Is there such a thing as a typical adjustment and do you go to ‘get your braces tightened’? To date, I have had nineteen adjustments since getting braces and although there have been some similarities between visits, each one has been different.
Lets start by looking at the myth that adjustment appointments are to ‘tighten your braces’. For me, this conjures up visions of some contraption attached to your braces that is slowly cranked to pull your teeth into alignment which is far from what actually happens. Sometimes archwires are replaced with less flexible ones or elastics are placed that exert additional forces on the brackets that cause them to move along an archwire or the archwire is bent to make fine adjustments to certain teeth, all of which can lead to some sensitivity or soreness for a few days after the adjustment and can make it feel like your braces are ‘tighter’. This tightness soon dissapears and you feel as though your brace is not working even though it is still moving your teeth into their new positions in the weeks between adjustments.
So what happens at a typical adjustment? In the practice I attend, one of the therapists starts by having a chat about how I’m getting on and asks about any concerns I may have. They then remove the modules (little coloured elastic o-rings that attach the archwire to the brackets) and any elastic chains (often called powerchains). At some appointments the archwires are removed but as I’m at the refinement stage, are often left in place for the orthodontist to remove and adjust as required. The orthodontist then attends and we generally have a good chat about progress and next steps. Depending on what needs to be done, he may undertake the work himself or may direct the therapist to do this on his behalf. There are certain tasks that only the orthodontist can perform and this includes IPR (creating space between teeth by shaving a small amount of enamel) and placing bends in the archwire.
Each adjustment usually took around 20 minutes and at no point did I ever feel uncomfortable or uncertain about what was happening. You will probably find that many of the staff at the practice are there throughout the duration of your treatment and you will get to know them extremely well. This often meant we chatted through and beyond the appointment about many topics including family, travel, holidays and work. This made each visit a relaxing and pleasant experience and one where I felt warmly welcomed and valued as a patient.
Depending on the practice you attend, you may find your orthodontist undertaking all the work themselves or may direct one of the therapists to perform certain tasks. It is also worth recognising the work the orthodontic nurses undertake during your visit and although they may not be directly involved in your treatment, will have been working behind the scenes to assist with the smooth running of your appointment.
So that’s a typical adjustment for me. I have found the whole process fascinating and have taken every opportunity to become involved in my treatment and often asked questions to clarify my understanding of what was happening. For example, when my orthodontist mentioned that he was considering IPR at a future visit, I spent some time finding out about what this involved and any risks with the procedure so that at the next visit I was able to raise any questions I had. In doing so, I have built up a great relationship with all the staff and felt very much included in the whole process.