young boy in orthodontist exam chair

Getting braces is easier than you may think.

You’re on your way to a better smile! Find out what to expect as you get started.

  • girl looking at braces guide with orthodontist

    Congratulations! You’re taking the first step to better oral health – and a better smile. Getting braces is a big deal, but it’s easier than you might think. And knowing what will happen when you are in the orthodontist’s chair can help make the whole process less intimidating.

    As you get ready for your first appointment, you’ll probably have a lot of questions. Your orthodontist will guide you through the process, but it can help to know the basics before you head in. Browse through the helpful information below to get an idea of the process, from the first consult to the day you get your braces on!

    For more information about living with braces, including eating, cleaning and extra-curriculars, check out our Life with Braces page.

Navigating your way to getting your perfect smile.

  • The consult

    Before your first official appointment, you may have a consultation with your orthodontist. If you have any x-rays from your dentist, bring them along. Your orthodontist will evaluate your teeth and make a treatment recommendation.

    This is the time to ask all your questions – so come prepared! We’ve included a handy list of starter questions in our FAQ section below.

  • Before treatment

    The first step to getting braces: go to the dentist! Have your teeth professionally cleaned. If you need treatment for other oral care conditions (e.g. periodontal problems or tooth extraction), your orthodontist may recommend taking care of these issues before braces.

  • Your first visit

    First, you’ll get x-rays of your whole mouth and of individual teeth. Photographs of your face, teeth and mouth may also be taken. If spacing is too tight between any of your teeth, spacers may be inserted to help prepare your mouth for braces.

    Whether you get traditional braces or customized behind-the-teeth braces, the next step is to make an accurate mold. To do that, your orthodontist will take an impression of your teeth. Either you’ll bite down on a tray of soft impression material for a few minutes, or your orthodontist may take a digital scan of your mouth.

  • Getting your braces

    First things first: don't forget to brush and floss before you get your braces on! The procedure itself is painless for most people. Your bonding appointment may last for about two hours, so you may want to bring some music to help pass the time.

    Your orthodontist will start by inserting a device to keep your mouth dry and your tongue in place. Then he or she will dry your teeth and apply an etchant to make the tooth surface ideal for bonding. Next, the braces will be placed on your teeth using a special adhesive to hold them in place throughout your treatment. A curing light will harden the adhesive and set the bond. Finally, the orthodontist will run the archwire through the braces and hold it in place with ligature bands (unless you have chosen self-ligating braces, which don't need additional bands). And that's it!

  • Your follow-up appointments

    Once your braces are on, you'll have about 4-8 weeks to get used to them before your first follow-up appointment. These routine "adjustments" go much faster than getting your braces in the first place. Your orthodontist will check your progress and swap out the old bands, and possibly the old archwire, for a new set. This is the perfect time to change up your colors if you want!

    Adjustment appointments may be recommended every 4-8 weeks throughout your treatment. Because the archwire will be replaced, it is normal to feel minor discomfort for a few days – but it is only temporary. If you are concerned, talk to your orthodontist about their suggested methods to relieve your discomfort.

  • Your last appointment

    You’ve done it! Your treatment is complete and you are about to see your new perfect smile. You won't have to wait long – removing braces may be easier and faster than you might think. The brackets will come off easily, leaving behind just a trace of the bonding material. Your orthodontist will remove the bonding material and polish the enamel, leaving smooth and shiny teeth where your braces had been. The best part: it only takes about 15 minutes!

    What happens next? You may need a retainer to help your teeth "remember" their new positions. Ask your orthodontist how to care for your smile after braces. As always, keep brushing your teeth and flossing regularly. Now get ready to show off your new smile!

    Learn more about life after braces.

girl with braces laughing in classroom with friend
Get a look into your lifestyle with braces.

FAQ: Asking the big questions

  • Your orthodontist will be your go-to resource for questions before, during and after braces. Here are a few things you may want to ask, along with some helpful information about the patients’ and families’ most frequent questions.

  • If your orthodontist or dentist recommends braces, you probably need them. You can always ask your orthodontist how necessary they are, but keep in mind that getting braces is not just about a better smile. Having straighter teeth also helps keep you healthier and can prevent dental and jaw issues down the road. Learn how braces help overall health and what conditions they are used for by visiting our page How Braces Work.
  • 3M has developed a variety of quality materials to treat almost any case while still providing options for the look you want – and the fit you need. Talk with your orthodontist about the best solution for your smile and lifestyle.

