Call Us Today!
First Time Here?

Orthodontics 101

WHY AN ORTHODONTIST?

BRACES FOR ALL AGES

Orthodontics for Adults

Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age and adults especially appreciate the benefits of a beautiful smile.  One out of every five patients in orthodontic treatment is over 21 years of age. Jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, is more often required for adult orthodontic patients because their jaws are not growing.  Adults also may have experienced some breakdown or loss of their teeth and bone that supports the teeth and may require periodontal treatment before, during, and/or after orthodontic treatment.  Bone loss can also limit the amount and direction of tooth movement that is advisable.

Orthodontics for Children

It is recommended for the orthodontist to evaluate children by age 8 to see if there are any functional problems.  This is the best time for your child to be evaluated because the first permanent molars and incisors have usually erupted.  If treatment is needed early, the orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaw and the eruption of permanent teeth.  Early treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb-sucking, and eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems.  In other words, early treatment can rebalance your child’s dental and facial growth.

WHY BRACES?

For most people, a beautiful smile is the most obvious benefit of orthodontics.  After your braces come off, you’ll feel more self-confident.  During your treatment, we want you to feel as comfortable as possible.

How Orthodontic Treatment Works

Orthodontic appliances can be made of metal, ceramic, or plastic. They may be removable or they may be brackets bonded to the teeth.  By placing a constant, gentle force in a carefully controlled direction, braces slowly move teeth to a corrected position.  This is a great time to wear braces!  Gone are the days when a metal band with a bracket was placed around each tooth.  You can choose brackets that are clear or silver.  You can choose the color of the ties that hold the wire in brackets. Wires are also less noticeable than they used to be and the latest materials move teeth faster with less discomfort to patients.

Duration of Treatment

Interceptive, or early treatment procedures, may take as little as six months.  Comprehensive treatment time typically ranges from one to three years, depending on the growth of the patient’s mouth and face and the severity of the problem.  Patients grow at different rates and will respond differently to orthodontic treatment, so the time of case completion may differ from the original estimate.  The patient’s diligent use of any prescribed rubber bands or other appliances is an important factor in achieving the most efficient and desired treatment. Now that you have your braces, how do you take care of them? It’s important for you to know how to properly take care of your braces throughout your entire orthodontic treatment.

Eating with Braces

Don’t worry; you’ll be eating popcorn and snacking on potato chips again in no time! However, before you can start enjoying some of the treats you love, you will need to take special care to avoid any foods that could damage your new appliances.

Foods to avoid with braces:

  • Chewy foods – bagels, licorice
  • Crunchy foods – popcorn, chips, ice
  • Sticky foods – caramel candies, chewing gum
  • Hard foods – nuts, hard candies
  • Foods that require biting into – corn on the cob, apples, carrots

Foods you CAN eat with braces:

  • Dairy – soft cheese, pudding, milk-based drinks
  • Breads – soft tortillas, pancakes, muffins without nuts
  • Grains – pasta, soft cooked rice
  • Meats/poultry – soft cooked chicken, meatballs, lunch meats
  • Seafood – tuna, salmon, crab cakes
  • Vegetables – mashed potatoes, steamed spinach, beans
  • Fruits – applesauce, bananas, fruit juice
  • Treats – ice cream without nuts, milkshakes, Jell-O, soft cake

Soreness caused from braces and appliances

When you first get your braces, you may notice that your teeth and mouth feel a little tender or sore. This is perfectly normal for patients who have just gotten their braces put on, and we promise your mouth will not be sore forever! To relieve the pain, we recommend dissolving one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of lukewarm water. Swish and gargle this solution in your mouth for just a couple of minutes (do not swallow the saltwater). If the pain is more severe and does not go away after rinsing, you can also try taking a pain reliever. It is also not uncommon for your lips, cheeks, and tongue to become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become used to the braces. We would be happy to give you some wax that you can put over the braces to lessen the tenderness. If you need some wax, please let us know!

Loose Teeth

If your teeth begin feeling a little loose, don’t worry; this is normal! Your braces must first loosen your teeth in order to move them into the right position. Once your teeth have been repositioned, they will no longer be loose.

Loose Wires and Bands

The wires and bands on your braces may come loose. If this happens, please contact us as soon as possible so that we can check and repair your appliance. If any piece of your appliance comes off, be sure to save it and bring it to the office with you. You can temporarily fix the loose wire by using the back of a spoon or the eraser end of a pencil to carefully and gently push the wire back into place. If the loose wire is causing irritation to your lips or cheeks, put wax or a wet cotton ball over the broken wire to relieve the pain.

Take Care of your Appliances

Damaged appliances can increase the length of your treatment process, so be sure to take care of all your appliances. Your teeth and jaw can only move into their correct positions if you consistently wear the rubber bands, retainer, or other appliances prescribed by your doctor.

Brushing Your Teeth with Braces

When you have braces it’s very important to brush and floss after every meal in order to keep your teeth and gums healthy throughout your treatment. If you need help choosing the right toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss, please ask us and we can help you choose the right products for your teeth and your appliance.

Playing Sports with Braces

Game, Set, Match – we have great news for athletes! You can still play sports even while undergoing orthodontic treatment! If you do play sports, it’s recommended that you wear a mouthguard in order to protect your teeth and your appliance. Let your doctor know if you need help finding the right mouthguard for the best protection. In case of a sports emergency, be sure to immediately check your mouth and your appliance for any damage that may have occurred. If you notice any loose teeth, or if your appliance has been damaged, please contact our office right away. You can temporarily relieve the discomfort with wax or by rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater.

ORTHO DICTIONARY

Parts of Braces:

Appliance: Anything your orthodontist attaches to your teeth which moves your teeth or changes the shape of your jaw.

