What Are Braces and How Do They Work?

Braces are orthodontic appliances that help move your teeth into proper alignment over time by applying gradual, consistent pressure. While the materials used to make them can vary depending on your treatment plan and preferences, braces typically consist of brackets that are bonded to your teeth and connected with an archwire. Your orthodontist will periodically adjust this archwire during check-ups to ensure your treatment stays on track.

Our practice offers several types of braces for our patients’ needs. We use cutting-edge 3M Unitek brackets, so you can always find the right fit for your smile.

What Is the Braces Treatment Process?

  1. The process of getting braces at Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics starts with a complimentary consultation, where we will examine your teeth, create digital models of your teeth and gum structure using our iTero scanner, and discuss your dental history. We use this information to craft a custom treatment plan designed for your smile.
  2. The next step is your braces fitting. Your orthodontist will place each bracket and then place the connective archwire between them. This process typically takes no more than an hour.
  3. During the treatment phase, you will need to visit us for periodic check-ups and braces adjustments. We will make necessary adjustments to your archwire based on your progress.
  4. Once you’ve completed treatment (the average braces treatment takes about 2 years), it will finally be time for your braces removal. This process is straightforward and painless.

The final step of the braces process is retention. We will fit you with a custom-made retainer that will help preserve your hard-earned results, and your investment of time and money.

What Conditions Can Braces Treat?

Braces are a tried and true solution for orthodontic treatment, and in certain cases, they may be the only viable option to treat more severe misalignments or other issues.

  • Open Bites

  • Gapped Teeth

  • Crowding

  • Overbites

  • Underbites

  • Crossbites

  • Tooth Position/Rotation

  • Intrusion and Extrusion

  • Midline Movement

Clarity Clear Braces in Minnetonka, Excelsior, and Wayzata

Clarity clear braces offer a comfortable and discreet option for braces treatment without sacrificing effectiveness. Made with a translucent, stain-resistant ceramic that blends in with your natural tooth color, the brackets on Clarity ceramic braces are smaller and smoother to help reduce any rubbing or irritation.

Clarity Clear Braces Treatment Time

Total treatment time with Clarity clear braces typically takes about 2 years, but that range will vary based on your specific orthodontic needs and goals. Your treatment may also be delayed if you don’t take good care of your braces. Ceramic brackets are slightly less durable than metal brackets, and if you break one, your braces won’t work as effectively until you are able to get it fixed.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Clarity Clear Braces?

The Pros of Clear Braces

  • Aesthetics: Clarity ceramic braces are tooth-colored and resistant to staining or discoloration, so they blend in naturally with your smile. This factor can boost the confidence of patients who may be feeling self-conscious about orthodontic treatment.
  • Effectiveness: Clear braces can treat more complex cases when compared to aligners. Patients wear them 24/7, so they help straighten teeth around the clock.
  • Balanced approach: For patients who want to balance aesthetics and speed of treatment, clear braces present a nice compromise because they combine the best features of metal braces and clear aligners. Plus, children get discreet treatment without worrying about them losing aligners and getting off track with their treatment.

The Cons of Clear Braces

  • Care requirements: Ceramic brackets are slightly less durable than metal ones, so patients must be diligent about taking care of their braces and avoiding sticky or hard foods that can damage them. While the ceramic brackets are stain resistant, the clear elastic bands used with these braces can become discolored if you consume certain foods or drinks.
  • Occasional, mild discomfort: When you first get your braces or have just seen your orthodontist for an adjustment, you may feel some mild soreness in the soft tissues of your mouth. This feeling should go away after a couple days.
  • Hygiene requirements: Braces make it a bit more difficult to properly care for your teeth, so it’s critical to brush and floss several times a day (many patients will do so after every meal). Patients can also purchase special types of floss designed to work better with braces.

3M Unitek Metal Braces in Minnetonka, Excelsior, and Wayzata

There’s a good reason why metal braces remain the most commonly used orthodontic appliance: They work (especially for complex cases) and offer the most control over tooth movement. At Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics, we use 3M Unitek metal braces, which are smaller and less visible than the clunky appliances of decades past, allowing patients to receive effective treatment without drawing too much unwanted attention.

How Long Does It Take for Traditional Metal Braces To Work?

