Orthodontic FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions About Orthodontics

Orthodontics (also referred to as dentofacial orthopedics) is a specialized form of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial abnormalities.

Both dentists and orthodontists work on teeth. Both provide professional care that helps patients achieve and maintain good oral health, and both are dental school graduates. Your dentist may even offer orthodontic services, which can lead you to assume that he or she is an orthodontist. But the truth is that putting aligners or braces on teeth does not make a doctor an orthodontist.

Orthodontists have completed four years of dental school, PLUS an additional two to three years of full-time university training specifically in orthodontics. That full-time training involves intensive study of facial growth and development, bone physiology, functional relationships of the teeth and jaws, and a variety of treatment techniques.

For more information on this topic, please visit the American Association of Orthodontics website.

Any age can be a great time to visit the orthodontist! The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first visit an orthodontist around age seven; however, orthodontic treatment is not exclusive to children and teens. About one in every five orthodontic patients is over the age of 21.

  • ALWAYS remember to brush your teeth after every meal and floss at least once a day.
  • Make sure to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. An additional over-the-counter fluoride rinse is also recommended.
  • During your treatment, try to avoid foods with a lot of sugar, which increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth, and can cause more plaque and potential cavities.
  • Avoid sticky and chewy foods, (caramel, gum, gummy bears, etc), hard foods (hard candy, nuts, ice cubes). Any hard foods that you would typically bite into with your front teeth (apples, carrots, corn on the cob) need to be cut into bite-size pieces.
  • Continue to visit your dentist for routine checkups at least once every six months.

The amount of time spent in braces will vary, depending on the individual patient, because every smile responds differently to treatment. Treatment times can last anywhere from 10 to 36 months.

Braces do not often hurt, though you may feel a small amount of discomfort for a couple days as your teeth, gums, cheeks, and mouth get used to your new braces.

Playing an instrument or contact sport may require some adjustment when you first get your braces, but braces will not stop you from participating in any of your school activities. If you play a contact sport, it is recommended that you wear a mouthguard to protect your braces and/or appliance. We can provide a free one to you in the office.

General Soreness:

  • Stick with soft foods.
  • Warm salt-water rinses for irritated gum tissue or other sore spots. Place Orabase on the affected area. (Orabase can be found at most local pharmacies.)
  • Place wax or OrthoDots on appliances that are causing irritation to your lips, cheeks, and tongue. (OrthoDots can be purchased from Amazon or CVS.)
  • For severe tenderness, take whatever you normally take for a headache or similar pain. Please note that Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and Naproxen Sodium (Naprosyn, Anaprox) actually slow down tooth movement, so it is not advisable to use them frequently while wearing braces.
  • Poking Wire: Use a pencil eraser to push the poking wire down, or place wax on it so it is no longer poking.
  • Loose Wire: Use a pair of clean tweezers or needle-nose pliers to try to put your wire back into place. If you cannot bend the wire into a comfortable position, and covering the end with wax does not help, as a last resort use a small fingernail clipper to clip the wire behind the last tooth to which it is securely fastened. Please make sure that you and the patient are wearing safety glasses while clipping the wire. If the end of the wire is still sharp, place wax on it.
  • Loose Appliance: If your appliance is poking you, place wax on the offending part.
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