Frequently Asked Questions About Orthodontics

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics (also referred to as dentofacial orthopedics) is a specialized form of dentistry focusing on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial abnormalities.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who has received two to three years of additional training and experience. Your orthodontist is able to straighten teeth, correct misaligned jaw structure, and improve the function of your smile.

What's the best age to visit the orthodontist?

If you want to improve the look and feel of your smile, then any age can be a great age to see the orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first visit an orthodontist around the age of seven; however, orthodontic treatment is not exclusive to children and teens, with about one in every five orthodontic patients being over the age of 21. Whether you're considering treatment for yourself or for a child, any time is a good time to visit the orthodontist.

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 toothpaste that contains fluoride, 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, make sure you brush your teeth, floss, and 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 soak it in denture cleaner as instructed by your orthodontist. Do not put your retainer in boiling water or in the dishwasher.
  • During your treatment, try to avoid foods with a lot of sugar, which 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.

What are braces?

Braces are used by your orthodontist to help you improve the look and feel of your smile. There are several different types of braces to choose from, including:

  • Clear braces
  • Ceramic braces
  • Lingual braces
  • Self-ligating braces
  • Invisible braces
  • Traditional metal braces

If I get braces, how long do I have to wear them?

The amount of time spent in braces will vary depending on the individual patient, because every smile responds differently to treatment. Treatment times can take anywhere between six and 30 months, but most standard treatments take about 22 months.

Do braces hurt?

Braces do not often hurt though you may feel a small amount of discomfort for a couple days as your teeth, gums, cheeks, and mouth get used to your new braces.

Do I need to brush my teeth more often if I have braces?

With braces, you should brush your teeth at least three times a day to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy and clean. Brushing regularly will help remove any food that may be caught between the braces. You should also floss daily to get in between your braces where your brush isn't able to reach. Your orthodontist can show you how to properly brush and floss once your braces are placed.

If I have braces, do I still need dental checkups every six months?

Yes! In fact, it's even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit their dentist regularly. With braces, food may be caught in places that your toothbrush can't reach. This causes bacteria to build up that can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Your dentist will work closely with your orthodontist to make sure that your teeth stay clean and healthy while wearing braces.

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 mouthguard to protect your braces or appliance.

What causes teeth to be “crowded” or “crooked”?

Crowded or “crooked” teeth are a very common orthodontic problem to have.  This typically occurs when there is not enough space or room in the mouth to accommodate all of the teeth.  It’s usually a combination of normal size teeth and smaller jaws OR larger size teeth and normal jaws. Crowding can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Common concerns that we often hear are “My teeth are too crooked,” or “I can’t floss because there’s no room to get between my teeth” and “I have a tooth behind the others.” During your initial consultation, we will evaluate the amount of crowding and any other problems that may exist. In addition, we will discuss several treatment options for correction. Depending on the severity of the case and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 12 to 30+ months.

What causes spaces or “gaps” between teeth?

Spaces or “gaps” between your teeth are a very common orthodontic problem to have. This typically occurs when there is more than adequate space or room in the mouth to accommodate all the teeth.  It’s usually a combination of normal size teeth and larger jaws OR smaller size teeth and normal jaws. Spacing can be classified as mild, moderate or excessive. Common concerns we often hear are “I want my gaps closed” and “I don’t like this space between my front teeth.” During your initial consultation, we will evaluate the amount of spacing and any other problems that may exist. In addition, we will discuss several treatment options for correction. Depending on the severity of the case and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 12 to 30+ months.

What is an overbite?

Overjet (aka overbite) and deep bites are common problems that many potential orthodontic patients are aware of. Overbites are identified when the upper teeth “protrude” over the lower teeth (outward and downward) to a certain degree. Common concerns that we often hear are “I want my overbite corrected,” or “My bottom teeth hit the roof of my mouth” and “I can’t see my bottom teeth when I bite down.” During your initial consultation, we will evaluate the cause and severity of the bite and any other problems that may exist. In addition, several treatment options will be discussed for correction. Depending on the severity of the case and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 18 to30+ months.

What is a crossbite?

