Dental braces are medical devices used in orthodontic treatment, a branch of dentistry concerned with proper teeth alignment and positioning. Like any other medical treatment, using braces can have adverse effects, often stemming from the execution and the patient’s natural response.
Braces realign your teeth by disrupting your natural structure. This disruption can have adverse effects depending on varying factors, including lifestyle, an underlying condition, and the mouth’s overall resistance to Orthodontic treatment.
Roughly 70% of braces wearers experience side effects after getting braces. The side effects are often tolerable and disappear in a matter of days. A much smaller percentage, however, experiences more severe adverse effects that usually require medical attention.
How do Braces Work?
Overcrowding, bite issues, and misalignment are a few dental problems that people can experience in relation to teeth structure. While these issues don’t usually pose a medical emergency, they can sometimes create discomfort in the mouth and trigger other more severe problems like TMD.
A common way to tackle these dental issues is by using braces.
The primary mechanism behind braces is the exertion of pressure on the teeth for a specified period. Over time, the teeth and bones surrounding them will reshape themselves to conform to the applied force and ultimately alter the shape and structure of the mouth cavity.
Braces consist of brackets, orthodontic bands, arch wires, tubes, ties, and other components that work harmoniously to get a handle on the teeth.
Do Braces Have Long-Term Side Effects?
Braces have proven to be effective at treating a variety of anomalies associated with tooth structure. However, they’re not free of risks, and while the likelihood is relatively low, people who get braces can experience the following side effects:
The tooth is composed of four different layers, and the tooth pulp is the innermost layer consisting of nerves, blood vessels, specialized cells, and connective tissues.
The tooth pulp serves a number of functions, but primarily, it supplies dentin and nutrition to the tooth. Applying force to the teeth naturally shifts them, affecting pulp positioning.
This can sometimes result in inflammation in the pulp. At best, the inflammation will go down within 72 hours, but in the worst-case scenario, it will persist and cause Pulp Necrosis or Pulpitis.
Given that braces rely on force and tension to correct tooth structure, some form of pain and discomfort is to be expected. In fact, a whopping 95% of patients experience pain for up to seven days following an Orthodontic treatment.
If the pain hasn’t gone away within two weeks and instead appears to be getting worse, it’s a sign that your braces weren’t correctly installed and needed to be readjusted.
Unmanageable severe pain is rare but possible and often results from an underlying condition. Trauma to the head and teeth while wearing braces or inadequate installation.
A very common side effect of wearing braces is decalcification, or in simpler terms, white spots. Teeth comprise several minerals, and calcium is the most prominent.
Wearing braces can make it difficult to clean your teeth thoroughly; as a result, bacteria builds up on your teeth, creating plaque. Plaque produces a type of acid that strips the teeth of their minerals; this process is known as decalcification.
Decalcification can be reversed with a remineralization process. However, left untreated, it can cause tooth decay, loss of muscle activity, and gum problems.
A foolproof way to prevent decalcification is through a consistent and comprehensive dental hygiene routine, adopting a diet filled with calcium and phosphorus, and regularly getting your teeth cleaned by a professional.
Additionally, a soft interdental brush (on Amazon) does a great job cleaning the areas of teeth covered by braces and removing food particles.
Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD)
Experts have studied the root causes of TMD for the longest time, and while they have yet to find the actual cause, they’ve managed to identify risk factors. The use of braces is among the most common contributing factors.
TMD is a condition where the joint connecting the skull to the jaw (TMJ) slips out of place. This affects the alignment and positioning of the teeth, which also has a domino effect on basic mouth functions like speaking, chewing, and swallowing.
The irony is that braces are sometimes used to treat mild cases of TMD, but they can also trigger symptoms associated with the disorder. The science behind it is that the tension and force applied to the teeth to realign them can irritate the temporomandibular joint.
Dental diseases caused by braces primarily stem from improper oral hygiene and inflamed gums. In addition, gums are usually affected by the pressure applied to the teeth.
Therefore, they’re susceptible to inflammation, creating a passageway for bacteria.
Also, Orthodontists always provide detailed tips on how to care for teeth while in braces adequately. But many patients don’t follow these instructions to a tee. The end result is a build-up of plaque and bacteria, leading to dental diseases.
A few of the common diseases that can potentially arise are:
Treating dental diseases is generally not complex, but adding braces to the equation makes it more challenging. Also, tackling dental issues while in braces can alter the time it takes for braces to yield substantial results.
Root Resorption or Root Shortening can be described in simple terms as a tooth being swallowed in its surrounding tissues. Several factors can cause this, including wearing braces.
However, root shortening only affects 1-2% of the population.
Many people are fearmongered into believing that Root Resorption causes severe pain and intense symptoms. The truth is that the shortening of roots can cause a series of complex health complications, but more often than not, it’s harmless.
A person can live with a shortened tooth root for years and not notice any symptoms.
Still, prevention is better than cure, so when it comes to root resorption, Orthodists usually prompt patients to act swiftly and seek medical assistance at the first sign of possible root shortening.
Getting braces is only the first step toward fixing any dental issue. It’s a long journey that should be undertaken with consistent oral hygiene practices.
Dentists advise braces wearers to clean their teeth thoroughly, adopt diets tailored to braces-covered teeth, and, most importantly, pay attention to how their teeth react to the braces.