Orthodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities, or malocclusions, which means “bad bites.” Orthodontists are skilled in the design, application and control of appliances used to correct malocclusions, such as braces. These appliances are designed to bring the teeth, lips and jaws into correct alignment to achieve facial balance.
Orthodontists are experienced in diagnosing, preventing and treating dental and facial irregularities. To qualify, they must attend college, and enroll in a four-year graduate dental program at a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). After completing dental school, an orthodontist must successfully complete a two to three year residency in orthodontics that has also been accredited by the ADA.
In most cases, malocclusions are inherited. Some are acquired. Examples of inherited problems include crowding, extra teeth, and gaps between teeth, congenitally missing teeth, and a broad range of jaw, teeth and facial discrepancies. Acquired orthodontic problems can be caused by thumb or finger sucking, trauma, dental disease, early loss of primary or adult teeth and airway obstruction due to the adenoids and tonsils. Many of these problems affect teeth alignment, facial development and appearance.
It can be difficult for you to determine that your child needs treatment. Many orthodontic problems can be present even though the front teeth appear straight. Also, some problems may appear to be complex, but they may eventually resolve on their own. Your general dentist can examine your child and determine if orthodontic treatment is needed, but an orthodontist is the best resource.
The following signs may indicate that orthodontic treatment is necessary: gaps between the teeth, teeth appear crowded or overlap or the top front teeth cover more than 50% of the bottom teeth. If you notice shifting of the jaw or misalignment, your child may have a skeletal problem that may require early treatment to correct.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children receive their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7. This allows the orthodontist to identify and evaluate any existing problems and determine if and when treatment is necessary. Early treatment can prevent more complex treatment later on.
Absolutely! No patient is “too old” to wear braces! Any adult that is in good health overall, and has healthy gums and good bone support is an ideal candidate for orthodontic treatment. About 25% of our patients are adults, and that number keeps growing!
Fortunately, over the years, orthodontic treatment has greatly improved. Today’s braces are much more comfortable. You may experience soreness for a few days after brace placement. But remember, this is only temporary. Over-the-counter pain medicines typically relieve this discomfort.
Phase I is interceptive treatment. It usually begins between the ages of seven to nine, while a child still has most of their primary teeth and a few permanent teeth. The goal of Phase I treatment is to correct a moderate or severe orthodontic problem early. Often, Phase I treatment reduces the need for tooth extractions and more complicated treatment in the future.
Phase II treatment typically begins after the remaining permanent teeth erupt. It usually occurs at age 12 or 13. During Phase II, the ideal bite is achieved.
No. Only children with certain bite problems require interceptive treatment. All other patient can begin treatment when the permanent teeth erupt. It is important that your child receive an evaluation by age 7 to determine if early treatment is necessary.
Treatment can take 6 months to 30 months, or in rare cases, much longer, depending on tooth development, the severity of the patient’s condition, and their cooperation.
During extraction therapy, one or more teeth are removed to make room for other teeth. Conversely, during non-extraction therapy, the jaw is expanded and/or the size and shape of some teeth are adjusted so they fit well within the jaw. We make every effort to avoid extraction. But, if crowding and jaw discrepancy is severe, extraction may be necessary.
If treatment is started at the right time, it is often less expensive. Luckily, orthodontics fees have not increased as fast as many other consumer products. We do offer financing options to help you comfortably pay for treatment. In addition, most insurance plans now include orthodontic benefits. However, prior to your first visit, please contact your insurance company to confirm this.