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Orthodontic FAQ

Orthodontics is a special field of dentistry, which focuses on establishing proper alignment of teeth and jaws consistent with a balanced facial pattern. The orthodontist utilizes braces and other corrective appliances to produce a healthy, beautiful smile.

An orthodontist is a dentist who has completed an additional two to three years of specialized training and continuous study at an ADA accredited, university affiliated, graduate orthodontic program.

The importance of a beautiful smile cannot be underestimated. Besides being a vital asset to one’s self-confidence, a beautiful smile can prove to be a healthier one. Untreated orthodontic problems may lead to tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease, which can cause needless loss of teeth. Correction of the bite not only helps with improved chewing and speech, but also plays an important role in the reduction of wear on the teeth and stress on the supporting bone and jaw joints. There is evidence to demonstrate that bite disturbances are associated with symptoms related to jaw or muscle pain.

Yes! Although dental health concerns are frequently the primary reason for orthodontic treatment, treatment is also initiated for the patient’s well-being. Dramatic changes in a person’s smile and profile can be achieved. Appearance has been related to social behaviors, self-expectation, self-image and self-esteem. There is little doubt that an attractive facial appearance and smile can increase self-confidence and, in turn, improve the quality of life in many dimensions.

You can have a beautiful smile at any age! Teeth and tissue are essentially the same in both adults and children. Orthodontists can successfully realign crooked teeth or an irregular bite regardless of your age. Correcting your bite with orthodontics can also be beneficial to your health by improving your ability to chew and digest food and prevent gum disease or loss of teeth. Properly aligned and supported teeth are healthier, easier to clean and therefore more likely to last throughout a patient’s lifetime. In fact, our practice is composed of approximately 25% adults. Age is never a factor in orthodontic care. This is becoming more prevalent as adults become increasingly aware of the benefits of orthodontic therapy. Improving the health of your mouth and the attractiveness of your smile and facial appearance can often result in positive changes in your life.

Most malocclusions can be treated effectively once the majority of the baby teeth have been lost. However it is recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists that a child’s first evaluation by an orthodontic specialist be done around the age of 7. If you or your family dentist suspects an orthodontic problem before age 7, an orthodontic specialist should be contacted for an earlier evaluation.

Not really. Early diagnosis and treatment by the orthodontist can help tooth eruption, guide facial growth, and prevent more serious problems from occurring. Minor early interceptive treatment can later reduce or eliminate the need for tooth extraction or complicated orthodontic treatments.

Yes, if there are concerns associated with crowding, undesirable habits, cross bites, open bites, or disproportionate jaw growth, these may first need to be addressed. Other problems associated with tooth alignment or bite correction may best be addressed subsequent to eruption of most permanent teeth.

The following are indications that an orthodontic problem may be present.

  • Crowded Teeth
  • Early Loss of Teeth
  • Underbite
  • Mouth Breathing
  • Thumb and finger habits
  • Missing teeth
  • Protrusion of front teeth
  • Cross bites
  • Speech difficulties
  • Poor facial profile
  • Low self-esteem from teeth misalignment
  • Airway obstruction
  • These are just a few of the early indications that orthodontic problems may exist

What are the benefits of Timely Treatment?

  • Improve self-confidence and self esteem
  • Influence growth of the jaws to improve tooth relationship
  • Increase the width of the dental arches
  • Reduce the need for extractions
  • Reduce the likelihood of future jaw surgery
  • Reduce the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
  • Eliminate harmful oral habits
  • Reduce the treatment time for future orthodontics
  • Improve speech development
  • Guide the permanent teeth into a more favorable position
  • Improve lip closure
  • Gain space for erupting permanent teeth
  • Better cooperation before teenage years
  • To prevent unbalanced or asymmetric facial growth
  • Improve airway issues

First Phase Treatment (interceptive)

The treatment objective of an early phase of orthodontic treatment is to intercept and correct problems at an early age that may result in a dental or skeletal discrepancy too severe to achieve an ideal result with braces alone, once all the permanent teeth have erupted or growth is complete. Early treatment benefits are well known nationwide and have been endorsed by the American Association of Orthodontists for a number of years. By age 12, 90% of a child’s face has fully grown. It is not consistent with a preventive philosophy to wait until 90% of a deformity is complete before instituting treatment. In many cases, early treatment can intercept a deformity and prevent it from getting worse. Most problems can be classified into one of three groups: skeletal, dental or damaging habits.

