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