This answer will largely depend on the specific details of your case, but we can treat the typical braces patient in about 2 years. Less severe cases could be wrapped up in less than a year, while more complex scenarios could take longer to resolve.

What Are The Pros and Cons of 3M Unitek Metal Braces?

The Pros of Metal Braces

  • Effectiveness: Metal braces are the most durable treatment option and work around the clock to straighten your teeth, unlike removable aligners. Sometimes, they are the only suitable option for severe or complex cases.
  • Personality: Metal braces are more noticeable than other treatment options, but they also present the perfect opportunity to express your personality, rep school colors, and more by choosing colored elastic bands that match your style.

The Cons of Metal Braces

  • Visibility: Older teens and adults may find metal braces less appealing because they are more noticeable than other treatment options.
  • Occasional, mild discomfort: When you first get your braces or have just seen your orthodontist for an adjustment, you may feel some mild soreness in the soft tissues of your mouth. This feeling should go away after a couple days.
  • Hygiene requirements: Braces make it a bit more difficult to properly care for your teeth, so it’s critical to brush and floss several times a day (many patients will do so after every meal). Patients can also purchase special types of floss designed to work better with braces.

Benefits of Braces for Teens

The best time to address orthodontic issues is typically when adult teeth have mostly emerged, but the teeth and jaw are still developing. For most patients, that time period is roughly between the ages of 10 and 14 years.

Not all teens are keen on the idea of wearing braces. Fortunately, modern braces are faster, gentler, and less noticeable than ever before, which makes braces treatment more palatable for many teens.

In addition to boosting self-esteem and growing confidence, braces provide multiple health benefits for teens. Properly aligned teeth are less prone to tooth decay and gum disease, and straightening teeth can help correct issues related to chewing, breathing, sleeping, and speech. If you’re interested in braces for teens in Minnetonka, Excelsior, or Wayzata, contact us today for a complimentary consultation!

Benefits of Braces for Adults

Think you’re maybe too old for braces? Not quite. Adults are embracing orthodontic treatment at unprecedented levels: In 2020, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) reported that one out of every three orthodontic patients was over the age of 18 – the highest levels for adult participation ever.

For many adults, aesthetic considerations are driving their choice to get braces. Properly aligned teeth can instill confidence in your appearance and elevate many aspects of your personal and professional life. Correcting misalignments can also help improve your overall oral health and reduce dental issues in the future. Finally, adults tend to make great orthodontic patients because they are invested in the process and will comply with guidelines to ensure the most efficient and effective braces treatment possible.

If you’re looking for braces for adults in Minnetonka, Excelsior, or Wayzata, reach out today to schedule your complimentary consultation!

Cleaning and Caring for Your Braces

What happens outside of our offices is just as important as the care you receive while you’re here. Properly caring for braces takes some patience, particularly while you get a handle on brushing and flossing with braces. Check out these helpful tips from the local experts at Lake Minnetonka Ortho:

How To Brush With Braces

Brushing your teeth is always important, but it becomes even more critical when you have braces. That’s because it’s much easier for food and plaque particles to get trapped under your braces (and harder for you to reach every spot when brushing). We recommend using an electric toothbrush or one with a soft head to access tougher spots. Make sure you hold your toothbrush at an angle and work from the gumline down to the tooth surface while brushing.

Flossing With Braces

First, it’s important to use waxed floss. Unwaxed floss can get caught in your braces. There are also several helpful tools (more on that in just a second) that can make this process easier. If you decide to approach it manually, we recommend trying this technique:

  1. Cut a piece of floss approximately 18-to-24 inches long.
  2. Thread the floss between the archwire and your teeth, and wrap the ends of the floss around your index fingers for better control.
  3. For each tooth pairing, gently slide the floss along the side of one tooth before sliding it in the opposite direction along the side of the other tooth.
  4. Gently unthread the floss from between your teeth and the archwire, and repeat this process for each tooth pairing until all teeth have been flossed.

Appliances for Cleaning Braces

There are several specialized tools to help you clean your braces and teeth more effectively, including:

Waterpik or
Oral Irrigator

Oral irrigators provide an excellent supplement (but not replacement) for regular flossing. This type of tool shoots high-pressure water streams into hard-to-reach nooks between your teeth, which helps remove bacteria, plaque, and food particles.


