What colors and styles do braces come in?

The Patient's Role in Dental Work

Orthodontic work is no magic carpet ride to a lifetime of good dental health and pearly white smiles. To be blunt, braces are not a "set it and forget it" proposition. For any orthodontic treatment to be successful, the patient needs to be a fully vested partner in the process.

Braces, said Chidsey, are "very effective. But they're not as effective without complete patient compliance."

Patients (or their parents) have to be vigilant about keeping follow-up appointments, practicing good dental hygiene (brushing and flossing) as often as possible and faithfully wearing retainers and head gear between visits to the orthodontist.

"Even food choices can be tricky," said Chidsey. "It's not easy giving up popcorn."

If you're getting braces, be ready to sacrifice foods that are hard, sticky and sweet. Some might surprise you. Foods (or food products) that orthodontists recommend their patients avoid include corn on the cob, caramel candy, bubblegum, pretzels and other "hard" chips and snacks, ice, beef jerky, apples, raw carrots and hard rolls, such as bagels or tough pizza crust [source: Parenthood]. Foods like chicken wings and barbecued ribs are permitted only if the meat is removed from the bone first. Hard candy -- a staple in most teenagers' diets -- is a double whammy, since its density is an accident waiting to happen for both braces and tooth enamel, and its sugar content feeds the bacteria that cause cavities.

Adhering to the doctor's orders can be a daunting task, especially when you consider that most treatment periods last an average of 24 months. That's a long-term commitment and might seem like a lifetime to the average teenager. But the reality is that while the orthodontist can provide a set of braces and a detailed game plan, having a patient who will dutifully follow that game plan is essential to the long-term success of the treatment.

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