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Orthodontic FAQs

FAQs

An attractive smile and improved self-image are just two of the benefits of orthodontic treatment. Alleviating and preventing physical health problems is just as important. Without treatment, orthodontic problems can lead to gum disease or bone loss, tooth decay, chewing and digestive problems, speech impairments, tooth loss or excess wearing down of the teeth, and other dental injuries.
Teeth, and sometimes entire facial structures, are permanently changed by orthodontic treatment. It is important that the treatment be appropriate and properly completed. All orthodontists are dentists however only 6% of dentists are orthodontists. Orthodontists attended an additional two to three years of a residency after dental school to specialize in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. How do you know that your doctor is an orthodontist? Only orthodontists can belong to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). General dentists that have not completed this additional residency and work with orthodontic appliances are not able to be members of the AAO.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic screening at age 7. By this age, several permanent teeth in most children have erupted, allowing us to effectively evaluate your orthodontic condition.
Simply call our office and we will be happy to schedule an appointment for you. When you call, one member of our front office staff will request some basic information from you so that we may most effectively begin to take care of your orthodontic needs.
No, it is not. Many of our patients are referred by their family dentists, yet many other patients take the initiative to schedule an examination themselves. Orthodontic insurance coverage will not be affected by how you become a patient in our office.
Upon arriving, each patient (and accompanying parent/guardian) will be seen by the treatment coordinator who will familiarize you with our office. The patient will have the recommended X-rays taken to allow the doctor to make a proper diagnosis and treatment recommendation following a brief, but thorough clinical examination.
There are five essential questions that we will cover during the initial examination:

1. Is there an orthodontic problem, and if so, what is it?
2. What must be done to correct the problem?
3. What are some different treatment options available and what are the pros and cons of each?
4. How long will the treatment take to complete?
5. How much will the treatment cost and what financing options are available?

