Common Questions


Common Orthodontic Questions

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What is Orthodontics?

“Ortho” means straight; “dontics” means teeth…but this is only part of the answer. Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for these problems is “malocclusion,” which means “bad bite.” The practice of orthodontics requires professional skill in the design, application and control of corrective appliances, such as braces, to bring teeth, lips and jaws into proper alignment, thus achieving facial balance.

Orthodontic Goals are:

  • A healthy, functional bite relationship
  • Dental health improvement
  • A beautiful smile
  • Benefits that are retained a minimum of 25 years

What is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist trained in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists must first attend college, then complete a four-year dental program at a university-level dental school accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). They must then complete an additional two- to three-year residency program of advanced dental education in orthodontics accredited by the ADA. Only dentists who have completed this advanced specialty education are orthodontists.

What Causes Orthodontic Problems?

Most malocclusions are inherited, and some are acquired. Inherited problems include crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra teeth, congenitally missing teeth and a wide range of discrepancies involving the jaws, teeth and face. Acquired problems can be caused by trauma, thumb or finger sucking, dental diseases, and premature loss of baby or adult teeth. Many of these problems affect not only alignment of the teeth but facial development and appearance as well.

How Do I Know If My Child Needs Orthodontic Treatment?

It is usually difficult for you to determine whether treatment is necessary because many problems can occur even though the front teeth may look straight. On the other hand, some problems that may look intimidating will resolve to an impressive degree on their own. Your general dentist is a good reference, but orthodontists are your best resource because orthodontics is all they do. Orthodontists are able to give practical information in a simple way. And at Genesis Orthodontics, our initial exam is comprehensive and informative.

What are the Early Signs Of Orthodontic Problems?

Although you may find it difficult to determine whether treatment is necessary, the following signs can help in prompting you to seek orthodontic advice: crowded or overlapping teeth, large gaps between the teeth, poor alignment of front top teeth with bottom teeth, top front teeth that do not meet with the bottom teeth, and top front teeth that cover more than 50% of the bottom teeth. If you see any misalignment or shifting of the jaw, your child may have a bite problem that could benefit from early interceptive orthodontic treatment.

At What Age Should My Child See an Orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children be evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7. An orthodontic evaluation enables the orthodontist to advise the parent on whether treatment will be necessary, and determine the best time for treatment. Early detection and interception of some orthodontic problems is an opportunity to avoid more difficult treatment later.

Can Adults Have Braces?

Age is not a major limiting factor. About 25% of our orthodontic patients are adults.

Many adults were unable to get orthodontic treatment during childhood and, as a result, have simply lived with misaligned teeth or a dysfunctional bite most of their lives. But as people have become more health conscious, and as orthodontic treatment has become both more accessible and affordable, many adults today do elect orthodontic correction. Whereas crowding can be treated similarly at almost any age, bite correction can be more challenging with adults. But even with bite problems, there is good reason to be optimistic.


Is Orthodontic Treatment Painful?

Patients generally find the process of placing braces to be non-painful and surprisingly easy. By the next day, however, most experience a degree of discomfort from two sources. Firstly, the braces feel “bumpy” and this usually results in mild irritation to the inside of lips and cheeks. After about a week, both the bumpy feeling and soft tissue irritation disappear without recurring for the remainder of treatment.

The second source of discomfort comes from the wire that connects the teeth together. This arch-wire is the orthodontic “medicine”. It delivers light pressure to the teeth and begins the tooth movement process. Even though the pressure is light, after a few hours of continuous pressure teeth will likely become tender. Like the soft tissue tenderness, tooth tenderness typically disappears within the first week. But unlike the soft tissue tenderness, tooth tenderness typically follows monthly arch-wire adjustments, though to a lesser extent as treatment progresses. Occasionally, patients report they experience no discomfort, but most have some soreness during the first few days. Exactly when the discomfort ceases differs for each patient. You may wish to take non-prescription pain remedies that are commonly taken for other discomforts, such as headaches.

For maximum effectiveness, take such medications before the discomfort begins. Soft tissue irritations will heal more quickly if you apply Zylactin or Orabase according to the manufacturer’s directions. You can purchase these products over the counter at most pharmacies and convenience stores.


What are Phase I (Interceptive) and Phase II Treatments?

Two-phase treatment is essentially treatment divided in halves. This is in contrast to one phase treatment which deals with all orthodontic problems comprehensively in one longer time period after all permanent teeth erupt. Phase 1 of a two-phase orthodontic treatment is initiated at approximately age eight. This is well before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. The second phase of treatment typically begins at age twelve or thirteen, after primary (baby) teeth are lost. There are usually a couple years of retainer wear between the two separate treatment phases.

As two separate phases of treatment are needed for completion of orthodontic goals, there needs to be very good reason to recommend multiple-phase treatment. There are numerous “good reasons” including severe crowding, on-going thumb/finger sucking, some cross-bites and under-bites, permanent tooth eruption problems, and severe overbite that results is significant patient self-consciousness.


Does Everyone Need Two Phases of Treatment?

Not every child needs multiple-phase treatment. Two-phase treatment can be very good when the degree of the problem is severe, but this is the minority of orthodontic patients. If we operate on the philosophy of doing the most good in the least amount of time, effort, and expense, comprehensive treatment confined to one treatment period is indicated for the majority.

What is the Duration of Orthodontic Treatment?

Just as the severity of orthodontic problems varies greatly, orthodontic treatment time varies greatly. Though many are finished in less than a year, five months to thirty months, or in rare instances longer, are the extremes.

What is the Difference Between Extraction and Non-Extraction Therapies?

Both of these alternatives provide a way to address crowding and/or protrusion of teeth. Extraction therapy involves removal of one or more teeth to make room for correction of crowding or forward position (protrusion) of front teeth. This is in contrast to non-extraction therapy, in which the patient’s jaw is expanded. At Genesis Orthodontics, our treatment philosophy is very conservative, and we do make every effort to avoid extraction. However, for severe crowding or protrusion, extraction may be required.

Is Orthodontic Care Expensive?

The cost of orthodontic treatment parallels the time for correction. Though orthodontics is more affordable than in the past, treatment takes significant time and so there is significant cost.

One reason why orthodontic treatment is more affordable now is that modern treatment is more time efficient. Another reason is that orthodontic fees have not increased as rapidly as the cost of many of other consumer products and services. Most people pay on a monthly basis, at the same rate that treatment is received.