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Orthodontic FAQs

New to braces?

Dr. Engel and Dr. Alexa can help.

Get answers to the most common orthodontic questions from people like you! If you don't see your question listed, always feel free to call our office and our helpful team members can answer all your questions.

What is orthodontics?

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.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who has received two to three years of additional training and experience. Your orthodontist is able to straighten teeth, correct misaligned jaw structure, and improve the function of your smile.

What's the best age to visit the orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first visit an orthodontist around the age of 7; however, orthodontic treatment is not exclusive to children and teens, with about one in every five orthodontic patients being over the age of 21. If you want to improve the look and feel of your smile, then ANY AGE can be a great age to see the orthodontist.

What is the difference between Phase I and Phase II?

Phase One focuses on addressing major concerns when several baby teeth are still present. Phase Two works solely on adult teeth. Not all children will require a two-phase orthodontic therapy. During your child’s first visit, the orthodontist will take radiographs and determine the best route for your child’s teeth.  If the orthodontist feels that your child’s teeth can wait until they have their permanent set, they won’t recommend phase one orthodontics.

The goal of Phase One, usually during ages 7-10, is to help the jaw develop in a way that will accommodate all the permanent teeth and improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together.

Next, there is a Resting Period during which the remaining baby teeth exfoliate and the permanent teeth are allowed to erupt.

Once all permanent teeth have erupted, Phase Two begins, usually involving full upper and lower braces, and is designed to make sure each adult tooth has an exact and proper location. This process involves ensuring everything works together and looks great including the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth.

How will early orthodontic (Phase I) treatment benefit my child in the long run?

Phase one orthodontics focuses on correcting imminent concerns of your child’s dental arches when both baby teeth and adult teeth are present. Phase One is used to help guide adult teeth to erupt correctly. For children whose parents opted in for Phase One orthodontics, Phase Two often takes less time and requires fewer appointments.

In addition, Phase One orthodontics frequently sets teeth up to grow in a more regular way, eradicating the potential for complex orthodontic procedures like extractions or headgear. After completing Phase One, the orthodontist will take other considerations into account when deciding whether your child needs Phase Two orthodontics.

Do braces hurt?

Orthodontic treatment has come a long way in recent years, and new technology allows us to use lighter forces to move teeth over a much shorter period of time. Because of this, most orthodontic discomfort is brief and easily managed. The placement of brackets and bands on your teeth will not hurt, but once the braces are connected with the arch wires there may be some general discomfort and soreness for one to four days. This soreness can be relieved with an over-the-counter pain reliever (use as directed).

Additionally, a patient’s lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks before adapting to the braces. Our team provides an orthodontic wax that can be applied to your braces in order to reduce irritation during this period.

How long do I have to wear braces?

The amount of time spent in braces will vary depending on the individual patient, because every smile responds differently to treatment. Treatment times can take anywhere between six and 30 months, but most standard treatments take about 22 months.

How can I take care of my teeth if I'm wearing braces or a retainer?

  • ALWAYS remember to brush your teeth after every meal and floss at least once a day.
  • Make sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and ask your orthodontist or family dentist if you need a fluoride rinse. This will help prevent cavities!
  • During your treatment, try to avoid foods with a lot of sugar, which increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth, causing more plaque, WSLs, and possibly cavities.
  • Avoid sticky and chewy foods (caramel), hard foods (hard candy, nuts, ice cubes), or any foods that could possibly get stuck in your braces or knock off a bracket (corn on the cob, soft bagels, ribs, taffy, etc.)

  • Be sure to schedule your routine checkups with your family dentist. It is recommended that you continue to visit the dentist every six months.
  • If you take out your retainer to eat, make sure you brush your teeth, floss, and remember to keep it safe in its container so that it does not get lost or broken.

  • Keep your retainer clean, too, by brushing it gently with a toothbrush and a mild soap (NOT TOOTHPASTE). You may also soak it in denture cleaner as instructed by your orthodontist. Do not put your retainer in boiling water or in the dishwasher.

Do I need to brush my teeth more often if I have braces?

With braces, you should brush your teeth at least three times a day to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy and clean. Brushing regularly will help remove any food that may be caught between the braces. You should also floss daily to get in between your braces where your brush isn't able to reach. Dr. Engel and our therapists can show you how to properly brush and floss once your braces are placed.

If I have braces, do I still need dental checkups every six months?

Yes, please! In fact, it's even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit their dentist regularly. With braces, food may be caught in places that your toothbrush can't reach. This causes bacteria to build up that can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Your dentist will work closely with your orthodontist to make sure that your teeth stay clean and healthy while wearing braces.

Will my braces interfere with my school activities like sports, playing an instrument, or singing?

Playing an instrument or a contact sport may require some adjustment when you first get your braces, but wearing braces will not stop you from participating in any of your school activities. If you play a contact sport, it is recommended that you wear a mouthguard to protect your braces or appliance.

How do I schedule my next appointment?

Simply call our practice! Our front desk staff will be happy to help schedule your next appointment at your convenience. If you are a new patient or have been referred to our practice, please let us know and we will provide you with all of the information you need.

How long do I have to wear retainers after treatment?

Night time for life! Our bodies are incredible in their ability to adapt to the world around them, but that also means shifting of the teeth is possible throughout life. If you take care of your final retainers, they will take care of your teeth.

Will wisdom teeth cause my teeth to shift?

Not necessarily. Research suggests that wisdom teeth don't always cause teeth to shift. In most cases, wisdom teeth are removed for general dental health reasons rather than for orthodontic health. Your family dentist or Dr. Engel can help determine whether your wisdom teeth need to be removed.

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