    Check out the main types of 3M™ Braces: metal, clear and invisible.
  • Like braces themselves, there’s no single answer that fits all cases. Costs will vary depending on your choice of braces, the complexity of your treatment, and possibly your geographic location. Fortunately, there are many options to fit a wide range of budgets and lifestyles. Talk with your orthodontist about your personal and financial priorities.

    Payment Plans: Your orthodontist may offer different options for payment plans. Be sure to ask during your consultation.

    Insurance: Many dental insurance plans have orthodontic benefits to help with some of the cost of getting braces. Call your insurance company to ask about your coverage.

    Flexible Spending Accounts: If your employer offers this savings option, braces will qualify as an approved medical expense. You may be able to pay your orthodontist directly from your FSA account; if not, simply submit your treatment receipts for reimbursement.

  • It will probably take 1 to 2 weeks to adjust to your new braces. Your teeth may "feel" larger, and your lips, cheeks and tongue may be sensitive as they get used to the braces. Your orthodontist will give you some special wax you can put on your brackets to help relieve any irritation. If you have behind-the-teeth braces, your speech may also feel a little clumsy for the first week or two.

    No matter how teeth are straightened, most people experience tenderness when their teeth move. After first getting braces, and after each adjustment, you may feel a little pressure and discomfort when biting or chewing, but this should only last for a few days. Ask your orthodontist about how best to relieve any discomfort. Before you know it, having braces will feel normal and you will be able to enjoy your favorite activities – and snacks – without discomfort.

    Check out some tips for adjusting to life with braces.
  • Once you get your braces put on, you’ll have more questions about the best way to take care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing can be slightly more complicated. While your orthodontist can give you the best advice based on your specific treatment, you can visit our Life with Braces website for some quick tips and basic advice on how to keep your teeth and gums healthy while your smile straightens.
  • Orthodontic emergencies are rare. Your braces are held in place by a strong, reliable dental adhesive, and the brackets themselves are designed to bond securely. But if one of your brackets does fall off – or if a band or wire comes loose – call your orthodontist right away.
  • You may need to make some adjustments when you get braces, but don't worry – life with braces is easier than you may think! You can still play sports and musical instruments, and you can still enjoy many of your favorite foods. Check out our page Life with Braces to get a general idea of what you can eat and what activities you can do with braces. Then talk to your orthodontist about how you can keep up with your hobbies – and your favorite meals –throughout your treatment.
  • While reading this page, you are probably already picturing yourself with straighter teeth. But as you get closer to having your braces removed, you might have more questions. Check out our page Life with Braces for a brief overview of what to expect in your life immediately after your new smile is revealed. Your orthodontist will give you detailed information about how to care for your teeth after braces.
  • They may move slightly over time making retainers/retention an important part of your treatment. Your orthodontist may give you a removable retainer or attach a longer-term retainer behind your teeth – out of sight. Talk to your orthodontist about any questions you may have about what to expect. To learn how your teeth keep their position after braces, check out our page How Braces Work.
  • Your orthodontist is a highly trained and specialized professional who received several years of education in addition to dental school. It’s important to trust your orthodontist – but that doesn’t mean you won’t have questions! Make a list and bring it along to your first consultation. Here are a few common questions to get you started:

    • How is my treatment cost determined, and how much will it be?
    • Does your quote include all treatment costs from beginning to end? Are there any additional fees?
    • What are my insurance and payment options?
    • Can you describe the procedures you will be using?
    • How long will it take to get my braces put on and taken off?
    • How long will I be wearing braces?
    • Do I need headgear? If so, what are my options?
    • Will braces significantly affect my eating, oral hygiene or speech?
    • How often will I need to schedule my check-up or adjustment appointments?
    • What do I do if one of my brackets falls off?
    • What follow-up steps or appointments do I need after my braces are removed?
    • Will my teeth move after my braces are removed?

teen girl receiving a braces consultation from orthodontist
You are one step closer to your perfect smile.

Now that you know what to expect, you've got a good starting point. It's time to take the next step!