It is impossible to give an exact cost for treatment until we have examined you or your child. We will cover the total cost and the financing options available during the initial consultation. We have many financing options available to accommodate your needs, and we will review these with you. If you have insurance, we will review your benefit for you.
Treatment time obviously depends on each patient’s specific orthodontic problem(s). In general, treatment times range from 12 months to 30 months (although very minor problems can often be completed in fewer than 12 months.) The “average” time frame a person is in full braces is approximately 20 months.
Removing teeth is sometimes required to achieve the best orthodontic result. Straight teeth, a functional bite, and a balanced facial profile are the goals of orthodontic treatment. With all of the technological and scientific advancements in orthodontics in recent years, often the removal of teeth can be avoided. We will determine the specific recommendations for you after a thorough evaluation of you and your orthodontic records.
Orthodontic records are comprised of facial and dental digital photographs, digital X-rays, and plaster models of your teeth. These records provide the working data from which the doctors can analyze your individual orthodontic needs and develop a thorough treatment plan to achieve the desired results.
Appointments are scheduled according to each patient’s needs and at what point in treatment the patient has reached. Most patients in braces will be seen every 8-10 weeks for the majority of their treatment and on a shorter interval (5-6 weeks) as needed to finish up the braces. If there are specific situations that require more frequent monitoring, we will schedule appointments accordingly.
Unfortunately, we cannot schedule all appointments for students during after-school hours. However, because most appointments are scheduled 8-10 weeks apart, most patients will miss minimal school due to their orthodontic treatment. We will, nevertheless, make a sincere effort to meet your scheduling needs.
The bands or brackets that are attached to the teeth during treatment are what hold archwires in place in the mouth. It is the archwires that apply force to each tooth that causes the teeth to move in specific directions. Precisely shaping the archwire or placing bends in the archwires are how individual forces are applied to each tooth or groups of teeth. As a tooth moves, bone gives way on one side and fills in on the other, much like moving a stick through sand. Elastics, or rubber bands, are frequently used to help in completing movements of the teeth that archwires alone cannot accomplish.
Generally, braces do not “hurt.” After certain visits, teeth may be sore for a few days, particularly right after getting the braces placed initially. In these situations, over the counter pain medications such as Advil® or Tylenol® will ease the discomfort. After most visits, patients do not feel any soreness at all.
Usually not. The space available for the front teeth does not increase as you grow. In fact, most of the time, after the permanent molars erupt, the space available for the front teeth decreases with age. In addition, facial and jaw growth usually continue the existing pattern and tend not to change on their own without orthodontic or orthopedic intervention.
  • Early or late loss of individual baby teeth
  • Difficulty chewing or biting into food
  • Crowded, poorly positioned or blocked out teeth
  • Frequently biting the cheeks, lips or the roof of the mouth
  • Teeth that do not meet at all
  • Finger-sucking or thumb-sucking habits
  • Jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the face
Yes. Once treatment begins, we will explain the complete instructions and provide a comprehensive list of foods to avoid. Some of those foods include: ice, hard or sticky candy and gum. You can avoid most emergency (comfort) appointments to repair broken braces by carefully following our instructions.
Yes. We recommend wearing a mouth guard to protect your teeth, especially when playing contact sports.
Patients should brush their teeth at least three times a day—in the morning following breakfast, after school or after lunch and before going to bed. It is also strongly urged that you floss all of your teeth at least once a day. We will review how effective your brushing and flossing is at every orthodontic appointment.
YES! Regular checkups with your family dentist are very important while in braces. Your family dentist will determine the recommended intervals between cleaning appointments while you are in braces.
Yes. Some orthodontic problems are significant enough to require early intervention. However, if a patient is not yet ready for treatment, we will follow that patient’s growth and development until the time is right for treatment to begin.
Phase 1 treatment, if necessary, is usually initiated on children between the ages of 7 and 10. Phase 1 treatment lasts about 12-14 months. The primary objective of Phase 1 treatment is to address significant problems to prevent them from becoming more severe and to steer the patient’s skeletal and/or dental development onto the right path.
At the completion of the initial examination, we will determine whether a patient will need an expander. An expander is indicated where there is a discrepancy in the width of the upper jaw that is contributing to crowding, crossbite(s) or impaction of permanent teeth.
No. Only certain bite or eruption problems require early orthodontic treatment. The most critical problems that should be started with treatment early are underbites and significantly constricted (narrow) arch forms. The problems of each patient must be assessed individually to determine the specific treatment options and the appropriate timing of the treatment.
It is best to assume that your child will need full braces after Phase 1 treatment. After the permanent teeth have erupted, treatment usually is necessary to complete the work that was started in the early phase. The period following the Phase 1 treatment is called the “resting” or “supervision” period, during which growth and tooth eruption are closely monitored. Throughout this period, patients and parents will be kept informed of future treatment recommendations.
Phase 2 treatment (the final stage involving active tooth movement and bite correction) involves the use of braces on all of the adult teeth to guide them into their most optimal positions. Esthetics, function and stability of the final tooth positions are all key components in determining each patient’s treatment plan.
Orthodontic treatment can be started at any age. A growing number of our patients are adults and nationwide 25% of all orthodontic patients are adults! No one is ever too old to have orthodontic treatment.
Yes, you can. A tooth with a crown or root canal will move just like a tooth with a simple filling. When teeth are missing, orthodontic treatment will aid in the alignment of the remaining teeth to prepare for restoration of the missing teeth.
The treatment time to correct a patient’s overall malocclusion is only an estimate. Patients grow at different rates and respond uniquely to orthodontic treatment. Patient cooperation, however, is the single best way to keep the treatment progressing so as to finish on time! Patients who cooperate well with wearing rubber bands or other appliances as directed, keep their teeth clean and take care not to damage their braces, will see the fastest treatment results.
If your braces are causing extreme pain or if something breaks, you should call our office as soon as possible. In many cases, we can address these issues over the telephone. If necessary, we will schedule a “comfort” appointment to have you come in to take care of the problem at the office. If you have a broken bracket or band and your next regular appointment is coming up in the next week or so, you should still call the office, for we may be able to just add extra time for the repair to your regular appointment (if there is no current discomfort.) If in doubt, it is best to call us to verify what the repair plan will be.
A retainer is a device that is usually removable and is worn after the braces are finished. The retainer is designed to prevent your teeth from shifting out of their final positions while the bone around your teeth stabilizes. The positions of the teeth are constantly affected by lip, tongue and chewing forces and therefore wearing retainers is the only sure way to prevent unwanted shifting of the teeth. We usually recommend full-time wear (24-hours) of the retainers for six months once the braces are removed, then one can go to just wearing the retainers while sleeping.