Orthodontics is devoted to moving teeth into the correct positions. Although this has esthetic effects, its primary purpose is to restore proper alignment to improve the health of the teeth and jawbones.
What is an Orthodontist?
After completing the typical four or five-year dental program an orthodontist must enter a residency that lasts two to three years. Here they learn to become specialists in tooth and jaw alignment.
What Do Orthodontists Do?
Orthodontists correct misaligned teeth or problems with jaw alignment. Among the conditions they treat are crowded or too widely spaced teeth, crooked teeth, overbites, underbites and crossbites.
Is Orthodontics Just for Children?
No. Adults can also be treated. The teeth will move no matter what the patient’s age. However, once the bones stop growing correcting a problem like a narrow jaw may require assistance from other surgical or dental specialists.
How Do Braces Work?
Braces apply constant, gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into position. There are several different systems of braces.
- Stainless steel or ceramic brackets are attached to the teeth and a wire is attached to the brackets. In some cases, rubber bands may also be used to move the teeth into the correct positions.
- Lingual braces are a subcategory of traditional braces. They are mounted on the inside of the teeth rather than the outside.
- Invisalign is a type of braces that consists of a custom-made removable clear plastic aligner that fits over the teeth.
Why Would I or My Child Need Orthodontic Treatment?
Heredity is the most common reason for orthodontic problems. Thumb-sucking or lip-sucking – especially much past the age of five – can increase the risk of protruding front teeth. An injury that results in tooth loss may allow teeth to shift.
Why Should I See an Orthodontist if I’m Not Having Any Problems?
Straight, properly spaced teeth are not only more attractive, they are easier to clean, which decreases the risk of periodontal disease, tooth, and bone loss. Crooked teeth may eventually lead to problems with speech, biting or chewing and may cause headaches or jaw pain.
Is Just Wanting a More Attractive Smile a Reason to Have Orthodontic Treatment?
Research has shown that a smile is one of the first things people notice about you. When your teeth and jaw are properly positioned and in proportion, it can have a big impact on your appearance and self-confidence.
My Dentist Says I Need Braces – What Might Happen if I Don’t Get Treated?
Misaligned teeth do increase the risk of dental decay because it can be harder to floss correctly and get all surfaces of the teeth clean. Once decay begins, the risk of periodontal (gum) disease goes up. Periodontal disease can actually cause the destruction of the bone in the jaw as well as tooth loss.
Poorly aligned teeth make it more difficult to chew food properly, which can affect your nutrition and overall health. If your dental problems contribute to sleep apnea, you’re risking your overall health, as sleep apnea has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Will Food Get Stuck in My Braces?
Some kinds of foods (like popcorn, hard and sticky candies) are notorious for causing problems and many orthodontists recommend their patient not eat these foods until the braces come off.
What Should I Do to Protect My Braces?
It’s important to avoid chewing on your fingernails, pencils, pens or similar objects to protect the braces. Never use your teeth to perform tasks like opening a package.
What’s an Expander?
Some orthodontists extract teeth to make more room for teeth in a narrow jaw, but an expander can usually achieve the same result. Expanders stretch the soft tissue and bone of the palate to reshape the jaw as it grows. Expanders cannot be used in an older teen or adult as the bone is already fully grown and stabilized.
Should All Children be Evaluated by an Orthodontist?
Even when there are no obvious dental problems, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children be evaluated by an orthodontist by about age seven. Reasons to evaluate a child early rather than later include:
- Thumb-sucking or lip-sucking
- Difficulty biting or chewing
- Crowding or overlapping of permanent teeth
- Obvious abnormal bite development
- Clicking or popping when the jaw moves
- Repeatedly biting the cheek
- Speech problems or impediments
- Protruding teeth
- Uneven wear
Will I Need a Retainer?
In most cases, yes. Once the braces come off, there is a tendency for the teeth to shift. A retainer helps keep them in the correct position. Many people need to wear a retainer at night for the rest of their lives.
What Happens if My Child is Hit in the Mouth While Wearing Braces?
Dental trauma can definitely be a problem when wearing braces. Firstly, there is a risk that the braces can cut the soft tissues of the mouth, lips or tongue. Second, a traumatic injury can break or dislodge wires and brackets. Third, an injury may dislodge, chip, break or even knock out a tooth. A pediatric dentist may be able to handle some of these problems, but you should always let the orthodontist know about any oral injury.
What Kinds of Problems Occur with Braces?
When braces are first placed, it’s normal to have some soreness. After all, the teeth are actually moving. It’s best to eat soft foods until your mouth feels normal again. A warm saltwater wash can help relieve irritated gums or sore spots. If you feel more than mild discomfort, an over-the-counter product can be used for pain relief. These medications can actually slow down tooth movement, however, so we recommend you use them only if absolutely necessary.
What if a Bracket Comes Loose?
If the bracket is still attached to the arch wire, it’s best to leave it in place. Dental wax can help cover any edges. If the bracket is completely loose or can be easily removed, put it in a plastic bag and take it your next orthodontic appointment.
What if I Have a Loose Wire?
Sometimes a wire will come loose from a bracket. You can try to put it back with a pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers. Cover the end with wax if it’s poking you. As a last resort, clip the wire with a pair of fingernail clippers behind the last tooth to which it is still fastened.
What if I Lose a Separator?
This is a fairly common occurrence. Just give us a call for a new one or for any of the above and general advice on any orthodontic matter contact a Schulhof Center expert in New York and New Jersey today.
The Schulhof Center for Orthodontics
400 Kinderkamack Road
Oradell, NJ 07649
Orthodontics FAQs 2017