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Frequently Asked Questions About Orthodontics

Q - What is orthodontics?

A - Orthodontics (also referred to as dentofacial orthopedics) is a specialized form of dentistry focusing on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial abnormalities of the teeth, bones and facial structures.  

Q - Is there a difference between an orthodontist and a general dentist who does orthodontics?

A - Yes.  A general dentist has completed a four-year program at an accrediated dental school to learn how to identify a variety of dental disease.  They have been given some exposure to the specialties of dentistry, including orthodontics.  Upon dental school graduation they can immediately start to practice general dentistry, including orthodontics if they wish.  

An orthodontist is a dentist who, after completing four years of dental school, goes on to complete an additional three-year residency program after dental school to specialize in orthodontics.  This is a highly-competitive rigorous program in which the orthodontist trains to diagnose and treat the most complex dentofacial abnornmalities.

Q - Why should an orthodontic specialist complete my treatment?

A - Orthodontists are specialists in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics and they limit their practices to orthodontics alone, allowing them to become experts and leaders in their field.  General and pediatric dentists do sometimes perform orthodontic treatment but they are not orthodontic specialists.  Orthodontists have three years of specialized training after completing four years of an accredited dental school.  This extensive and specialized training enables us to provide the very best quality orthodontic treatment to our patients with professional and individualized treatment plans.  Teeth and entire facial structures can be permanently changed by orthodontic treatment so it is important that the treatment be appropriate and properly completed.

Q - What's the best age to visit the orthodontist?

A - The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first visit an orthodontist around the age of 7.  For most children, several permanent teeth have erupted into the mouth by this age allowing the orthodontist to effectively evaluate the patient's orthodontic condition.  While active treatment at this age is unlikley, this examination will allow us to identify specific problems that we will monitor and recommend appropriate treatment when the timing is right. 

However, orthodontic treatment is not exclusive to children and teens.  About 25% of orthodontic patients are over the age of 21.  Whether you're considering treatment for yourself or for a child, any time is a good time to visit the orthodontist. 

Q - Will my teeth straighten-out as I grow and get older?

A - Most likely not, in fact they tend to get slightly worse over time.  The space available for the front teeth does not increase as you grow.  In most people, after the permanent molars erupt the space available for thre front teeth decreases with age.

Q - Is it too late to have orthodontic treatment if I am already an adult?

A - Definitley not!  No patient is "too old" to have ortho treatment, as long as your teeth, bone and gums are healthy.  About 25% of our patients are adults.  Adult treatment can be a bit more complicated but we offer a variety of treatment options tailored to our adult patients, including ceramic braces and Invisalign clear aligners.  Health and happiness are important to adults and orthodontic treatment can increase your self-esteem at any age.

Q - How long will it take to complete my treatment?

A - Overall treatment time depends on each patient's specific orthodontic problems and expectations.  Treatment times can range from 6-30 months.  The average adolescent can expect his/her treatment to take approximately 24 months.

Q - How often will I have my appointments?

A - Appointments are scheduled according to each patient's needs and treatment progress.  In our office, most patients in braces will be seen every 6-8 weeks and Invisalign patients are seen every 8-10 weeks.  If there are specific situations that require more frequent monitoring, we will schedule the appointment accordingly.

Q - Can I drop-off my child for their appointment?

A - Yes.  If your child is in active treatment and has a scheduled appointment, we welcome you to drop-off your child.  Many parents wait in their car while their child receives treatment.  When the appointment is complete, we will call the parent and update them on treatment progress and schedule the next appointment.  If your child is young or new to the office, we ask parents or guardians to accompany the child into the office.

Q - Does wearing braces hurt?

A - Braces themselves do not hurt but the teeth can become sore when they start the initial movement, especially in the first 3-5 days after the braces are placed.  We advise our patients to eat light and soft foods during this temporary period.  In some cases and if needed, use of over-the-counter ibuprofen is effective to reduce the discomfort.  After certain routine appointments some discomfort can occur but this is unlikley.  However, after most visitis patients do not feel any soreness at all.  We often remind our patients, "It doesn't have to hurt to work!"

Q - Can I still play sports or a musical instrument while wearing braces?

A - Definitely!  We recommend that patients wear mouthguards while playing sports.  Musicians wil likley experience an adjustment period until they are comfortable playing while wearing braces.

Q - Do I need to see my family dentist while wearing braces?

A - Yes.  Regular check-ups with your general dentist are important while in braces.  Your dentist will determine the intervals between each cleaning appointments while you are wearing braces.  Remember, we do not clean your teeth or actively check for cavities.  However, if we see anything in your mouth that is a concern, we will advise you and be happy to contact your dentist.

Q - Are there any foods I cannot eat while I have braces?

A - Yes.  Once treatment begins we will explain our complete instructions and provide you with a list of foods to avoid.  During your treatment, try to avoid foods with a lot of sugar (sugar increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth).  Avoid sticky and chewy foods (caramel, gum, gummy bears), hard foods (hard candy, nuts, ice, raw carrots) or any foods that could possibly get stuck in your braces.  Do not eat corn on the cob or bite into apples or bagels.​

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