Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Braces

Prior to getting braces for yourself or your child, there are a number of questions you might have or terms that you might not be familiar with. We have put together this list to help you make the best decision!


People get braces to straighten their teeth and improve their appearance. According to studies by the American Association of Orthodontists, untreated malocclusions can result in a variety of problems. Conditions that may be dramatically improved by using braces include:

  • Crowding: When teeth are most difficult to brush and floss, decay can develop.
  • Overbite: Teeth that stick out are more susceptible to chipping.
  • Underbite: Excessive tooth wear and unfavorable growth can result from an underbite.
  • Open bite: When teeth don’t meet, an open bite can result in tongue thrust and speech impediment.

When should you get braces?

Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there IS an optimal time period to begin treatment. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Dr. Piper can monitor growth and development, preventing serious problems later.

Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for screening?

By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding or gummy smiles. Timely screening takes advantage of the patient’s own growth and saves money in the long run.

What are the advantages of early treatment?

Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment are:

  • Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth
  • Creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth
  • Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
  • Preserving space for unerupted teeth
  • Reducing the need for tooth removal
  • Reducing treatment time with braces

Are you a candidate for orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontics is not merely for improving the aesthetics of the smile; orthodontic treatment improves bad bites (malocclusions). Malocclusions occur as a result of tooth or jaw misalignment. Malocclusions affect the way you chew your food, clean your teeth, and feel about your smile.

The Braces Process: How do braces work?

Braces gradually move teeth by applying gentle pressure over time. They are custom made to address your orthodontic needs. Your orthodontist will gradually adjust the pressure during appointments over the course of your treatment. Success depends on your compliance with your orthodontist’s instructions.

How are braces put on teeth?

During your first appointment Dr. Piper will take x-rays and photographs of your teeth, and then he will take an impression of your teeth as they are. At the end of the appointment, he will place separators between your molars. These make a little space for the bands which are placed on the molars.

Dr. Piper will then apply and set a small amount of glue on each tooth and affix a metal or ceramic bracket. These will hold the archwire in place which guides the movement of your teeth. Small rubber bands hooked between different points on your appliance will provide pressure to move your teeth to their new position. Additionally, metal bands will be affixed to your back molars to anchor the braces.

You’ll come back every four to six weeks to adjust the wires and ligatures, which control the movement of your teeth.

How long do braces take to straighten teeth?

How long you wear braces will depend on what kinds of orthodontic issues you’re having. For pediatric patients with bite problems, crowding, and spacing issues, treatment can take about two years. If your child doesn’t have bite problems, treatment can take as little as 12-18 months. Adults usually need to wear braces longer, possibly for 24 to 30 months.

Can you get braces even if your teeth are straight?

Not every orthodontic problem is as obvious as a crooked smile. Other reasons for getting braces include correcting issues with jaw alignment, fixing an overbite, underbite or crossbite, or making space in the mouth for teeth.

Can you get braces for an overbite?

An overbite is diagnosed when the upper jaw extends over the lower jaw. Overbites can be corrected with braces. However, as with all orthodontic treatment, the earlier the better.

Can you get braces the day of your consultation?

If it’s a partial correction, Dr. Piper can begin treatment the same day as a consultation appointment. For full cases, treatment will begin about a week after he makes x-rays and impressions.

How should teeth look after braces?

Properly aligned teeth will sparkle because they are in the right position to catch the light. They will look great in photos and in person.

What are the different types of braces?


Movement of teeth may be performed with a number of different “appliances.” Metal braces, the most commonly used type of bracket (or appliance), are attached to the teeth with a sealant-like adhesive and provide the most efficient tooth movement.


Ceramic brackets, also attached to the teeth, are far less visible and are efficient as well, but usually are more expensive.


And finally, aligners (appliances such as ClearCorrect) are removable, clear, retainer-like appliances which move teeth in small increments but are incapable of providing optimum movement in difficult orthodontic cases. Aligners are used to treat minor orthodontic problems, but they are ineffective for complex orthodontic problems.

Braces Terms

What are brackets for the teeth? What are braces made of? Orthodontic treatment has its own vocabulary. These terms will help familiarize you with the components of braces and other orthodontic appliances.


Anything your orthodontist attaches to your teeth which moves your teeth or changes the shape of your jaw.


The metal wire that acts as a track to guide your teeth along as they move. It is changed periodically throughout treatment as your teeth move to their new positions.


A metal ring that is cemented to your molar and goes completely around your tooth. Bands provide a way to attach brackets to your teeth.


The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your appliances in place.


A metal or ceramic part cemented (“bonded”) to your tooth that holds your archwire in place.


A small rubber band that is hooked between different points on your appliance to provide pressure to move your teeth to their new position.


The rubber band that fits around your bracket to hold the archwire in place. “O’s” come in a variety of colors.


