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F.A.Q.s

What is orthodontics/orthodontist?

Orthodontics is a specialty branch of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Braces are appliances normally used by your orthodontist to correct these problems.

Orthodontists are qualified dentists, who after graduating from dental school, go on to additional full-time university-based education in an accredited orthodontic residency program supervised by orthodontists. That training lasts at least two to three academic years—sometimes more. By learning about tooth movement (orthodontics) and guidance of facial development (dentofacial orthopedics), orthodontists are the uniquely educated experts in dentistry to straighten teeth and align jaws.

Orthodontists diagnose, prevent and treat dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists limit their practices to orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. That means that orthodontic treatment is what they do, and that is all they do. Orthodontists treat a wide variety of malocclusions (misaligned aligned teeth and/or jaws). They regularly treat young children, teens and adults.

Why is orthodontics important?

An attractive smile and improved self-image are just two of the benefits of orthodontic treatment. Without treatment, orthodontic problems can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, bone destruction, chewing and digestive difficulties, speech impairments, tooth loss and other dental injuries. Ask your orthodontist.

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 age seven or earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist or the child’s physician.

What is a malocclusion?

Malocclusion literally means bad bite. Most malocclusions are inherited, however, it is possible to acquire a bad bite from habits such as tongue thrusting and thumb sucking. The premature loss of baby teeth or the extraction of adult teeth can also cause the development of malocclusion.

What are some early warning signs of a bite problem?

Early warning signs of a bite problem include early or late loss of primary teeth; difficulty in chewing or biting; mouth breathing; finger sucking or other oral habits beyond age five; overlapped, misplaced or blocked-out teeth; protruding teeth; biting the cheek or into the roof of the mouth; teeth that meet in an abnormal manner or do not meet at all; jaws that shift or make sounds; jaws that protrude, retrude or contribute to facial imbalance; speech difficulty.

How are teeth moved?

Teeth respond to the gentle forces that are applied to them. “Braces” are a combination of “brackets” and “wires”. Brackets are the part of the braces that attach to the teeth. Brackets are the “handles” that help control movement of the teeth. Braces require a wire called an “archwire” that connects the brackets and provides the forces to steer the teeth in the proper direction. It’s actually the wires that move teeth. The interaction of brackets and archwires enables the orthodontist to have three-dimensional control over the movement of the teeth. In many cases, additional forces are needed to help balance the underlying jaw structure and to help the upper and lower teeth fit properly together to make the bite right.

Are there different types of braces?

Braces differ from one another in many ways. How they attach to the teeth varies. Most attach on the cheek side of the teeth, while some attach on the tongue side. These are called “lingual” braces.

Braces vary in appearance. Some braces are clear, nearly invisible, while others are made of stainless steel and may or may not have colored elastics around them. All braces are designed to enable the orthodontist to move teeth in three dimensions. The mechanics or techniques used for moving teeth vary as well. Talk with your orthodontist about his or her approach to orthodontic treatment.

What are the benefits of braces?

Most people find the number one benefit of braces to be a beautiful smile. Having a pleasing smile improves self-esteem, confidence and a feeling of acceptance in our daily activities. Having straight teeth that fit together properly improves function and your teeth and jaw joints can work more effectively. Straight teeth make it easier for you and your dental team to keep them clean. If you ever need a filling, crown or bridge, your dentist can usually do better restoration if the teeth are aligned properly. The appearance of teeth and face is improved.

How do I take care of my braces?

Extra time is needed with toothbrushing to make sure that all areas around the braces have been cleaned properly. Specialized brush tips are available to help get in between the braces and under the wires. Floss-threaders are helpful in passing floss under archwires to facilitate flossing of the teeth. Oral irrigators are often helpful to dislodge food debris from around the teeth. Over-the-counter mouth rinses can be used in conjunction with oral irrigators to help reduce the level of bacteria around the teeth.

The goal is to remove plaque from around the teeth and gums. It is the bacteria in plaque that is responsible for causing inflamed gum tissue (gingivitis) , permanent scarring of enamel (decalcification) , as well as tooth decay. Remember, braces don’t cause these problems, they just make cleaning the teeth more difva headache)

Will braces hurt?

Most patients experience some discomfort the first week after their braces are put on and immediately after their braces are tightened. Aspirin, non-aspirin pain reliever or ibuprofen can be used to ease the discomfort.

What can I eat with braces?

Most foods can be enjoyed just as before you got your braces. Hard, crunchy and sticky foods can damage braces and should be avoided.

What about the wisdom teeth (third molars) - should they be removed?

In about three out of four cases where teeth have not been removed during orthodontic treatment, there are good reasons to have the wisdom teeth removed, usually when a person reaches his or her mid- to late- teen years. Your orthodontist, in consultation with your family dentist, can determine what is right for you.

How long will I have to undergo orthodontic treatment?

It will vary for each patient and always depends on how much your jaw needs to change and how far your teeth must move.

Why are retainers needed after orthodontic treatment?

After braces are removed, teeth can shift out of position if they are not stabilized. Retainers provide that stabilization and are designed to hold teeth in their corrected, ideal positions until the bones and gums adapt to the treatment changes. Wearing retainers exactly as instructed is the best insurance that the treatment improvements last for a lifetime.

What happens at my first visit?

This is a time for orthodontists to listen to patient concerns and to provide an orthodontic examination. The orthodontist will likely be able to indicate whether or not treatment is needed and if needed, when the best time to start treatment would be. Typical steps prior to beginning treatment include gathering orthodontic records to provide specific information to tailor a treatment plan for that patient.

When should I begin treatment?

Most dentist recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist no later than age seven. Although only a few orthodontic problems need to be corrected at that age, an early exam allows the orthodontist to offer advice and guidance as to when the appropriate age to start treatment would be. Let your orthodontist guide you as to when to start treatment. Feel free to ask questions about the timing of treatment.

What are the stages of treatment?

Generally, there are two or three stages of orthodontic treatment. Most patients will benefit from an active corrective stage followed by a retention stage. Some patients will benefit from two active treatment stages often referred to as two-phase treatment. The goals of each stage should be discussed with the orthodontist so that patients and/or parents have realistic expectations.

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