Dental braces are a common procedure that people of all ages undergo, but it can be scary to be told you'll have a bunch of metal hanging around your mouth. To ease your mind, here is everything you need to know before you get your new smile.

Why do people need braces?

The two main reasons an individual might need braces are improper bites or malocclusion. Malocclusion refers to crowded or crooked teeth. Straightening teeth can help with both the appearance and performance of your teeth. Braces can also fix improper bites, which is when your upper and lower teeth do not align properly. Bad bites can lead to future dental issues such as jaw problems and even tooth loss.

What types of braces are there?

Braces can be used in many different ways to suit each patient's needs. Generally braces are either worn in fixed metal brackets and wires or removable aligners.

Are braces safe?

Yes! Braces are generally very safe with only a few potential side effects. Short term risks include loss of outer enamel, cavities, and gum disease. Long term side effects may include shortened roots and loss of tooth correction. Luckily, all of these risks can be avoided by carefully following your orthodontist's care instructions.

How easy are braces to manage?

Braces are fairly easy to maintain with just a few modifications to your eating and hygiene habits. Foods you should limit while wearing braces include sticky, sugary, or hard food. Cut hard to eat items like apples into smaller bites, and avoid items like gum that can get stuck to the braces.

After eating, you should thoroughly rinse your mouth of any food particles to avoid bacteria buildup. Having braces means you need to be extra diligent at brushing and flossing. Follow your dentist's care instructions and your teeth should stay healthy.

When can I get my braces off?

The duration of your orthodontic treatment will vary depending on the severity of your teeth, your age, and your overall dental hygiene. Most people, however, have their braces for 18 to 24 months. Younger patients generally don't need to wear braces for as long as adults, but anyone can help the process by following their orthodontist's directions and maintaining proper oral hygiene.

How much do they cost?

The cost of your braces will vary by the type your dental needs call for. The standard metal braces generally cost around $5,000. This is obviously steep, but many dental insurance plans will partially or fully cover the expenses. Speak with your insurance agency to find out which orthodontists are covered in your area.