Orthodontics 101 - FAQs
What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Braces are appliances or devices used to make these corrections.
What is an orthodontist?
An Orthodontist is a highly trained specialist who has completed multiple years of additional training after graduating from dental school. An orthodontist not only straightens teeth but also is interested in the bite, facial profile, and oral growth.
Do you need a referral from your family dentist to see an orthodontist?
You don't need a referral from your family dentist. Word of mouth recommendations from friends and families of existing patients is often the primary way orthodontists meet new patients. Spread the word if you like your orthodontist!
Why should I have my teeth straightened?
Orthodontic treatment improves your smile and your health. Although smile esthetics is not to be overlooked, it is most important to note that your overall health is affected by poorly arranged teeth. This can lead to:
Dental problems. Poorly aligned teeth are hard to clean such that one would tend to have more cavities and gum disease than people who have had orthodontic treatment. Crooked teeth wear down as well in ways that they should not. This puts extra stress on your teeth, gums and jaw joint which can lead to additional problems later in life.
Breathing problems. As you get older the roof your mouth can sometimes partially block the air passages in your nose. If you have orthodontic treatment you may avoid this possibility.
Digestion: The digestive process is initiated in the mouth by chewing. Poorly aligned teeth do not allow for the proper chewing of food which may lead to abdominal distress.
Can you be too old for braces?
No. If the bone and gum tissue around the teeth are healthy, age is not a factor. About 30% of orthodontic patients are adults.
What causes teeth to be poorly positioned?
Just as we inherit eye color from our parents, mouth and jaw features are also inherited. Local factors such as finger sucking, high cavity rate, gum disease, trauma and premature loss of baby teeth can also contribute to an unhealthy bite.
If poor orthodontia causes so many health problems, why didn't evolution/natural selection eliminate orthodontic problems?
According to Alex Duncan of the Anthropology Department at the University of Texas, "with very few exceptions, fossil hominids (cave men) had nearly perfect bites."
Malocclusions (overbites and underbites) developed mainly over the last 10,000 years. As medicine and diets improved, people grew taller. The average height of an adult male increased from 4 ft (1.2M) 10,000 years ago to about 5ft 9 in (1.75M) today. Human mouths and human teeth did not grow at the same rate. In many cases your child's teeth will be larger than your child's mouth.
How do braces straighten teeth?
Braces use steady, gentle pressure over time to move teeth into their proper positions. The brackets we place on your teeth and the main wire that connects them, are the two main components. The bracket is a piece of specially shaped metal or ceramic that we affix to each tooth. Then we bend the arch wire to reflect your "ideal" bite - what we want you to look like after treatment. The wire threads through the brackets and, as the wire tries to return to its original shape, it applies pressure to actually move your teeth. With credit due to the advanced technology of current materials and procedures, all this happens much faster than ever before.
How long do you have to wear braces?
Sorry to say this, but it depends. Some bites are much more difficult to correct. However, the better you are about wearing and taking care for your braces, the sooner your teeth will improve.
Are braces uncomfortable?
Each person finds braces quite different. The first few days after initial bracket placement the teeth may be uncomfortable however they quickly get used to the new sensation. In addition, new advances in the bracket and wire designs over the last several years have made orthodontic treatment far more comfortable. Patients generally adjust very quickly to the braces and before you know it is it just another part of everyday life.
What holds the braces on?
Generally, the brackets are bonded directly to your child's teeth using a special FDA registered adhesive.
What do rubber bands do?
Rubber bands or elastics contribute a lot to an orthodontic regimen. They are marvels of physics. Attached to your braces, elastics exert the force that creates the right amount of pressure to move teeth in directions that the braces alone can't. It's important to wear your elastics as prescribed and change them as recommended so that the force remains constant. A lack of consistency in wearing rubber bands can bring treatment to a standstill. Teeth never fail to move when elastics are worn consistently as directed. As for bouncing an elastic off someone across the room, it will happen (don't worry, your aim will improve).
Will braces correct TMD or jaw joint problems?
Braces may or may not improve jaw joint problems. More conservative approaches should be tried first.
My son/daughter does not want to get braces because they are afraid that the braces will prevent them from participating in sports. Any suggestions?
Years ago people who wore braces were advised to avoid sports. However, in 1981 people started using orthodontic mouth guards. The mouth guards have allowed patients to continue to participate in sports while they have braces. Therefore, there is nothing for your child to fear.
My child plays the trumpet. Will his ability to play be affected by orthodontic treatment?
Be sure to mention your child's musical abilities to the orthodontist. Although the braces will take some getting used to with regards to playing an instrument, most patients are able to adapt nicely. The orthodontist may recommend something called "lip protector" which will make it possible for your child to still play musical instruments if a problem arises.
What does a retainer do?
The objective of a retainer is to keep your teeth in perfect alignment after braces are removed. Wearing a retainer of sorts is a lifelong and worthwhile commitment.
Why is a retainer needed? Do teeth move after orthodontic treatment?
Usually, when braces are first removed, the teeth will all be in perfect alignment. The personalized retainers pose a friendly reminder to the teeth to maintain this new position. Unfortunately, without this reminder, teeth have a tendency to want to return closer to their “starting point.”