A thin wire that joins your archwire into your bracket.


A device that protects your mouth from injury when you participate in sports or rigorous activities.


A device that makes your upper jaw wider.


A small rubber ring that creates space between your teeth before the bands are attached.


A fine wire that is twisted around your bracket to hold the archwire in place.


Wax is used to stop your braces from irritating your lips.

What are types of orthodontic procedures?


The process of fitting and cementing orthodontic bands and brackets to your teeth.


The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using special orthodontic cement.


An x-ray of your head which shows the relative positions and growth of the face, jaws and teeth.


An alternative to traditional braces, ClearCorrect is a system of aligners to do minor tooth movement. Custom-molded, clear aligners can correct some, but not all, orthodontic conditions.


A meeting with your orthodontist to discuss a treatment plan.


The process of removing braces from your teeth.


The process of removing orthodontic cement brackets from your teeth.


The process of making a model of your teeth by biting into a soft material that hardens into a mold of your teeth. Your orthodontist will use these impressions to prepare your treatment plan.


The process of attaching an archwire to the brackets on your teeth.


An x-ray that rotates around your head to take pictures of your teeth, jaw and other facial areas.

What is orthodontic therapy with orthognathic surgery?

Corrective jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery) treats and corrects abnormalities of the facial bones, specifically the jaws and the teeth. Often, these abnormalities cause difficulty associated with chewing, talking, sleeping and other routine activities. Orthognathic surgery corrects these problems and, in conjunction with orthodontic treatment, will improve the overall appearance of the facial profile.

In an orthognathic case, Dr. Piper works closely with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who uses state-of-the-art materials including titanium plates and miniature screws to provide stability, strength and predictability to your treatment. These advances in technology, procedures and equipment reduce post-surgical recovery time, thus allowing patients to return to their normal routines soon after the surgery.

If orthodontic treatment alone cannot correct the problem, surgery may be necessary. With the latest advances in orthodontics, this is sometimes the case. We will determine if orthognathic surgery is the correct treatment option for you.

All About Clear Dental Aligners

Clear aligners provide a more discreet way to achieve a healthy bite and improve your smile. Because you can remove them to eat, there are not the same restrictions with sticky, crunchy, and hard foods that are associated with traditional braces.

Do dental aligners work?

Shaped to fit your teeth, orthodontic aligners apply light pressure to reposition your teeth over time. Aligners, when your treatment is supervised under the direction and care of a licensed orthodontist, can be an effective treatment for patients with very minor malocclusions such as those with one or two crooked teeth, minimal spaces between teeth, or minor crowding.

Where can I get invisible braces?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that anyone considering dental aligners be evaluated by a licensed orthodontist in order to receive customized treatment that can be monitored and adjusted as needed through in-person appointments.

If you order direct-to-consumer dental appliances online you will be purchasing an appliance. However, dental correction is a process that involves making changes to the alignment of your teeth and jaw that should begin with a thorough evaluation and regular monitoring by a medical professional to ensure the best result.

Piper Orthodontics offers dental aligners for patients who can benefit from them.

How much do dental aligners cost?

Investing in a healthy bite and smile will lead to a lifetime of results if you are compliant with your orthodontic care including regular brushing and flossing and wearing retainers post treatment. The cost of aligners tends to be comparable to the cost of metal braces. At Piper Orthodontics, we do our best to make both invisible aligners and braces accessible by offering a variety of payment options including bank drafts, credit card payment and financing options. Another benefit to purchasing aligners through an orthodontist is that a portion of your treatment may be covered by insurance if you have an orthodontist monitoring your care.

Are dental aligners FSA eligible?

Many Federal Spending Accounts (FSA) will cover the cost of clear aligners.

Toothbrushing and braces

What is the best toothbrush for braces?

We recommend a soft bristle toothbrush made in the United States.

How do I brush my teeth with braces?

It’s more important than ever to brush and floss regularly when you have braces, so the teeth and gums are healthy after orthodontic treatment. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste after meals is ideal, however rinsing with water is helpful if you can’t brush. Patients who do not keep their teeth clean may require more frequent visits to the dentist for a professional cleaning.

For more information on how to care for your teeth see our Braces Care page.

After Braces: Understanding Retainers

A retainer is an appliance that is worn after your braces are removed, retainers fit over your upper and/or lower teeth to maintain the finished result. Some retainers are removable and others are bonded to the tongue-side of several teeth.

Do retainers straighten teeth?

Traditional metal braces are best suited to do the work of straightening teeth. However, once your braces are removed wearing a retainer is critical because your teeth will naturally shift. A retainer will “retain” the new position of your teeth after orthodontic treatment.

Can you get a retainer without braces?

Yes. However, retainers are mostly made as a replacement to hold your finished result with braces. A retainer is not a substitute for full orthodontic treatment.


Sign up for our newsletter.