Crossbites are common orthodontic problems that we see in both our younger and older patients. A crossbite can be identified when the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth in the front or in the back. Our younger patients with cross bites typically have a narrow upper dental arch, thus the relationship of how the upper and lower teeth fit together is improper. Crossbites in our older patients can be classified as mild, moderate or severe thus treatment options will vary. Please understand that this type of bite can affect both the back and front teeth. Common concerns that we often hear are “My teeth don’t fit right in the back” and “My dentist said I have a crossbite.” During initial consultation, we will evaluate the severity of the crossbite and any other problems that may exist. In addition, we will discuss several treatment options for correction. Depending on the severity of the case and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 18 to 30+ months.

What is an open bite?

While open bites are not one of the most common of problems, potential orthodontic patients and/or parents are definitely aware that it exists. Having an open bite in the front means that when you bite down and your back teeth are touching, there is a space or gap between your upper and lower teeth in the front. In other words, your front teeth do not touch or overlap as they should. Common concerns we often hear are “I have a big space between my teeth” and “I can’t bite into food from the front, I have to bite from the side.” During your initial consultation, we will evaluate the cause and severity of the open bite, and any other problems that may exist. In addition, several treatment options will be discussed for correction. Depending on the severity of the case and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 18 to 30+ months.

Why do teeth need to be extracted for orthodontic treatment?

Extracting or removing teeth becomes a treatment option for many orthodontic patients. While there are a number of reasons for us to recommend extracting teeth, it is often a good solution for correcting certain orthodontic problems. The most common reasons for extracting teeth (usually four teeth) are moderate to severe crowding (crooked teeth), protrusion of teeth and to improve facial profiles. Other bite corrections can be accomplished by extracting one or two teeth. Common concerns we often hear are “My teeth stick out too far” and “My teeth are too crooked.” During your initial consultation, we will discuss your orthodontic problems and advise. If we think you can benefit from this type of treatment, we will include it as a treatment option. Depending on the severity of the case and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 28 to 32+ months.

Can I get braces if I’m missing a tooth or teeth?

The answer is yes! Unfortunately, not everyone has a full set of permanent teeth. A missing tooth or teeth is actually a very common problem that we see. Some patients are missing a tooth because it never developed from birth (congenitally missing), while others have had a tooth/teeth extracted or removed for a number of different reasons. Common concerns we often hear are “My dentist told me that I am missing a permanent tooth” and “I want my teeth lined up so I can get some bridge work or implants.” If a single tooth or teeth are missing in our younger patients, treatment options to close the space will be discussed. When multiple teeth are missing in our adult patients, our goal is to align all of the remaining teeth in their most ideal position and hold the spaces where the teeth are missing. Once the braces are removed, bridges or implants will be recommended to give you a full complement of teeth. Depending on the complexity of the case and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 18 to 30+ months.

What is an impacted tooth?

An impacted tooth is a tooth that is usually permanent and has not successfully erupted into the mouth. This situation can occur for a number of reasons. The most common cause is crowding. This means that there is not adequate space or room for the tooth, thus leaving it blocked out of the arch. Secondly, a tooth may erupt in an unfavorable direction, thus causing an impaction. While wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the most likely to become impacted, canines are also quite common. In fact, individuals that present to their dentist with an impacted canine or any other impacted tooth/teeth are usually referred to an orthodontist for evaluation and treatment. Common concerns that we often hear are “I’ve got a tooth up in my gums that won’t come in” and “My dentist said that I have an impacted tooth.” During your initial consultation, we will evaluate any impacted tooth/teeth and any other problems that may exist. In addition, several treatment options will be discussed for correction. Depending on the severity of the impaction(s) and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 18 to 30+ months.

What is the purpose of surgical jaw correction?

The purpose of orthognathic surgery is to correct functional and esthetic problems that are due to underlying skeletal deformities. Surgical jaw correction is needed if a patient has a skeletal problem or discrepancy that is not likely to be corrected by orthodontic tooth movement alone. These are abnormalities of the facial bones, specifically the jaw and associated teeth. Common concerns that we often hear are “I have a severe overbite and my teeth don’t line up” and “I have a bad underbite.” If we diagnose you or your child with a skeletal problem during your initial consultation, several treatment options will be discussed. A collective decision will be made for the type of treatment that best suites your needs. Depending on the severity of the case and the treatment plan of choice, estimated treatment times can last from 24 to 36+ months.

How do I schedule my next appointment?

Simply call our practice! Our front desk staff will be happy to help schedule your next appointment at your convenience. If you are a new patient or have been referred to our practice, please let us know and we will provide you with all of the information you need.

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