When you have food stuck in your braces, reaching it with a regular toothbrush can be a pain. This specialized brush is designed to fit into the back corners of your mouth so you can easily remove the offending item.


Flossing with braces requires an unusual technique (described just above this section) where you thread floss between teeth pairings, one by one. As the name implies, a floss threader makes it easier to thread the floss between your teeth and can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to floss with braces.


If your gums are particularly sensitive to traditional flossing, this special type of ultrathin, smooth floss can help. It’s used exactly the same way as regular floss, but it is thinner and wider, like a piece of tape or a ribbon.

What Foods Should You Avoid With Braces?

One necessary downside to wearing braces is that you will have to avoid certain foods, especially if they are hard, crunchy, or sticky. Examples include:

  • Hard nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Popcorn
  • Sticky candies
  • Raw vegetables and uncut fruits that are tough or fibrous
  • Crunchy or hard breads, corn chips, and similar products
  • Tougher meat cuts (just cut them up into smaller pieces before eating!)

Braces Alternatives

Invisalign clear aligners (sometimes called invisible braces) can be an attractive braces alternative. They are practically invisible and can be conveniently removed, allowing patients to generally eat and drink what they like.

If you’re considering a braces alternative, you’re in good hands at Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics! Our experts can treat almost any bite misalignment using clear aligners. We’re proud to be in the top 1% of Invisalign providers, and we’d love to give you a free consultation to evaluate if it might be a good fit for your needs

Get High-Quality Braces Treatment in Minnetonka, Excelsior, and Wayzata

With so many amazing ways to get the smile of your dreams, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed by your options. Whether you’re looking for metal braces, clear braces, or even a braces alternative, Lake Minnetonka Orthodontics is happy to help you find the perfect fit for your unique smile.

We take great pride in providing high-quality braces treatment to the communities that so many of our staff members grew up in. If you need braces in Minnetonka, Excelsior, or Wayzata, schedule your free consultation today!

Braces FAQs

Throughout your treatment, you can book your appointments at any of our three locations, in Minnetonka, Wayzata and Excelsior. So we’re always close by, and visiting us is always convenient.

In the first year after your braces come off, it will be important to visit us three times after your treatment is over. That will help us ensure your retainer is working properly and your teeth remain in optimal alignment. After that first year, we’ll work with you to determine a good cadence moving forward.

Yes, you can play instruments if you have braces. But like most big changes, there will be an adjustment period if it’s an instrument you play with your mouth. Using orthodontic wax will help protect your lips while playing. It’s also likely that you will need to adjust your embouchure (how your mouth, lips, and tongue are positioned while playing).

Your best bet is to call us and schedule an appointment! But until you can see us, follow these tips:

For a loose or broken bracket, you can get temporary relief from discomfort by applying orthodontic wax to the affected area. If a wire is broken or sticking out, you may attempt to get it back in place using a cotton swab or pencil eraser, but again, it’s best to see us for a comprehensive fix. With any of these problems, it also helps to regularly rinse your mouth with warm salt water or a similarly soothing liquid.

It’s common to experience a low level of soreness or pain when your braces are initially fitted and after your regular adjustments. Any trips/falls, sporting accidents, or other misadventures can also lead to your braces scraping or cutting soft tissues in your mouth.

While most patients find this discomfort tolerable, there are some methods that can help if you need relief:

Use an Ice Pack

Applying a cold pack to the outside of your mouth can help reduce inflammation and numb your mouth.

Eat Some Ice Cream

Doctor’s orders! In moderation, ice cream or popsicles can numb your mouth and reduce pain. We love the options at YoYo Doughnuts in Minnetonka, Adele’s Frozen Custard in Excelsior, and Ben & Jerry’s in Wayzata. Just make sure to brush your teeth after eating any sugary items!

Use a Heating Pad

If an ice pack or cold food items are not working, then using a heating pad on the outside of your mouth may offer some relief.

Rinse With Warm Salt Water

In addition to relieving discomfort, a warm saltwater rinse can help prevent infection. Just gargle and swish for about 60 seconds!

Give Your Gums a Massage

Rubbing your gums in a circular motion with your fingers can help reduce swelling and discomfort.

Take an Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever

If you start experiencing discomfort, taking an over-the-counter painkiller like Tylenol (paracetamol) or Advil (ibuprofen) can be a simple but effective solution.