Frequently Asked Questions about Orthodontics

Many patients have questions when it comes to orthodontics. We’ve included some of the most frequently asked questions and answers to help you better understand orthodontic treatments.

What is orthodontics?

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.” 

What makes someone an orthodontist?

Orthodontists complete dental school and then receive an extra two to three years of orthodontic instruction and practice. Orthodontists align your teeth, lips and jaw to achieve facial balance and enhance the appearance of your smile.

Is orthodontic treatment necessary?

The main reason for orthodontic treatment is to improve the facial and dental appearance. In cases of very prominent incisors there may be an increased risk of trauma. Crowded teeth may also become a problem as they are more difficult to clean and more likely to suffer from decay.

At what age should you first visit an orthodontist?

Age 7 – 8: Some early orthodontic treatment can be carried out at this age to partially treat a severe malocclusion. At this age the use of a functional appliance may be appropriate in attempting to influence facial growth in order to improve the bite and facial appearance.

Age 10 – 11: This is often a good time to begin full orthodontic treatment. Teeth may or may not be required to be extracted. The majority of orthodontics requires fixed appliances to achieve the best results. It is desirable to complete orthodontic treatment during the growing years before a child goes to high school. Patients may be treated during their high school years, late teens or early adulthood if earlier treatment was not possible.

What are braces for?

Braces are used to align your teeth and improve the appearance of your smile. Aligned teeth are easier to keep clean, so they improve your oral health and are more likely to last your lifetime. There are many types of braces, including traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, invisible braces, and self-ligating braces. You and Dr. Callahan can decide which option is best for you.

What type of brace do I need? 

Removable appliances may be used in some cases, although they rarely fully correct irregularities of the teeth and should be regarded as a limited treatment, unless used in conjunction with fixed appliances. The appliance needs to be worn full time, 24 hours a day. The appliance is only to be removed from the mouth for cleaning, eating and contact sports. A ‘brace box’ is useful to prevent damage or loss of the appliance. The appliance is kept clean using a cleaner provided for this purpose.

Functional appliances are routinely used in growing patients (between 9 and 12 years) to correct an imbalance in the relationship of the jaws, usually where the upper teeth are prominent.

Fixed appliances will bring about the best result in most cases and are usually the appliance of choice. Brackets are placed on the teeth to provide correction of the malocclusion. The brace is fixed to the teeth for the duration of treatment, usually between 18-24 months. Excellent oral hygiene is essential otherwise damage can occur to the teeth leaving white or brown marks. Fixed appliances are delicate so care should be used when eating. Do not bite into hard food, instead cut your food up or break your food up into small pieces before chewing. Avoid all types of hard and sticky foods as these will readily break the appliance.
Sometimes elastics have to be worn as part of the fixed appliance treatment to move the teeth. Elastics usually need to be worn 24 hours a day and replaced every day.

When fixed appliances are removed, the teeth will be slightly mobile (this is normal). In order to prevent teeth from relapsing, a retainer appliance will be used to hold the teeth in position. These are normally removable braces and need to be worn until growth is completed.

How long do I need to wear braces?

Every patient has different needs. The treatment ranges from 6 to 30 months, averaging around 22 months. We can give you an estimate for your treatment during your complimentary consultation.

Do braces hurt?

In general, braces aren’t painful. At the beginning of your treatment you may have some tenderness.

What should I do to maintain healthy teeth and gums with braces or a retainer?

You should always be sure to brush at least two times a day, but preferably 3 times a day, and floss at least once a day. We can show you how to best floss with braces.

You should use toothpaste with fluoride, which helps strengthen your teeth and reduces your risk of cavities and decay. Ask your orthodontist or dentist to recommend a good fluoride mouthwash for extra protection.

If you wear a retainer and take it out to eat, make sure to place it in its container so it is protected and not accidentally lost. You should brush your teeth and floss before you put your retainer back in.

To clean your retainer, gently brush it with a toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste. You may also use a denture cleaner recommended by your orthodontist. Never boil your retainer or run it through the dishwasher, as you can permanently destroy it.

Maintain a good diet, and avoid foods with high amounts of processed sugar. Sugar can encourage acid production by raising your level of oral bacteria, increasing the buildup of plaque.

Stay away from sticky or chewy foods (chewing gum, caramels, taffy, etc.) and hard foods (nuts, hard candy, ice, etc.). These foods can damage your braces.
Visit your dentist at least twice a year. Getting regular dental cleanings while going through orthodontic treatment helps reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth, which reduces your risk of cavities and decay.

Should I brush my teeth more frequently with braces?

It’s best to brush three times per day with braces, as this will help keep your teeth, gums and mouth stay as healthy as possible during your treatment. Flossing also helps remove food particles from between the teeth in places the brush can’t access. Dr. Callahan and his team will gladly show you the most effective techniques for brushing and flossing to keep your braces clean.

Should I visit my dentist every six months with braces?

YES – every 6 months! Routine dental care is very important during your orthodontic treatment. Braces can make it harder for you to clean your teeth, and sometimes food gets trapped. If you keep your teeth clean, they’ll look better once your braces are removed.

How much cooperation is necessary?

Orthodontic treatment usually takes about 18-24 months, followed by retention. For treatment to succeed you should follow the guidelines given to you. A mouth guard should be worn during all physical activity including practices and games. Also, you should attend regularly scheduled appointments and keep your teeth clean throughout treatment. Avoiding sweets and carbonated beverages can help protect your teeth during treatment. Breakage of orthodontic appliances can prolong and increase the expense of orthodontic treatment. It is important to protect appliances at all times. 

Damaged or broken orthodontic appliances may occur from eating foods harmful to your orthodontic appliances, such as hard or sticky items. Damage to your orthodontic appliances may also occur as a result of hard physical contact. Thus, it is important to protect your appliances at all times.

Can I still play sports or play a musical instrument?

Yes – you can still play sports, and we can give you a mouthguard to wear while playing. You may experience a period of adjustment while you get used to playing your musical instrument.

If you do get injured during a sporting activity, check your mouth and braces for any harm or broken appliances. Call us right away if you find any loose teeth or broken appliances in your mouth. 

What happens if the brace breaks?

If your brace breaks, please contact our office or the emergency phone number you have been given. A broken removable or functional appliance does not constitute an emergency as the brace can be left out of the mouth and the office can be contacted for an appointment as soon as possible. If a fixed appliance breaks, use the supplied wax to relieve any sharp parts and contact me as soon as possible.