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Questions & Answers

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What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist trained to recognize and treat abnormalities in the alignment of teeth and jaws. Orthodontic specialists limit their practice to orthodontic treatment only. They have acquired their extensive knowledge and experience by completing college and four years of dental school, followed by at least two full years of post-graduate training in an accredited university graduate orthodontic program. An orthodontic specialist will treat you or your child using only the most advanced and cost effective methods and materials.

What are some of the long term benefits of orthodontics?

Braces can help enhance a person's appearance which has been related to popularity, self confidence, personality style, and self esteem. By putting teeth into proper alignment, orthodontic treatment can also improve oral health which, in turn, can prevent future tooth decay, gum disease, and even tooth loss. Additional benefits of orthodontic therapy may include better chewing function, more favorable tooth wear patterns, and relief of some types of jaw joint or facial pain.

How would I know if my child needed braces?

Large spaces or gaps between teeth, teeth that are crowded and twisted, or teeth that protrude or stick out are the most common indicators that a person might need orthodontic treatment. Other early warning signs may include difficulty in chewing, a developing underbite or overbite, open-mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, a thumb or finger sucking habit, or jaws that tend to click or pop. Many times, however, the need for braces is not exactly obvious. A personal consultation with an orthodontist can answer any of the specific questions you may have.

At what age should my child have an orthodontic examination?

The initial orthodontic examination should take place around the age of seven unless you suspect a problem at an earlier age. This examination does not always result in immediate treatment. After evaluating your child, the orthodontist may simply want to check or observe your child every six to twelve months while the permanent teeth erupt and the jaw and face continue to grow. Early diagnosis and treatment can help guide erupting teeth into a more favorable position and perhaps prevent extractions of permanent teeth at a later date. Also, early treatment may shorten treatment time and make treatment easier and in many cases less expensive.

Why are children being evaluated at such an early age?

Early diagnosis and treatment can guide erupting teeth into a more favorable position, preserve space for the permanent teeth and reduce the likelihood of fracturing protruding front teeth. Also, early treatment may shorten treatment time and make treatment easier and in some cases, less expensive.

Why is the growth spurt at puberty so important to orthodontics?

This is the time when much of the development of the face occurs. Treatment during this period allows the orthodontist to favorably influence the facial profile in a growing child. Once growth of the facial bones is complete, correction of skeletal discrepancies usually requires surgery.

How long does treatment usually last?

Every patient is different, so there are no set treatment times. Some conditions such as minor twisting and rotation of teeth can be corrected easily. Others, such as cases in which large gaps are closed or overbites are eliminated can take slightly longer. Often, overall treatment times for younger patients can be shortened by using special appliances other than braces while waiting for eruption of the permanent teeth.

Are braces uncomfortable?

There's usually an adjustment period when braces first go on, but any discomfort normally passes very quickly. Today's braces are definitely designed with patient comfort in mind. The brackets are small with rounded edges that are less likely to irritate the cheeks, lips, and tongue. Modern technological advances have resulted in specially alloyed wires and springs which are more comfortable, can speed up treatment, and may decrease the number of necessary appointments.

Will I have to wear retainers after my braces come off?

Each situation is different. Your orthodontist will explain and design the retainers specific to your individual needs. Because most teeth have a tendency to return to their original position, some form of permanent retention will usually be required. An invisible bonded wire retainer can often be placed behind your front teeth in order to keep them nice and straight.

Is orthodontic treatment expensive?

Most orthodontists offer flexible payment plans to make treatment more affordable. That, plus insurance coverage can make braces a lot less costly than you might imagine. The physical and psychological benefits of orthodontic treatment usually last a lifetime, which makes orthodontics a very wise healthcare investment.

At what age is a patient too old for orthodontics?

Patients who have teeth and healthy supporting structures are never too old for orthodontic therapy. Many adults are now receiving orthodontic care that was not available to them as children. Even adults in their 50's and 60's are getting braces to help enhance their appearance and improve their oral health. Advanced technology has produced small clear brackets that are barely noticeable, new retainers can be placed where they do not show, and advanced surgical techniques now allow treatment of many skeletal problems after growth is complete.

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