1. At what age should I schedule an appointment for an orthodontic screening?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic screening at age 7. 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. By the age of 7, some permanent teeth in most children have already erupted, allowing us to effectively evaluate your orthodontic condition. An orthodontist is a specialist who has completed an advanced education program following dental school to learn the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development. It is best to schedule a complimentary exam with our office when your child turns 7 so that we can advise you if any early treatment is needed.
2. Will my family dentist tell me when to schedule my appointment with the orthodontist?
Many parents assume they will be told by the general dentist when it is time to see the orthodontist but this doesn’t always occur. While many of our patients are referred by their family dentist, many others take the initiative to schedule an examination themselves. There are a few things to watch for that may mean your child needs to see an orthodontist, such as crowded or misplaced teeth, an underbite or overbite, a crossbite, difficulty chewing or biting, mouth breathing, thumb sucking, or popping jaws.
3. Will my teeth straighten out as they grow?
No, they will not. The space available for the front teeth does not increase as you grow. In most people, after the permanent molars erupt, the space available for the front teeth decreases with age.
4. How do I schedule an appointment for an initial exam?
If you or your child can potentially benefit from orthodontic treatment, simply call our office or fill out our appointment request form online. We will be happy to schedule an appointment for you. When you call to schedule your appointment, our front office staff will request some basic information from you.
5. What will happen at the initial examination appointment?
We look forward to meeting our new patients and introducing them to our friendly doctors and staff. You will get a tour of the office and will have the opportunity to get all your questions answered. The orthodontist will complete a brief, but thorough exam. If you are ready for treatment, you will have the opportunity at this visit to take diagnostic records so that the orthodontist can make a proper diagnosis.
6. What will I learn from the initial examination?
There are five essential questions that we will cover during the initial examination:
- Is there an orthodontic problem, and if so, what is it?
- What must be done to correct the problem?
- Is this the appropriate time to start treatment?
- How long will the treatment take to complete?
- How much will the treatment cost?
7. What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?
- A more pleasing and attractive smile
- Improved self-confidence during critical development years
- Improved function of the teeth
- Increased ability to clean the teeth due to less overlap
- Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
- Better long term health of teeth and gums
- Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions to minimize impactions
- Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
- Aids in optimizing other dental treatment such as implant placement
8. Will I need to have teeth extracted for braces?
With interceptive orthodontic treatment procedures, removing permanent teeth in our practice is rarely needed. In a very small percentage of cases, removing teeth is sometimes required to achieve a healthy and stable orthodontic result. An orthodontic examination at the age of 7 is recommended so that we can have the opportunity to initiate treatment at the proper age. This will allow us the opportunity to avoid extractions or potential jaw surgery in the future.
9. How long will it take to complete treatment?
Treatment time obviously depends on each patient’s specific orthodontic problem. In general, treatment times range from 12 to 24 months. The “average” time frame a person is in braces in our office is about 18 months. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments are important in keeping treatment time on schedule.
10. How much will braces cost? Are financing options available? How does my insurance work?
The cost of orthodontic treatment varies accordingly based on the severity of each particular case and, on the amount of time required to complete the case. The best way to determine the fee is to make an appointment for an orthodontic examination in our office. At that time, your particular situation will be properly evaluated and the fee for your particular situation will be discussed. We will cover the exact cost and financial options during the initial examination. We have many financing options available to accommodate your needs, and we will review these with you. We will also review your insurance policy and help to maximize your benefit and file your claims.
11. How often will I have appointments?
Appointments are scheduled according to each patient’s needs. Most patients in braces will be seen every 6-10 weeks. If there are specific situations that require more frequent monitoring, we will schedule appointments accordingly.
12. Can I schedule all of my appointments after school?
In order to accommodate the majority of our patients during after school hours, long appointments (installation of appliances, repairing broken brackets, etc.) must be scheduled in the morning or in the early afternoon. Most patients will miss minimal school during their orthodontic treatment. We will make a sincere effort to meet your scheduling needs.
13. Do braces hurt?
Generally, braces do not “hurt.” After certain visits, teeth may be sore for one to four days. In these situations, over-the-counter pain medications such as Advil or Tylenol will ease the discomfort. After most visits, however, patients do not feel any soreness at all!
14. Can I return to school the day I receive my braces?
Yes. There is no reason to miss school because of an orthodontic appointment.
15. Do you give shots?
No. Shots are not necessary in orthodontic treatment.
