Regular dental visits and proper at-home care go a long way in helping you maintain optimal oral health. But to achieve beautifully straight teeth, or to diagnose and treat abnormalities of the teeth and jaw – including improper alignment or bone structure issues – you’ll need to see an orthodontist, a dental specialist focusing on malocclusions, or imperfect positioning of the teeth and jaw. If you’re not familiar with orthodontics or how this specialty practice can benefit you and your family, we’re happy to consult with you to answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, we’ve included some of our most frequently asked questions below.

What’s the difference between a dentist and orthodontist?

Like your dentist, orthodontists also complete dental school. Once graduated, orthodontics go on to attain two to three additional years of specialized education and training. While it’s becoming more and more common for dentists to provide teeth-straightening services like basic braces or Invisalign, only orthodontists are qualified to correct malocclusions, including straightening teeth, aligning the jaw and adjusting your bite.

When should my child see an orthodontist?

Every little mouth is different, and while the American Association of Orthodontics recommends children see an orthodontist for the first time around age 7, it’s certainly fine to do so earlier if you suspect any issue with your child’s teeth or jaw alignment.

That’s not to say orthodontists can’t treat adults. If you’re dissatisfied with the position of your teeth or suspect a misaligned bite – or simply need a retainer to ensure your straight teeth stay that way – don’t hesitate to call us to schedule an appointment.

Isn’t it all cosmetic?

You might think of braces or other orthodontic appliances as “cosmetic” treatments, but malocclusions can significantly impact your health. For example, crowded teeth are more difficult to clean, increasing your risk for decay or enamel loss. Misalignment can also cause jaw pain, headaches and make it difficult to perform everyday functions, like chewing or speaking.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a beautiful straight smile, either. An orthodontist can help increase your confidence by helping you achieve the straight teeth and proper alignment you’ve always wanted.

How should I start?

Talk to an orthodontist! There’s no use wondering what an orthodontist can do for you or how you can improve the health and appearance of your smile. Schedule a consultation to find out exactly which treatments might be right for you.

I have missing teeth. Can an orthodontist help me?

Of course. During your consultation, you can discuss your goals with your orthodontist. If you have a missing tooth, this won’t prevent you from receiving orthodontic treatment, but it will affect your treatment plan. For example, if you plan to replace the tooth, your orthodontist will tailor the treatment to make or reserve space for the tooth. If you’re not planning to replace it, the orthodontist may be able to close the gap created to achieve a uniform smile. Your orthodontist will outline your options during your consultation.

What if I have gum disease?

If you’re in the care of a periodontist – a dental professional specializing in the care and treatment of the gums – your orthodontist will certainly want to consult with him or her before you start orthodontic treatment. This is because orthodontic treatments could potentially cause strain to the gums, which may undermine your periodontal treatment. Regardless, you’ll want to continue to see your dentist and/or periodontist while in the care of an orthodontist to ensure your teeth and gums remain as healthy as possible.

Am I too old for orthodontic treatment?

No! If your teeth are healthy, there’s no reason you shouldn’t receive orthodontic treatment if it will improve your health or appearance. In fact, getting orthodontic treatment now can help reduce your risk for dental issues in the future. And while you might not be excited to wear braces, there are many discreet options, like clear aligners, available.

Will everyone know I’m straightening my teeth?

Around here, we think braces are pretty cute – but that doesn’t mean you do too. If you’re looking for an orthodontic appliance that isn’t overtly noticeable, you’ll be pleased about the options on the market today. From clear aligners to discreet brackets, your orthodontist can show you every option available to you.

How will my lifestyle change?

If you’re not looking to give up your current lifestyle, don’t worry; today’s treatment options require little to no lifestyle adjustment. If play sports or are active, your orthodontic treatment won’t prevent you from continuing to do so. You’ll still be able to play musical instruments – even those that require your mouth. And with today’s discreet appliances, you’ll still look great smiling in photos. Depending on the orthodontic treatment you choose, you may need to avoid a few specific foods temporarily, and you’ll need to take time to properly care for your teeth and appliance. But don’t despair; it’s all in the name of a beautiful smile.

How will my oral hygiene routine change?

When you’re wearing an orthodontic appliance, you’ll want to take extra special care of your teeth. We always recommend our orthodontic patients do the following:

  • Brush after every meal and floss at least once a day.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste along with a fluoride rinse, if recommended.
  • Always keep your appliance in its case when it’s not in your mouth.
  • Regularly soak your retainer in a denture cleaning solution and brush with a soft toothbrush to keep it clean.
  • Avoid soaking your appliance in hot water or placing in the dishwasher.
  • Limit sugary foods and avoid sticky or chewy foods that are likely to get stuck in your appliance.
  • Keep all recommended appointments, including both dental and orthodontic.

I need braces. What are my options?

If you think “metal mouth” when you hear the word braces, it’s time to get familiar with the innovative and attractive options on the market today. Your orthodontist will show you examples of ceramic braces, lingual braces, self-igniting braces and traditional metal braces so you can make the right decision for your lifestyle.

How long will treatment last?

Because all mouths are unique, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for braces. Several factors – including the severity of your malocclusions and your response to treatment – will affect how long you wear your braces. That said, the average treatment time is 22 months, and usually not more than 30 months.

Will it hurt?

As your mouth adjust to the new appliance, you might feel a bit of discomfort. That said, today’s braces are much more comfortable than those of yesteryear. This initial discomfort usually goes away within a few days and can be treated with a mild pain reliever.

Should I still see the dentist?

Yes! While you’re creating beautifully straight teeth, you’ll want to make sure those teeth are healthy and clean! Since oral hygiene can be a bit more difficult when you’re wearing braces, it’s even more important to keep your regular dental appointments to ensure you’re not developing cavities or gum disease.

What do I have to do?

You’ll see your orthodontist regularly during treatment, and he or she will help adjust your braces or other appliance and/or modify treatment as necessary. That said, you’re also responsible for the success of your treatment through proper care of your mouth, teeth and appliance. Follow your orthodontists’ instructions thoroughly and make sure you’re practicing good oral hygiene. Orthodontics is a team effort – but the results are all yours to enjoy.

What will it cost?

Orthodontic treatments vary widely, and so do the associated costs. Your cost will depend on the severity of the problem and the device(s) used for treatment. That said, most of our patients find the treatment to cost less than expected. If you have a flexible spending account or health savings account, you can use those funds to cover your orthodontic treatment. Additionally, your dental insurance may provide some benefits for orthodontics. Payment plans may also be available, so please call us to schedule a financial consultation prior to beginning your treatment.