What causes orthodontic problems (malocclusions)?

Most malocclusions are inherited, but some are acquired. Inherited problems include crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth, and a wide variety of other irregularities of the jaws, teeth and face.

Acquired malocclusions can be caused by accidents, thumb sucking, premature loss of primary (baby) or permanent teeth. Whether inherited or acquired, many of these problems affect not only alignment of the teeth but also facial development and appearance as well.

At What Age Can People Have Orthodontic Treatment?

Healthy teeth can be moved at almost any age. In our practice, patients range in age from 5 to 65 years of age. Because monitoring growth and development is crucial to managing some orthodontic problems, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an orthodontic screening no later than age 7. Some orthodontic problems may be easier to correct if treated early. Waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction of some problems more difficult. For those who may benefit from treatment, age is not a factor.

Why Should Children under 7 yrs. Have an Orthodontic Screen?

By age 7, enough permanent teeth have come in and enough jaw growth has occurred to enable the orthodontist to detect and evaluate problems (if any), advise if treatment will be necessary, and determine the best time for that patient to be treated.

Some signs or habits that may indicate the need for an early orthodontic examination are:

  • early or late loss of baby teeth
  • difficulty in chewing or biting
  • thumb sucking
  • crowding, misplaced or blocked out teeth
  • jaws that shift or make sounds
  • teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
  • jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face.

For those patients who have clear indications for early orthodontic intervention, early treatment presents an opportunity to:

  • guide the growth of the jaw
  • regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches (the arch-shaped jaw bone that supports the teeth)
  • guide incoming permanent teeth into desirable positions
  • lower risk of trauma (accidents) to protruded upper incisors (front teeth)
  • correct harmful oral habits such as thumb- or finger-sucking
  • reduce or eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems
  • improve personal appearance and self-esteem
  • potentially simplify and/or shorten treatment time for later corrective orthodontics
  • reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth (teeth that should have come in, but have not)
  • preserve or gain space for permanent teeth that are coming in

How Long Will Orthodontic Treatment Take?

In general, active treatment time with orthodontic appliances (braces) ranges from one to three years. Interceptive, or early treatment procedures, may take only a few months. The actual time depends on the growth of the patient’s mouth and face, the cooperation of the patient and the severity of the problem. Mild problems usually require less time, and some individuals respond faster to treatment than others. While orthodontic treatment requires a time commitment, patients are rewarded with healthy teeth, proper jaw alignment and a beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime. Teeth and jaws in proper alignment look better, work better, contribute to general physical health and can improve self-confidence.

Do Braces Hurt?

Most people have some discomfort after their braces are first put on or when adjusted during treatment. After the braces are placed, teeth may become sore and may be tender to biting pressures for three to five days. The orthodontist may advise you to take pain relievers, such as Tylenol or Advil. The lips, cheeks and tongue may also become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become accustomed to the surface of the braces. You will be given wax to place over the parts of the braces that rub against your cheek.

How Do I Take Care Of My Braces?

Patients with braces must be careful to avoid hard and sticky foods. They must not chew on hard objects such as pens, pencils or fingernails as this will damage the braces.

The orthodontist and staff will teach you how to best care for their teeth, gums and braces during treatment. We will teach you how to brush and floss with braces on your teeth.

Will My Braces Interfere With Playing Musical Instruments?

Playing wind or brass instruments, such as the trumpet, will clearly require some adaptation to braces. With practice and a period of adjustment, braces typically do not interfere with the playing of musical instruments. Your orthodontist may be able to provide you with a plastic bumper which clips on to the braces to help protect your lips.

Why Does Orthodontic Treatment Sometimes Last Longer Than Anticipated?

Patients grow at different rates and will respond in their own ways to orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist has specific treatment goals in mind, and will usually continue treatment until these goals are achieved. Patient cooperation, however, is the single best predictor of staying on time with treatment. Cooperation by wearing rubber bands(elastics), headgear or other needed appliances as directed, while taking care not to damage appliances, will most often lead to on-time and excellent treatment results.

Why Are Retainers Needed After Orthodontic Treatment?

After braces are removed, the teeth can shift out of position if they are not held in place (stabilized). Retainers are designed to hold teeth in their corrected, ideal positions until the bones and gums adapt to the treatment changes. Wearing retainers exactly as instructed is the best insurance that the treatment improvements last for a lifetime.

What Does Orthodontic Treatment Cost?

The actual cost of treatment depends on several factors, including the severity of the patient’s problem and the treatment approach selected. Our office offers payment plans to help meet individual financial needs. You will be able to thoroughly discuss fees and payment options before any treatment begins. Generally, treatment fees may be paid over the course of active treatment. We encourage you to contact our office for a complimentary consultation. You may be surprised to discover that orthodontics is less expensive than you thought in comparison to the lifetime value that orthodontics provides.