16. Can I still play sports or play musical instruments?
Yes! For sports, we recommend a mouth guard designed for orthodontic appliances. We do not recommend a boil and bite mouth guard once your orthodontic appliances are installed. We will provide you with an orthodontic mouth guard designed to fit over your appliances. If you play a musical instrument, there may be an initial period of adjustment. Brace covers can be provided to prevent discomfort.
17. Do I need to see my family dentist while in braces?
Absolutely! Regular checkups with your family dentist are important while in braces to detect cavities and for thorough cleanings. Your family dentist will determine the intervals between cleaning appointments while you are in braces. Many of our patients increase their dental visits to 3-4 month intervals while in braces or cemented appliances.
18. Are there foods I cannot eat while I have braces?
Once treatment begins, we will give you all necessary instructions and provide a list of foods to avoid. Some of those foods include hard candy and chips, nuts, bagels, popcorn, sticky foods (i.e. chewing gum, caramel and taffy).
19. How often should I brush my teeth while in braces?
Patients should brush their teeth at least three times each day – after each meal and especially before going to bed. We will show each patient how to floss their teeth while in braces. Many of our patients use a water flosser as an adjunct to the oral hygiene routine. A prescription for a special fluoride will be provided if necessary.
20. What is an emergency appointment? How are those handled?
Luckily, a true orthodontic emergency is extremely rare. As a rule of thumb, severe pain is not considered typical side effect of orthodontic treatment and warrants a call to our office. Also, if one of the components of your braces or appliance is loose, poking or causing unusual discomfort, please call our office. In most cases we can address these issues over the phone. Should you, however, require an emergency appointment, we will set time aside to see you.
To prevent emergencies, follow the instructions of the doctors and our staff regarding foods to be avoided. Also, exercise good oral hygiene to prevent the soft tissue from becoming inflamed and painful.
21. Can orthodontic correction occur while a child has baby teeth?
Yes. Some specific bite issues should be corrected or improved when some baby teeth are still present in order to reduce or eliminate their unwanted functional and esthetic consequences in the full permanent dentition.
Situations that usually lend themselves to early treatment include growth imbalances (“overbites” and “underbites”), lack of space for eruption of all permanent teeth, crossbites and problems caused by paranormal habits such as finger or thumbsucking, mouth breathing and tongue thrusts. Early care simplifies or reduces (but not necessarily eliminates) the need for future comprehensive orthodontic treatment.
While some orthodontic problems require early intervention, 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.
22. What is Phase One (early) treatment?
The primary objective for Phase One treatment is to address bite problems during the mixed dentition years (when a child has both permanent and baby teeth) preventing them from becoming more severe and to improve self-esteem and self-image. Early orthodontic treatment usually lasts between 6-18 months and consists of placement of orthopedic appliances or growth modifying appliances. Partial braces may also be necessary in some case to fix dental crossbites or to make room for blocked out permanent teeth. Such intervention will reduce or eliminate unwanted functional and esthetic consequences in the full permanent dentition. Sometimes Phase One treatment is what allows a case to be treated without removal of permanent teeth when all of the permanent teeth have erupted.
23. Will my child need full braces if he/she has Phase One treatment?
Early care (Phase One treatment) reduces or eliminates bite problems and mitigates their unwanted functional and esthetic consequences in the full permanent dentition. In most cases, this allows treatment of a bad bite without removal of permanent teeth or jaw surgery. Phase One treatment simplifies or reduces (but not necessarily eliminates) the need for future comprehensive orthodontic treatment. The period following Phase One treatment is called the “resting period,” during which growth and tooth eruption are closely monitored. Throughout this period, parents and patients will be kept informed of future treatment recommendations.
24. Is it too late to have braces if I am already an adult?
A surprising percentage of our patients are adults. In fact, 25 percent of all orthodontic patients are adults. Health, happiness and self-esteem are vitally important to adults. A good functional bite is important for the health of the teeth and the TMJ (temporomandibular joint). Although no adult is “too old” to wear braces, we do offer esthetic alternatives as well, such as clear braces and Invisalign®.
25. Can I wear braces even though I have crowns and missing teeth?
Yes. A tooth with a crown 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.
26. Why should I choose an orthodontic specialist?
An orthodontist only practices orthodontics and treats thousands of patients. Teeth and entire facial structures are permanently changed during orthodontic treatment.
An orthodontist has 2-3 years of specialized training beyond dental school on the science and mechanics of moving teeth through bone and facial growth modification. This special training makes him/her a specialist at straightening teeth and insuring proper form and function.