Frequently Asked Orthodontic Questions…
Do we have to wait for a dentist to refer us?
No, you do not need a referral from your dentist to schedule a free initial exam. If you would like an orthodontic evaluation for yourself or your child, you may call our office to schedule an initial exam.
Evaluating a child in the mixed dentition is advisable. Mixed dentition is when primary and permanent teeth are present, early mixed dentition is usually age 7-8. Although treatment is often delayed until most or all of the permanent teeth are erupting, some conditions benefit from early intervention. Each case is evaluated on its own volition and an individualized treatment plan is developed.
Your family dentist understands how the teeth and jaws are supposed to develop and is able to make timely referrals. If you have any questions or concerns, we would be happy to schedule an evaluation.
At what age should I schedule an initial exam for my child?
We prefer to evaluate a child when the permanent molars are present and the permanent incisors are erupting. This occurs between the ages of 6 and 8 in most children.
Why so young?
The purpose of an early evaluation is to observe and inform – and possibly to begin treatment. A number of problems benefit from early intervention, such as posterior and anterior crossbites, harmful habits and significant skeletal discrepancies. However, most orthodontic treatment is delayed and the patient is placed on observation, which allows us to observe growth and development and determine the appropriate time to initiate treatment.
Will the teeth straighten on their own?
Although the alignment or position of an individual tooth may improve as it erupts, the teeth do not straighten with growth.
How do I schedule an initial exam?
Either call the office or send us an email. We will gladly schedule a free initial exam for you. When you call for your appointment, our office staff will ask for some basic information about the patient.
How long will the first visit take?
The initial exam is approximately 30 minutes. We may request one or more x-rays, or complete records, which may lengthen the visit to one hour.
Do you charge for the initial exam?
No. As a courtesy to you and your dentist, there is no charge for the initial exam. We would be delighted to discuss the possibility of orthodontic treatment for you or your child.
What will I learn from the initial exam?
- You will be provided with answers to the following questions:
- What sort of problem is present, if any?
- What is the proper time to begin treatment?
- What type of treatment is indicated?
- How long will it take? How much will it cost?
How often will I have appointments?
The frequency of appointments depends on what we are doing – patients with braces are usually seen every 4 to 8 weeks, but certain procedures need more frequent adjustments.
Can I schedule all of my appointments after school or work – late in the day?
We do our best to accommodate your busy schedule. Most of our patients are students and although many of their appointments are after school ‘adjustments’, the longer appointments will need to be in the morning or early afternoon.
Can I drop off my child for an appointment?
Yes. We understand that you need to use your time wisely. Please be sure to check-in with the office staff for any pertinent information or treatment updates when you pick-up your child. We also have aunts and grandparents serve as chauffeurs and some families ‘carpool’ – check out the options – but maintain contact with the office staff!
Do you take transfers from out of town?
Yes. Patients transferring into our office from another city are treated the same as a new patient. Following the initial exam, we obtain diagnostic records (to document their status upon transfer) and propose treatment to complete the case.
Do you have any adult patients?
Absolutely. About 25% of the patients undergoing orthodontic treatment today are adults. They too can enjoy the improved esthetics and self-esteem that aligned teeth can provide.
Do we continue to see the family dentist while we are in orthodontic treatment?
Although we are both dentists, we provide different aspects of your dental care.
While you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, it is very important for you to see the family or pediatric dentist at least two times a year for dental exams, radiographs and prophylaxis (cleanings). In some instances your dentist may recommend more frequent visits while you have your braces on.
Why is oral hygiene so important?
Ignore your teeth and they will go away. If you want to keep them, you have to keep them clean.
Brushing and flossing removes immature plaque from our teeth. If the plaque is not removed, the plaque will mature and cause caries (decay/cavities) and periodontal disease (gum disease/gingivitis), the two major causes of tooth loss. These progress at a slow rate and the process can be arrested long before the teeth are lost, but the partial destruction of enamel and gum tissue compromises esthetics – ‘your smile doesn’t look as good as it could.’
The primary reason most people have orthodontic treatment is to enhance the appearance of their teeth and smile. It only makes sense that you do all you can to keep your teeth clean and aid in your treatment however possible so you look your best!
Is orthodontic treatment painful?
Anything new in your mouth will be strange and will ‘take some time to get used to’. Bands and brackets will ‘bug’ your cheeks, lips and tongue. Plastic parts will often stimulate salivary flow for the first couple days. Just relax, in a couple days you may forget it is there.
When teeth are moved, most people find that their teeth are slightly sore, slightly sensitive to biting pressure for a day or two. Reactions vary; it may be ‘bothersome’ or ‘annoying’ but it should not be ‘intolerable.’
When you begin treatment, or progress to another ‘appliance’, we will tell you what to expect. We usually start with one ‘thing’ and gradually add to it, adding new appliances or more braces as we progress through treatment.
Is a loose bracket an emergency?
It is not an emergency unless something is pinching, poking or hurting you.
The bracket is usually loose from the tooth but held on the wire by the ‘colored ties’ and presents no problem for the patient. Please call the office to schedule a repair appointment. Until it is re-bonded, be sure that when you brush your teeth you slide the bracket on the wire (forward or backward) so that you can clean the tooth surface under the bracket (slide the bracket back over the tooth when you have finished brushing, just so it ‘looks right’).
The brackets are attached (we say bonded) to the front surface of the teeth with a material called composite. The bond strength is sufficient to hold the bracket on the tooth for quite some time – certainly long enough for us to complete your orthodontic treatment. When we remove the brackets we ‘break the bond’. We have the tools to remove the bracket and any residual ‘glue’ left on the tooth and not damage the tooth. This is good. Unfortunately, it is also possible for the patient to ‘break the bond’. Elbows, basketballs, hockey pucks and golf clubs can easily supply enough force to ‘break the bond’ (not broken, just unglued) as well as inflict significant trauma (this is not good). Most often, it is the hard crunchy or sticky gooey stuff you eat that ‘breaks the bond’. Loose brackets may extend treatment time. The more you help us (keep your teeth clean, show up for your appointments, don’t ‘break the bond’ of the brackets) the sooner we complete the process and remove the braces.
What do elastics do and why is it important to wear them?
We move teeth by applying a force. The most efficient way to move teeth is by applying a light continuous force. One of the ways we have to apply a force is to have the patient wear elastics (rubber bands).
We need your help to complete your treatment. When you are asked to wear elastics, you and whoever brought you to the appointment will be shown where they are placed, how to put them on and told how much to wear them. Most of the time we ask for ‘full time’ and anything less than full time lengthens the time the braces are on.
Why the retainer with the wire?
The braces provide the means to align the teeth as well as an exceptional method to maintain them in their new positions. But no one wants to keep the braces on once the teeth are aligned. If we remove the braces and don’t hold the teeth where we placed them, they will move.
There are many ways to maintain the alignment of the teeth and there are pros and cons for each of the methods. For the large majority of cases, I believe that removable Hawley retainers (plastic behind the teeth and a wire across the front of the teeth) are the best method for keeping the teeth straight. Each case is evaluated to determine what is appropriate for that case. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s retainers, please let us know.
How long do we have to wear the retainer?
We worked diligently to align the teeth. You need to be just as diligent to maintain them in their new positions. We instruct the patient to wear the retainers full time (remove them for eating and whenever there is a risk of them being lost or broken, such as sporting events and swimming) for the first year. Thereafter, most patients are able to wear their retainers only while they sleep and maintain the alignment of their teeth.