What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental irregularities. Orthodontics is devoted to building beautiful smiles by bringing teeth, lips, and jaws into proper alignment. Straight teeth function better, are easier to clean, and are more likely to last your lifetime.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a specialist who has completed an additional 2-3 years in an advanced education program following dental school to learn the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development.

What are some benefits of orthodontics?

  • A more attractive smile
  • Better function of your teeth
  • Increase in self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Increased ability to clean your teeth
  • Improved force distribution and wear patterns of your teeth
  • Better long-term health of your teeth and gums
  • Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
  • Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
  • Aid in optimizing other dental treatment
  • Reduced self-consciousness during critical developmental years

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 or inside the lower front teeth (underbite)
  • The upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together (open bite)
  • Narrow palate with upper molars biting inside of lower molars (crossbite)
  • Crowded or overlapped teeth
  • Midlines off: the center of the upper and lower front teeth do not line up
  • Finger- or thumb-sucking habits which continue after six or seven years old
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
  • The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting together
  • Spaces between the teeth

At what age should orthodontic treatment occur?

Orthodontic treatment can be started at any age as long as the teeth and gums are healthy. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected at an early age before jaw growth has slowed and before all permanent teeth have erupted. Early treatment may mean that a patient can avoid extractions, surgery, and more serious and aggressive treatment later. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child first visit an orthodontist for a consultation by age 7; a visit can be earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist, or the child’s physician.

What are Phase I and Phase II treatments?

Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment (e.g., expander or partial braces) before all permanent teeth have erupted. Such treatment can occur between the ages of six and ten. 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 permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen.

Would an adult patient benefit from orthodontics?

Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age. Everyone wants a beautiful and healthy smile. Twenty to twenty-five percent of orthodontic patients today are adults.

How does orthodontic treatment work?

There are a few options here, with the most common being traditional braces or Invisalign® clear aligners. Traditional braces use steady gentle pressure to move teeth into their proper positions gradually. 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® uses a series of clear aligners custom-made for your teeth to move them little by little. Each aligner is worn for one week before being replaced by the next in the series until the final position of your teeth is achieved.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by the rate of growth and severity of the orthodontic problem. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments are important for keeping treatment time on schedule.

Do braces hurt?

The placement of bands and brackets on your teeth does not hurt. Once your braces are placed and connected with the archwires, you may feel some 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 sports?

No. However, it is recommended that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouthguard when participating in any sporting activity. Mouthguards are inexpensive, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors and patterns.

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.

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.