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Q & A

What is orthodontics?

When people think of orthodontics they most often think of braces, and straightening teeth but it is more than that. 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 specialist who has completed an advanced education program following dental school, to learn the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development. In general they do not provide general dentistry services like teeth cleaning and the filling of cavities.

How does orthodontic treatment work?

Braces use steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. 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. Invisalign works in much the same manner, however, instead of wires and brackets, it uses clear plastic "aligners" to straighten the teeth

What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?

Better function of the teeth
Increased ability to clean the teeth
Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
Better long-term health of teeth and gums
A more attractive smile

What are some signs that braces may be needed?

Upper front teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth, or are bucked
Upper front teeth cover the majority of the lower teeth when biting together (deep bite)
Upper front teeth are behind of inside the lower front teeth (under bite)
The upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together (open bite)
Crowded or overlapped teeth
Finger or thumb sucking habits which continue after six or seven years old
Difficulty chewing
Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
Space between the teeth

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 avoid surgery and more serious complications. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child first visit an orthodontist by the age of seven or earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist or the child's physician.

Seek treatment earlier than age seven if your child has:

Open-mouth breathing
Thumb or finger sucking
Overlapping or crowding of erupting permanent teeth
Jaws that click or pop
Biting of the cheek or into the roof of the mouth
Speech problems
Grinding or wearing down of teeth
Obvious abnormal bite development of any kind

Am I too old for orthodontics?

You are never too old for orthodontic aligning of the teeth. Adult orthodontics is the fastest growing area of orthodontic care in the United States. Treatment usually focuses on maintaining the teeth and correcting destructive/damaging wear of the teeth or gums. Cosmetic changes can still be accomplished and senior patients have chosen braces to get their "new" smile.

What is Phase I and Phase II orthodontic treatment?

Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment (i.e. expander or partial braces) before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Such treatment can occur between the ages of seven and eleven. This treatment is sometimes recommended to make more space for developing teeth, correction of crossbites, overbites, 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 (come in), usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average orthodontic treatment lasts 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 braces hurt?

The placement of bands and brackets on your teeth does not hurt. However once your braces are placed and connected with the archwires you may feel some discomfort or soreness of your teeth for one to four days. Your lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks to get used to the braces on your teeth.

Will braces interfere with playing musical instruments?

No. However, there may be an initial period of adjustment. In addition, brace covers can be provided to prevent discomfort.

Will braces interfere with playing sports?

No. It is recommended, however, that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouth guard when participating in any sporting activity. Mouth guards are inexpensive, comfortable, and come in a variety or colors and patterns.

Should I see my general dentist while I have braces?

Yes, you should continue to see your general dentist every six months for cleanings and dental checkups.

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