Orthodontic FAQ

orthodontic treatment - woman with braces

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry specializing in treating patients that have an improper positioning of their teeth (malocclusion).  Orthodontics also includes diagnosing, preventing and treating various aspects of dental and facial irregularities and the shape and development of the jaw.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontics specialist is called an orthodontist.  After completing dental school, orthodontists must then complete an advanced education program where they attain the special skills and expertise required to manage tooth movement and facial development.

What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?

  • Create room for crowded and emerging teeth
  • Lessen the possibility of damage to front teeth that protrude
  • Allows teeth to function more effectively
  • Correct bite irregularities to reduce wear on the teeth
  • Correct cross-bites that could lead to unwanted jaw growth
  • Allows for better cleaning of teeth
  • Improve the over-all health of your teeth, gums and mouth
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Guides permanent teeth into the desired position
  • Can increase effectiveness of other dental treatments

What are some signs that braces may be needed?

  • Teeth that are overcrowded and too close together, causing the teeth to shift inward or outward
  • Teeth that are spaced too far apart
  • Excessively protruding or bucked upper front teeth
  • When biting together, top front teeth mostly cover or overlap bottom teeth - called a “deep bite” or “overbite”
  • Bottom front teeth overlap or protrude over top teeth when biting together, causing an “under bite”
  • Frequent jaw pain and headaches
  • Difficulty in chewing
  • When biting together, top and bottom front teeth don’t touch – called an “open bite”
  • Uneven wearing of or excessive wear to teeth
  • When biting together, the lower jaw shifts to one side

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 7 or earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist, or the child's physician.

What is Phase I and Phase II treatment?

Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment (e.g. expander or partial braces) before all of the 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, and 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, 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?

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.

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 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. 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. It is recommended, however, 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.