Archwire: The metal wire that acts as a track to guide your teeth along as they move.  It is changed periodically throughout treatment as your teeth move to their new positions.

Band: A metal ring that is cemented to your tooth, going completely around it.  Bands provide a way to attach brackets to your teeth.

Bond: The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your appliances in place.

Bracket: A metal or ceramic part cemented, or “bonded,” to your tooth that holds your archwire in place.

Coil Spring: A spring that fits between your brackets and over your archwire to open space between your teeth.

Color Tie: The tiny rubber band that fits around your bracket to hold the archwire in place.

Elastic (Rubber Band): A small rubber band that is hooked between different points on your appliance to provide pressure to move your jaw placement, or bite, to its correct position.

Forsus: A fixed appliance (using springs) that provides light, continuous force to correct moderate overbites.

Herbst: A pin-and-tube, spring-loaded appliance (cemented in the patient’s mouth) used to correct severe overbites.

Hook: A welded or removable arm to which elastics are attached.

Mouthguard: A device that protects your mouth from injury when you participate in sports or rigorous activities.

Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE): A device that makes your upper jaw wider.

Retainer: An appliance that is worn after your braces are removed.  The retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth to hold them in place.  Some retainers are removable, while others are bonded to the tongue-side of several teeth.

Separator or Spacer: A small rubber ring that creates space between your teeth before the bands are attached.

Steel Tie Wire: A fine wire that is twisted around your bracket to hold the archwire in place, helping with minor rotations.

Wax: Wax is used to stop your braces from irritating your lips.

ORTHODONTIC PROCEDURES

Banding: The process of fitting and cementing orthodontic bands to your teeth.

Bonding: The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using special orthodontic cement.

Cephalometric X-ray (Ceph): An x-ray of your head which shows the relative positions and growth of the face, jaws, and teeth.

Consultation: A meeting with your orthodontist to discuss a treatment plan.

Debanding: The process of removing cemented orthodontic bands from your teeth.

Debonding: The process of removing cemented orthodontic brackets from your teeth.

Impressions: The process of making a model of your teeth by biting into a soft material that hardens into a mold of your teeth.  Your orthodontist will use these impressions to prepare your treatment plan.

Invisalign®: An alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign straightens your teeth with a series of clear custom-molded aligners.  Invisalign can correct some, but not all, orthodontic problems.  *Our office does not offer Invisalign treatment.

Ligation: The process of attaching an archwire to the brackets on your teeth.

Panoramic X-ray (Pano): An x-ray that rotates around your head to take pictures of your teeth, jaw, and other facial areas.

TWO-PHASE TREATMENT

What is the advantage of two-phase orthodontic treatment?

Two-phase orthodontic treatment is a very specialized process that encompasses tooth straightening and physical, facial changes.  The major advantage of a two-phase treatment is to maximize the opportunity to accomplish the ideal healthy, functional, aesthetic result that will remain stable throughout your life.

What if I put off treatment?

The disadvantage of waiting for complete eruption of permanent teeth and having only one phase of treatment for someone with a jaw discrepancy is facing the possibility of a compromised result that may not be stable, functional nor aesthetically pleasing.

First Phase Treatment: Your foundation for a lifetime of beautiful teeth

The goal of first phase treatment is to develop the jaw size in order to accommodate all the permanent teeth and to relate the upper and lower jaws to each other.  Children sometimes show early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop.  An upper and lower jaw that is growing too much or not enough can be recognized at an early age.  If children after age 6 are found to have this jaw discrepancy, they are candidates for early orthodontic treatment.

Planning now can save your smile later

Because they are growing rapidly, children can benefit enormously from an early phase of orthodontic treatment utilizing appliances that direct the growth relationship of the upper and lower jaws.  Thus, a good foundation can be established, providing adequate room for eruption of all permanent teeth. This early correction may prevent later removal of permanent teeth to correct overcrowding and/or surgical procedures to align the upper and lower jaws.  Leaving such a condition untreated until all permanent teeth erupt could result in a jaw discrepancy too severe to achieve an ideal result with braces.

Taking records to determine your unique treatment

Orthodontic records will be necessary to determine the type of appliances to be used, the duration of treatment time, and the frequency of visits.  Records consist of models of the teeth, x-rays, and photographs.

Resting Period

In this phase, the remaining permanent teeth are allowed to erupt.  Retaining devices are not usually recommended since they may interfere with eruption.  It is best to allow the existing permanent teeth some freedom of movement while final eruption of teeth occurs.  A successful first phase will have created room for teeth to find an eruption path.  Otherwise, they may become impacted or severely displaced.

Monitoring your teeth’s progress

In other words, at the end of the first phase of treatment, teeth are not in their final positions.  This will be determined and accomplished in the second phase of treatment.  Selective removal of certain primary (baby) teeth may be in the best interest of enhancing eruption during this resting phase. Periodic recall appointments for observation will be necessary, usually on a six-month basis.

Second Phase Treatment: Stay healthy and look attractive

The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth.  When this equilibrium is established, the teeth will function together properly.  The second phase is initiated when all permanent teeth have erupted, and usually requires braces on all the teeth for an average of 24 months.

Movement & Retention

To begin this process, we take a set of orthodontic records to establish a treatment plan specific for your needs.  Braces are then placed, appliances are used as necessary.  We see the patients every 6 weeks for adjustments over the course of the treatment time.  Once braces are removed, orthodontic retainers are worn to ensure you retain your beautiful smile. The retention phase of your treatment with us will then begin.  You will be expected to wear your retainers full time for approximately 12-24 months, then is re-evaluated on a case-by-case basis.