We answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
- What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.
- What is an orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a dentist who has specialized in orthodontics, that specific area of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. An orthodontist learns the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development.
To become an orthodontist, a dentist must return to school to attend a 2-3 year full time residency program of advanced education in orthodontics accredited by the American Dental Association.
- What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?
- A more attractive smile
- Better function of the teeth
- Reduced appearance-consciousness / Possible increase in self-confidence
- Increased ability to clean the teeth
- Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
- Better long-term health of teeth and gums
- Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
- Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
- Aids in optimizing other dental treatment
- What are signs that orthodontic treatment may be needed?
- Upper front teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth (bucked)
- Upper front teeth cover the majority of the lower teeth when biting together (deep bite)
- Upper front teeth are behind or inside the lower front teeth (underbite)
- The upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together (open bite)
- Crowded or overlapped teeth
- Spaces between the teeth
- The center of the upper and lower teeth do not line up
- Finger- or thumb-sucking habits which continue after six or seven years old
- Difficulty chewing
- Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
- The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting together
- At what age should orthodontic treatment occur?
Orthodontic treatment can be started at any age. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected at an early age before jaw growth has slowed.
Early treatment may mean that a patient can reduce time and complexity of later treatment and perhaps avoid more serious complications or even surgery.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child first visit an orthodontist by age 7 for a routine screening.
- At what age should Phase I and Phase II treatment occur?
Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment (e.g., expander or partial braces) before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Such treatment can occur between the ages of six and ten. This treatment is sometimes recommended to make more space for developing teeth, correction of crossbites, overbites, and underbites, or harmful oral habits.
Phase II treatment is also called comprehensive treatment because it involves full braces when all of the permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen.
- Would an adult patient benefit from orthodontics?
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age. Everyone wants a beautiful and healthy smile. 20% to 25% of orthodontic patients today are adults.
- What is the oldest that you can be and still have your teeth straightened?
There really is no upper limit! As long as your teeth and gums are healthy, orthodontic treatment is possible.
- How does orthodontic treatment work?
Braces or removable appliances use steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. With braces, the brackets that are placed on your teeth and the archwire that connects them are the main components.
When the archwire is placed into the brackets, it tries to return to its original shape. As it does so, it applies pressure to move your teeth to their new, more ideal positions. With removable appliances, the plastic or wire will rest on the teeth and apply mild pressure to produce the movement.
- How long does orthodontic treatment take?
Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by rate of growth and severity of the correction necessary. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments are important in keeping treatment time on schedule.
- Do I need a referral from my dentist to see the orthodontist?
No. If you have concerns about your smile or your bite, please call our office and we will schedule a consultation. At that appointment, we can address your concerns, identify problems with your teeth alignment and make suggestions for correction.
However, it is very important that we work together with your family dentist to achieve our goals. We will need to ensure that you have had a recent exam and cleaning and that all necessary dental work is up to date, before any braces are placed or other treatment is started.
- How long do I have to wear braces?
There are many factors that determine how long you will need to wear your braces. In generally, the more difficult your problem, the longer your treatment will take, but most cases finish in 18-24 months. The time usually goes fairly fast and at the end of that time, you have a beautiful smile and a healthy bite to show for your effort.
You can have a significant impact on how long your treatment takes by avoiding breakage of your braces, following our instructions carefully, and attending all of your appointments.
- Will it hurt?
Braces do not often hurt; however, you may feel a small amount of discomfort for a couple days as your teeth, gums, cheeks, and mouth gets used to your new braces. The placement of orthodontic appliances on your teeth does not hurt. Once the wire and brackets are placed, you may later feel some soreness of your teeth for the next one to two days.
A great way to minimize this discomfort is to take ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin are two popular examples) about an hour or so before placement of separators, braces, or wire changes. Usually, any discomfort is short lived. Your lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks to get used to the braces as well.
- Will my braces interfere with my school activities; like sports, playing an instrument, or singing?
Playing an instrument or a contact sport may require some adjustment when you first get your braces, but wearing braces will not stop you from participating in any of your school activities. If you play a contact sport, it is recommended that you wear a mouth guard to protect your braces or appliance. In addition, brace covers can be provided to prevent discomfort.
- Do I need to see my dentist during my orthodontic treatment?
Absolutely! It is very important that you see your dentist at least every six months while you have braces on so that you can be checked for cavities and to have your teeth cleaned. For some patients, we recommend even more frequent cleanings.
- How can I take care of my teeth if I’m wearing braces or a retainer?
- ALWAYS remember to brush your teeth after every meal and floss at least once a day.
- Make sure to use fluoridated toothpaste and ask your orthodontist or family dentist if you need a fluoride rinse. This will help prevent cavities!
- If you take out your retainer to eat, brush your teeth, and floss, then remember to keep it safe in its container so that it does not get lost or broken.
- Keep your retainer clean, too, by brushing it gently with a toothbrush and toothpaste. You may also use denture cleaner once a week. Do not use hot, boiling water or the dishwasher.
- During your treatment, try to avoid foods with a lot of sugar (sugar increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth causing more plaque and possibly cavities).
- Avoid sticky and chewy foods (caramel, chewing gum, gummy bears), hard foods (hard candy, nuts, ice cubes) or any foods that could possibly get stuck in your braces (corn on the cob, soft bagels, ribs, taffy, etc). Be sure to schedule your routine checkups with your family dentist. It is recommended that you continue to visit the dentist every six months.