How to survive your first week with braces

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  • An orthodontist gives tips on how to make the first seven days as comfortable as possible
  • Stick to soft foods, avoid anything too sugary, and invest in a water flosser
Doris Wai |
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You'll eventually see the benefits of having braces, but you will definitely need time to adapt to them.

Everyone wants a perfect set of pearly whites but sometimes the process of getting that impeccable, straight smile involves a fair bit of pain and discomfort. Dr Eugene Chan, an orthodontist, offers a guide to surviving the first week of braces and aligners, as well as post-dental care.

Your straight-teeth journey is most likely to start with a trip to the orthodontist - a specialist who aligns teeth and jaws - who will give you different treatment options to consider. Know, though, that it’s not solely a cosmetic move.

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“There are other benefits that come along with aligned teeth and jaws that can make a difference in your daily life,” says Chan. He says misaligned teeth and jaws can cause problems when you chew and speak, and affect your psychological well-being. Uneven bites (which happen when your smile looks crooked when your upper and lower jaws meet) can also cause wear on the dentition, leading to irreversible damage to your teeth and jaws.

According to the orthodontist, who practises in Singapore and Australia, those who are considering braces can choose between traditional metal, ceramic or lingual braces and clear removable aligners that are now popular.

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And while you might have come across Instagram posts from Smile Direct Club and Zenyum that promise a new smile in six months at less than a quarter of the cost of traditional braces, he recommends sticking to tested and proven aligner companies such as Invisalign.

Don't fall for social media marketing; it's best to stick with tried and tested companies like Invisalign.

For those who opt to walk around with a mouth full of metal, Chan shares some tips and tricks that help make the first seven days of straightening your teeth as tolerable as possible. Stick to soft foods such as yogurt, smoothies, congee and tofu pudding as your gums and teeth may feel sore and sensitive during the adjustment period. Also, have some orthodontic wax on hand to relieve irritation on the inside of your cheeks.

In addition to brushing your teeth regularly, he recommends using an interdental brush or water flosser to remove food debris from around the brackets, under the wire and hard-to-reach areas. It’s also probably a good idea to save the contact of your orthodontist’s clinic in case of emergencies.

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And it’s not just your teeth, your braces need some TLC, too. “With traditional orthodontic treatment, there are metal brackets and wires in your mouth. To keep them in tip-top condition, avoid hard and sticky foods such as nuts, sweets and crackers, popcorn and crunching on bones,” Chan says. He also suggests cutting down on sugary foods and drinks. “Sugar and bacteria form plaque on the surface of teeth. It needs to be brushed away so as to prevent it from hardening into tartar, and braces make it more difficult to brush well,” he explains.

While it’s perfectly fine to do sport, do take extra precautions if you’re playing contact sport such as rugby by wearing a mouldable mouth guard designed for braces from a reputable sport shop, especially if you’re donning metal braces.

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“The quest for perfect teeth doesn’t end once your braces are removed. Further orthodontic treatment in the form of either fixed or removable night-time retainers are required to ensure your teeth stay aligned,” he says, adding that just like our hair and nails, teeth grow and change over time.

Chan also stresses the importance of good dental care habits by brushing your teeth twice a day, for two minutes a time, and flossing at least once a day. Most importantly, visit your dentist twice a year for professional cleaning and dental checks to ensure that beautiful smile stays beautiful.

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