation while your mouth adjusts and gets used to the braces.

Talking will be a little more difficult with braces, especially during the first month or so when you’re getting used to them, so prepare for that. And if you like to whistle you’ll have to come to terms with giving that up for a while. I also felt like my mouth was always more moist than before, so I had to be careful about spraying spittle when I spoke. Some people have this issue, but others do not.

General maintenance

Your orthodontist may or may not provide you will the special flossing materials you’ll need. Regardless of how you get them, they will be absolutely necessary as regular floss just won’t cut it on its own anymore. Threader tip floss became my favorite flossing tool:

But there’s also floss threaders:

When you’re planning on eating out or don’t have time to spend 15–20 minutes flossing, interdental brushes will be invaluable:

I can’t stress enough how important these brushes are, especially when you’re on the go and need to make sure there’s no food stuck in your braces.

In general, brushing and flossing regularly are of course good habits to have, but when you’re wearing braces it becomes 10X more important. Plaque can quickly build up on your braces and harm your teeth, so it’s mandatory that you pay extra attention to how much you’re brushing, flossing and scraping away plaque.

What’ll It Cost Me?

Orthodontic treatment has become a booming business, and more adults than ever are choosing to improve their smiles.

  • Traditional Metal Braces: $4,000 to $7,000
  • Ceramic Braces: $4,000 to $8,000
  • Lingual Braces: $6,000 to $10,000
  • Invisalign: $4,000 to $7,500

If orthodontic treatment is something you really want to pursue, you’ll find a way to afford it. I’m not in any way, shape or form rolling in dough, and yet I managed to find a treatment option that works for me; so believe me, if I can do it, pretty much anyone can. Even if (like me) you don’t have dental insurance that covers orthodontics, there are clinics that will offer low or no interest monthly payment plans. Very few places will ask you to pay the entire cost up front.

Because we’re focusing more on metal braces here, I can only speak to that experience and say that the cost is definitely worth it. Also, because I received treatment through a local dental school, my costs were a bit lower. If there’s a collage or university with a dental school in your area it definitely might be worth checking to see if they accept patients from the general public. One potential downside is that you will be assigned an orthodontist instead of being able to shop around for one. You may also be required to come in for more appointments than those seeing a private practitioner. On the plus side, most dental schools will be interested in training new doctors to use the latest technology, so you will likely be receiving the most up to date treatment available. Also, you will most likely be treated by someone who is motivated to start their career off on a good note and provide the best treatment possible.

Your Orthodontist Matters

If you’re shopping for an orthodontist through the usual private practice route, you should definitely make sure to read Yelp reviews, check out their website thoroughly, and if possible rely on word of mouth from those who have been treated at that particular practice in the past. Find out if you can visit their office for a consultation. At the consultation ask about the technology they’re using, the type of treatment plans, costs, and try to get a feel for whether or not you would be comfortable working closely with the orthodontist and their staff for an extended period of time.

If you decide to pursue treatment through a dental school like I did, do some research. How many people are in each graduating class at each particular school? Is it a factory churning out degrees for a buck or is it more exclusive and focused on scholarship? Your orthodontic student treatment provider should be someone who has completed their main course work and is treating patients as part of their final postgraduate studies. Essentially, they should be doctors in training. If you’re receiving treatment from an orthodontics student they should be working closely with a licensed orthodontics adviser who will usually be one of their professors.

Your treatment provider matters because the wrong match can lead to less than ideal outcomes. Some people fear the dentist because they’re worried about being judged, treated badly, or treated like a cash cow; and unfortunately there are some not so great dentists out there:

So, if possible it’s best to do a thorough investigation before you decide on the person who will be treating you. When I found out that I would be assigned an orthodontist I have to admit that in the back of my mind I was a little worried despite knowing the reputation of the dental school. I’d had mixed results with dentists in the past, and we all know the greatly feared stereotype:

Are you considering adult braces? Here are some tips and info to help you on your journey to a brighter smile!