Braces are devices which gently correct irregularities in the arrangement of your teeth.

They are also called orthodontic appliances. Braces treatment, also known as orthodontic treatment, aims at correcting malocclusion and bringing teeth and jaws into a harmonious position with the face. This may improve appearance, oral health and function.

What is a malocclusion?

Malocclusion is faulty contact between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed. It is NOT a disease but is defined as a developmental variation of a normal occlusion. Generally, there are 3 main types of Malocclusion:

Class I malocclusion refers to a normal bite between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed, but the teeth are not well-aligned or spaces are present.

Class II malocclusion refers to when the lower teeth lie way behind the upper teeth when the jaw is closed.
Class III malocclusion refers to when the lower teeth lie way in front of the upper teeth when the jaw is closed.

Why do I need braces?

Braces can do wonders for your self-confidence and self-esteem by treating your malocclusion.

By “straightening” your teeth, it helps to improve your smile and makes you feel good about yourself and your appearance. There will also be an overall improvement in your dental health as it will be easier to brush teeth that are well-aligned rather than those which are “crooked” and crowded together.

How many types of braces are there?

Basically there are two types, namely, fixed braces and removable braces. The fixed braces are fixed to the teeth for the whole duration of braces treatment while removable braces are appliances which can be taken out of the mouth when you eat or brush your teeth.

Always consult your relevant dentist or orthodontist as to which type of braces is best for you.


Traditional metal braces consist of stainless steel brackets that are “glued” to the front surfaces of the teeth. A metal archwire runs through the brackets and is held in place by elastic bands which comes in different colours.

Self-ligating braces are gentle “gated” braces that are designed with a unique self locking mechanism incorporated into the bracket. The “gates” replace the coloured elastic bands which hold the archwire in place.

Tooth-coloured  braces  consist of ceramic or composite plastic brackets which blend in with the surrounding tooth structure and makes the braces less noticeable. Depending on the system, the archwires may be made of metal, metal with a tooth-coloured coating, or a polymer composite material that is transparent.

Lingual braces are discreet, metal braces that are custom-fitted to the back surfaces of the teeth and are invisible during normal day-to-day activities.


Aligners: The Invisible Aligner System of straightening teeth involves a series of custom-moulded aligners worn over your teeth to gradually reposition them to the final aesthetic result. The transparent aligners are hardly noticeable. They can be removed for eating, brushing and flossing, and when you have to attend important events. It is important for the aligners to be worn for 20 hours every day for treatment success. Mild to moderate malocclusions can be treated successfully with this system.

Functional appliances: Functional appliances are usually indicated when the child is still growing skeletally. They can serve the purpose of modifying the direction which the jaws are growing.

Removable active appliances: Removable active appliances are usually used at a dental stage where some baby teeth are still not replaced by the permanent teeth and serve the purpose of relieving a traumatic bite which results from an abnormal position of a tooth or certain teeth.

When should I start wearing braces?

Generally, in children, orthodontic treatment is started when all the “milk” teeth have been replaced by the permanent ones.

However, in some special cases, such as cases where functional appliances are indicated, it may be crucial for treatment to start earlier to prevent complications from developing later and to take advantage of the growth of the face. Early treatment is justifiable and indicated only when long-term results can be achieved with eliminating need or reducing complexity of future orthodontic treatment.

I am an adult. Can I still wear braces?

Yes, you certainly can! You are never too old for braces! In certain cases, it may also be easier for dentists to perform restorative procedures such as implants, crowns or bridges on aligned teeth.

However, because the bone structure is denser in adults, treatment time may be a little longer compared to teenagers.

How long will the treatment take?

The length of treatment will depend on a number of factors, one of which would be the difficulty of your case. In average cases, treatment time will range from about 18 months -3 years, and you will need to visit your dentist / orthodontist once every 4-8 weeks for reviews during the course of treatment.

Will braces treatment be painful?

Initially there may be some discomfort. However, your lips, cheeks and tongue will soon get used to them and you might even miss them when they are finally removed! There is zero downtime. You can go about your daily activities straight after braces placement and activation.

What are the risks of wearing braces?

The most common problems resulting from braces treatment are tooth decay or demineralization (loss of minerals) of the teeth, as well as gum disease. These problems can be prevented by good oral hygiene and correct brushing technique. Other risks include root shortening and relapse.

Why do I need to wear retainers when my teeth are already straight and how long do I need to wear them?

Relapse refers to a condition whereby teeth always have a natural tendency to move back to their original position after braces treatment. Relapse can be prevented by wearing retainers to retain the teeth in the corrected position.

Generally, removable retainers are worn full time except eating and brushing teeth for 6-12 months, and subsequently night time wear. Everyone’s teeth will continue to move throughout life and the duration of how long you wear the retainers depend on how long you want your teeth to remain straight.

How much do braces cost?

The cost of braces will depend on a variety of factors one of which is the difficulty of your case. Also, the type of braces you will be wearing can influence the cost of treatment.

The range of orthodontic fees which clinics are charging can be found on the MOH website here.

Where can I get more information about braces?

Always consult your relevant dentist or orthodontist.

Article contributed by the Association of Orthodontists, Singapore

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