What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics (also called dentofacial orthopedics) is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Many types of appliances, including braces, are used to make these corrections.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a specialist who has completed an advanced education program following dental school, to learn the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development.

What is the difference between an orthodontist and a regular dentist?

A dentist may perform any type of orthodontic treatment he or she feels capable of doing. Orthodontists, however, are dental specialists who in addition to receiving a dental degree must have at least two continuous years of advance study in orthodontics as required by the American Dental Association. An orthodontist is an expert at moving teeth, helping jaws develop properly and working with the patient to help make sure the teeth stay in their new position. Only those who complete such a program and who have such expertise are eligible to belong to the American Association of Orthodontists.

What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?

  • A more attractive smile
  • Reduced appearance-consciousness during critical development years
  • Better function of the teeth
  • Increase in self-confidence
  • Increased ability to clean the teeth
  • Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
  • Better long-term health of teeth and gums
  • Guides permanent teeth into more favorable positions
  • Reduces the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
  • Aid in optimizing other dental treatment

What are some signs that braces may be needed?

  • Upper front teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth, or are bucked
  • Upper front teeth cover the majority of the lower teeth when biting together (deep bite)
  • Upper front teeth are behind or inside the lower front teeth (underbite)
  • The upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together (open bite)
  • Crowded or overlapped teeth
  • Primary or baby teeth that will not come out
  • Finger- or thumb-sucking habits which continue after six or seven years old
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
  • The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting together
  • Excessive spaces between the teeth even after the upper canines or eye teeth erupt
  • The centers of the upper and lower front teeth do not match up or line up

What causes crooked teeth?

The main cause is heredity. Other contributing factors are finger sucking, gum disease, trauma or primary teeth that are lost too early.

Why should I have my teeth straightened?

Teeth that are crooked trap plaque more easily. Plaque is the white film that builds up on teeth and contains bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. Poorly aligned teeth and a bad bite also lead to improper chewing and digestion. Finally, crooked teeth detract from your smile and effect how you feel about yourself. Orthodontics can boost a person’s self image as the teeth, jaws and lips become properly aligned.

What is Phase I and Phase II treatment?

Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment (e.g., expander or partial braces) before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Such treatment can occur between the ages of six and ten. This treatment is sometimes recommended to make more space for developing teeth, correction of cross-bites, overbites, under-bites, or harmful oral habits. Phase II treatment is also called comprehensive treatment, because it involves full braces when all of the permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen.

When should my child first be seen?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommend that a child should be seen at about age 7 or earlier if there is an obvious problem that you or your dentist see developing. Comprehensive treatment however, would not occur until all of the permanent teeth are erupted.

You told us to wait but all the young children in the neighborhood already are wearing “braces” and “retainers”; why should my child wait until he is older? Although there are some orthodontic problems that should be corrected early (interceptive treatment) this in no way guarantees that future treatment will not be necessary when all of the permanent teeth erupt at around the age of 12. We cannot predict how the remaining permanent teeth will erupt into the dental arch and therefore cannot determine if the patient will need additional treatment later on. However, it has been proven that interceptive treatment, when addressing a very specific problem, does assist in making a second phase of treatment shorter and less difficult on the patient.

Do you take adult patients?

YES! In fact approximately 30% of our patients are adults. Everyone wants and amazing smile and with Invisalign, we are treating more and more adults each year. You are never too old for treatment.

Can I still have braces if I have some teeth missing?

Absolutely! Often when teeth are missing, adjacent teeth will drift into the empty space causing a periodontal (gums), esthetic or functional problem. Orthodontic treatment will correct and prevent this from happening and also provide the proper alignment for your dentist to replace missing teeth. In addition, some patients have congenitally (from birth) missing teeth and want to have the spaces filled in with a bridge or implant. Orthodontic treatment can open or close space to the exact size of the natural tooth that is to be restored.

How do braces straighten crooked teeth?

Braces use steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. The brackets that are placed on your teeth and the archwire that connects them are the main components. The bracket is a piece of specially shaped metal or ceramic that we affix to each tooth. The archwire threads through the brackets and as the wire tries to return to its original shape, it applies gentle pressure to actually move the teeth. With pressure on one side from the archwire, the bones gives away, and the tooth moves. New bone then grows behind. As the teeth move, they will loosen slightly, which is normal. Thanks to new material and procedures, all this happens much more quickly than ever before, and the amount of pressure placed on the teeth is much lighter.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Depending on the complexity of the situation, and the level of patient cooperation, active treatment time can vary from as little as several months to two years or longer. Retainer follow-up visits are necessary after treatment to ensure teeth remain in their new positions.

Do braces hurt?

The placement of bands and brackets on your teeth does not hurt in the traditional sense, but it can make your teeth tender to biting pressure for several days, and may make your cheeks and lips sore.

What do rubber bands do?

Attached to your braces, rubber bands or elastics exert force that creates the right amount of pressure to move the teeth and help correct your “bite”. It is important to wear your elastics as prescribed by Dr. Mastroianni and to change them 3-4 times per day so the force is constant. In general, elastics help the dental arches and the teeth to fit together properly.

Will braces interfere with playing sports?

No. It is recommended, however, that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouthguard when participating in any sporting activity. Special orthodontic mouthgaurds are provided for you and come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Will braces interfere with playing musical instruments?

There will be an initial period of adjustment. In addition, brace covers or wax can be provided to prevent discomfort.

Should I see my general dentist while I have braces?

Yes, you should continue to see your general dentist every six months for cleanings and dental checkups.

Will I need to wear a retainer after treatment?

Yes. Even after our best orthodontic treatment, teeth will have a tendency to move slightly. A retainer is the only way to maintain the results of orthodontic treatment.