Malocclusion and Orthodontics: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation
Ceramic and metal braces


Malocclusion means your teeth and jaw do not line up right when you bite or chew. This can occur if you have extra or 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. Some types of malocclusion only affect your looks. But severe types can keep you from chewing or speaking normally.

A special dentist called an orthodontist can fix your bite. This may be done by removing teeth, applying braces or other appliances, or adjusting the jaw. This is much easier in children than in adults.

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 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 warm salt water.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

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

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor 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".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.