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Malocclusion and Orthodontics: Care Instructions

Ceramic and metal braces

Your Care Instructions

Malocclusion is a problem that causes your teeth and jaw to not line up right when you bite or chew. Examples include extra teeth, missing teeth, crooked teeth, or an overbite. It can also happen when the upper and lower jaws grow at different rates. This causes the jaws to not match each other as they should. Malocclusion is treated by a special dentist called an orthodontist. Some types of malocclusion only affect your looks. But severe types can keep you from chewing or speaking normally.

Orthodontists fix your bite by removing teeth, applying braces or other appliances, or adjusting the jaw. This is much easier in children than in adults. In adults, braces can straighten crooked teeth caused by a jaw problem. If you're an adult and your jaw needs adjusting, this is done with surgery.

Traditional braces are silver wires held on to the teeth with a wide silver band. Newer types of braces also are available. Some use clear plastic instead of silver wires. Others attach to the back of your teeth. Invisalign braces are made of clear plastic that is moulded to fit your teeth.

After braces are removed, teeth may move back to where they started. After treatment, you may need to wear a retainer for years to keep your teeth straight. You can stop wearing it when the bone gets hard next to the teeth.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If braces cause pain, take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Get regular dental care. Brush and floss your teeth every day. Your dentist can give you a special tool to help you floss teeth that have braces.
  • Do not eat sticky food or food that can get caught in your teeth, such as gum, taffy, and nuts.
  • Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. It can help keep your teeth strong.
  • Keep orthodontic wax handy. If you have a wire or bracket that is poking you, roll a piece of wax into a ball and press it onto the part that is causing the problem.
  • Use a pencil eraser to press a broken wire toward your teeth.
  • To help a cut in your mouth heal, rinse your mouth with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of warm water.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worsening pain.
  • Any part of your braces or appliance breaks.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter U945 in the search box to learn more about "Malocclusion and Orthodontics: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.