Children sometimes exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. Skeletal problems arise from an upper or lower jaw that is growing too much or not enough, or is too narrow or crooked, directly affecting the relationship of teeth and jaws. Dental problems arise mostly due to insufficient jaw length (crowding) or width. Damaging habits arise from thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and abnormal swallowing patterns and can also be quite detrimental to both the teeth and jaws.

Because children are growing rapidly and tend to be better cooperators at an early age, they can benefit tremendously from an early phase of orthodontic treatment. Early correction from these three groups may prevent later removal of permanent teeth, surgical procedures to align the upper and lower jaw, injury to protruded teeth, decrease the time needed for a second phase of treatment and eliminate damaging habits. Depending on the severity of these problems, children around the age of 7 or the first recognition of an orthodontic problem may be candidates for an early phase of orthodontic treatment.

Resting Period

During the resting period, the remaining permanent teeth are allowed to erupt. Retainers are usually worn during this period. A successful first phase of treatment creates an environment which permits the remaining teeth to erupt into a normal position.

Because the majority of permanent teeth have not erupted prior to the end of an initial phase of treatment, a second phase of treatment is usually required to align the teeth in their final positions. Selective removal of baby teeth may also be required during this phase to enhance the eruption of the remaining permanent teeth. Therefore, your child will be monitored approximately every 4 – 6 months during the resting phase.

Second Phase Treatment

As William Proffitt, a renowned orthodontist and teacher once said, “we are rarely so successful in a first phase of treatment that a second phase will not be required.” We advise all parents and patients that a second phase of treatment will normally be required once all the permanent teeth have erupted.

Each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. Our final ultimate goal of treatment is to achieve good facial balance and esthetics, with the teeth functioning properly in harmony with the muscle and joints.

At the beginning of the first phase of treatment, orthodontic records are made and a diagnosis and treatment plan is established. Certain appliances are utilized to make the proper corrections. The second phase of treatment is initiated once all the permanent teeth have erupted and braces are worn for approximately 18-24 months to achieve the final objective.

In our office, 90% of the children we examine can be treated in one phase, once all the permanent teeth have erupted. Early phases of treatment can be quite effective. However, they should be reserved for those cases that absolutely require two phases of treatment to achieve an ideal result. By limiting early treatment to those cases, we decrease the amount of time a child is required to spend in orthodontic treatment. The majority of patients can be treated in approximately 18-24 months, if they are initiated at the proper time.

Treatment should go beyond just straightening the front teeth, but should establish an ideal bite, which protects the teeth, muscles and joints. A mutually protected occlusion includes a lower jaw that is comfortably seated in the joint. There is even simultaneous contact of the back teeth and light contact of the front teeth. There should also be anterior guidance, cuspid disclussion, and the elimination of balancing side interferences to maintain good health of the teeth, muscles and joints (TMJ).

These are white spots that occur around bands and brackets during treatment as a result of poor oral hygiene. In every mouth there are bacteria (germs). These bacteria are normally harmless and cause no damage to the mouth or teeth. However, within minutes of the teeth being cleaned, an invisible sticky film forms on all tooth surfaces and certain bacteria from the mouth attach to the film and begin to grow. Plaque is the name given to this growth of bacteria on the teeth. When plaque is on the teeth, it can produce acids from any sugar taken into the mouth. The acid destroys the tooth surface and causes decalcification. Decalcification is also the precursor to tooth decay.

Although dental health concerns are frequently the primary reason for orthodontic treatment, treatment is also initiated for the patient’s well-being. Dramatic changes in a person’s smile and profile can be achieved. Appearance has been related to popularity, social behaviors, self-expectation, self-image and self-esteem. There is little doubt that an attractive facial appearance and smile can increase self-confidence and, in turn, improve the quality of life in many dimensions. An improved smile for a child can mean freedom from self-consciousness and for adults an improved social life and perhaps the key to a better job.