1. What is Orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. These irregularities can be in the form of a bad bite, poor smile cosmetics and/or imbalance of facial features.

2. Why is Orthodontics important?

An attractive smile and improved self-image is just one of the benefits of orthodontic treatment. Preventing and alleviating oral health problems is just as important. Without treatment, orthodontic problems can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, chewing and digestive difficulties, speech impairment, and increased tooth wear.

3. At what age should a child be seen by an orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child have an orthodontic examination by the age of 7. Not all children need treatment at this age, but early detection of some orthodontic problems is important in order to take early corrective action and avoid more difficult treatment later. Early treatment can reduce the need for permanent removal of teeth or future jaw surgery in many cases.

4. Do I need a referral from my general dentist to be seen by an orthodontist?

No. You may seek orthodontic evaluation at any time you wish. We will provide your dentist with a report of our orthodontic findings and recommendations. It is likely we already have a working relationship with your dentist.

5. What is Early Interceptive (Phase 1) Treatment?

The goal of Phase 1 treatment is to intercept a moderate or severe orthodontic problem early to reduce its severity. In many cases where early orthodontic treatment is recommended, the immediate objective will be one of the following:

  • To correct skeletal jaw imbalances
  • To manage crowding and reduce the chance of permanent tooth extraction
  • To prevent injury to protruded front teeth
  • To eliminate damaging oral habits
  • To improve the smile and self confidence

6. Does everyone need Early Interceptive (Phase 1) Treatment?

Absolutely not. Only certain patients require early intervention. Many patients can wait until most or all of their permanent teeth erupt. If you are uncertain whether your child would be a candidate for early treatment, please make a complimentary examination appointment so that we can evaluate their individual situation.

7. What is the length of Early Interceptive (Phase 1) Treatment?

Typically Phase 1 Treatment takes 6 to 16 months depending on the severity of the problem, the degree of correction needed, and the patient's cooperation.

8. If my child has Phase 1 treatment, will additional treatment be necessary?

In most cases, yes. Early treatment is for interception of moderate to severe problems that are best corrected at an earlier stage of development. Further treatment (Phase 2) is often needed once all the permanent teeth have erupted to place the teeth in positions of optimal function, comfort, esthetics, and long-term stability.

9. What about adult treatment?

The number of adults seeking orthodontics has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. In our practice, about 30% of our patients are adults. We commonly treat patients in their 20's, 30's, and 40's, and have even treated many patients in their 50's and 60's. Today, many adults are correcting problems that they did not have the opportunity to correct when they were younger, and can now experience the satisfaction of a great smile.

10. What causes a malocclusion or bad bite?

Malocclusions are inherited (genetic) or acquired (developed after birth).

Inherited problems include:

  • Discrepancy between the size of the jaws and the size of the teeth, resulting in crowding and spacing
  • Extra or missing teeth
  • Jaw growth imbalances where one jaw is longer or shorter in relation to the other jaw

Acquired problems include:

  • Premature loss of primary or permanent teeth with resulting space loss and/or drifting teeth
  • Thumb or finger sucking or tongue thrusting or other harmful habits
  • Breathing problems caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids or airway restriction

11. How does orthodontics work?

The fixed orthodontic appliance consists of brackets that are placed in an ideal position on each tooth and an archwire that is connected to the brackets. The brackets are like handles on the teeth and the archwire provides the gentle force that causes the teeth to move into the desired position. Elastics, headgears, expanders, and other auxiliary appliances are also used to move the teeth. We try to use light forces whenever possible to reduce the discomfort involved with orthodontics. We also find that teeth actually move faster with lighter forces since a better blood supply is maintained to the teeth.

12. Will additional growth allow for self-correction of crowded teeth or other problems?

Usually not. The jaws grow from the back to allow for the eruption of the 12-year molars and wisdom teeth. The jaws do not grow or widen in the front on their own. In most children, the available space decreases as the larger permanent teeth erupt. Orthodontic problems usually become worse when left untreated in both children and adults. Treatment by an orthodontist to correct bite problems will often help prevent the development of more severe dental problems that can develop later in life.

13. Can I still play sports and/or musical instruments while in braces?

Yes! We will provide you with a mouthgaurd for all sports. If you play a wind instrument, we will provide you with a plastic lip protector that works very well to cushion your lips from your braces.

14. Should I go to my general dentist while my braces are on?

Yes. It is important to continue regular dental care during orthodontic treatment. Some patients may be asked to see their dentist more frequently for cleanings during orthodontic treatment.

15. Do braces hurt?

Most patients experience some discomfort with the spacers and during the first few days after their braces are put on. After some visits, the teeth may be sore for a few days. In these situations pain medications, such as Ibuprofen(Advil) or Tylenol may be used. Many patients will experience little or no soreness after adjustments. We often remind our patients that it does not have to hurt to work.

16. Do you give shots?

No. There are no shots needed in orthodontic treatment. We don't even have a needle in the office.

17. How often will I have appointments?

Appointments are scheduled according to each individual patient's needs. Most patients are seen every 6-8 weeks after their braces have initially been placed. Some specific situations will require more frequent appointments especially during the early stages of treatment and during the fine tuning of the bite at the end of treatment.

18. Why does orthodontic treatment sometimes last longer than anticipated?

Estimated treatment times are based on the average rate of tooth movement for that age of patient. Some patients teeth move at faster rate than others and patients may respond differently to orthodontic forces. Also the rate of skeletal growth will vary for our growing patients which could affect the rate of orthodontic correction. Patient cooperation, however, is the single best predictor of staying on schedule during treatment. Patients who cooperate by keeping their appointments, avoiding damage to the appliances by following the food list, and by wearing rubber bands or other prescribed appliances will usually finish on time with excellent results.

19. Why are retainers needed after orthodontic treatment?

Teeth have a tendency to move throughout your life. After braces are removed teeth can shift out of position if they are not stabilized. This is most commonly seen in the lower, front teeth. Retainers provide stabilization and a permanent lower retainer wires cemented behind the lower front teeth is often used to prevent movement. Wearing retainers exactly as prescribed is the best insurance that the teeth will stay straight.