WHAT IS AN ORTHODONTIST?
An orthodontist is a doctor who specializes in the field of dentistry that aims to diagnose, treat, and prevent dental irregularities. This includes crooked teeth, misaligned bites, and other conditions that affect the look and function of the face and jaw. A children’s orthodontist has completed several years of training in addition to dental school, allowing him or her to successfully correct dental irregularities in adolescents.
WHAT DOES AN ORTHODONTIST DO?
An orthodontist aims to improve the look and function of a child’s smile by employing a variety of appliances and treatment. Orthodontists are responsible for placing fixed appliances, like braces, which use gentle pressure to move teeth into proper alignment. When your child visits an orthodontist, he or she will receive a thorough orthodontic examination. Then, the orthodontist will determine which treatment, if any, is required.
IS IT REQUIRED THAT MY CHILD SEES AN ORTHODONTIST IF THEY ARE A DENTAL PATIENT?
No, it is not. However, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children by the age of seven visit an orthodontist to assess potential tooth and jaw problems so that corrective action or treatment can take place through early intervention. Many of our patients are referred by their Children’s Dental Health dentist or family dentist, while others take the initiative to schedule an examination themselves to best enhance their child’s smile.
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD I SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT FOR MY CHILD’S ORTHODONTIC SCREENING?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic screening at age 7. By this age, several permanent teeth in most children have erupted, allowing us to effectively evaluate your orthodontic condition.
CAN ORTHODONTIC CORRECTION OCCUR WHILE A CHILD HAS BABY TEETH?
Yes, some orthodontic problems are significant enough to require early intervention. However, if a patient is not yet ready for treatment, we will follow that patient’s growth and development until the time is right for treatment to begin.
WHAT WILL I LEARN FROM THE INITIAL EXAMINATION?
There are five essential questions that we will cover during the initial examination:
- Is there an orthodontic problem, and if so, what is it?
- What must be done to correct the problem?
- Will any teeth need to be removed?
- How long will the treatment take to complete?
- How much will the treatment cost?
WHAT ARE SPACE MAINTAINERS?
When a baby tooth is lost early, the teeth on either side can tend to tilt or drift into the empty space that is left behind. When this happens, crowding can occur and result in a lack of space in the jaw for your child’s permanent teeth to erupt. In this situation, your child’s dentist or orthodontist may recommend using space maintainers to maintain the space previously occupied by the baby tooth to avoid loss of space.
WHAT ARE BRACES?
Braces are used by your orthodontist to help you improve the look and feel of your smile. There are several different types of braces to choose from, including:
- Clear braces
- Invisible aligners
- Traditional metal braces
IF MY CHILD REQUIRES BRACES, HOW LONG WILL HE/SHE NEED TO WEAR THEM?
The amount of time spent in braces will vary depending on the individual patient, because every smile responds differently to treatment. Treatment can take anywhere between 6 and 30 months, however, most standard treatments take approximately 20-24 months.
CAN MY CHILD RETURN TO SCHOOL THE DAY THEY RECEIVE BRACES?
Yes. There is no reason to miss school because of orthodontic treatment. We will be happy to provide your child with a school excusal note to return with that day.
DOES MY CHILD NEED TO BRUSH HIS/HER TEETH MORE OFTEN?
With any fixed appliance, you should brush your teeth at least three times a day to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy and clean. Brushing regularly will help remove any food that may be caught around the appliances. You should also floss daily to reach the areas where your brush cannot. Your orthodontist can show you how to properly brush and floss once your appliances are placed.
IF MY CHILD HAS BRACES OR OTHER ORTHODONTIC DEVICES, DO THEY STILL NEED DENTAL CHECK-UPS EVERY SIX MONTHS?
Yes! In fact, it's even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit their dentist regularly. With braces, food may be caught in places that the toothbrush can't reach. This causes bacteria to build up that can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Your child’s dentist will work closely with your orthodontist to make sure that your teeth stay clean and healthy while wearing braces.
WILL BRACES INTERFERE WITH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES SUCH AS SPORTS?
Playing an instrument or a contact sport may require some adjustment when your child first gets their braces, but wearing braces will not stop a child from participating in any school activities. If your child plays a contact sport, it is recommended that he/she wear a mouthguard to protect any braces or appliances. Your Children’s Dental Health team can help you with obtaining a specially made mouthguard.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M HAVING AN ORTHODONTIC EMERGENCY?
Please feel free to contact the office if you are experiencing any discomfort or if you have any questions. Below are a few simple steps that might help if you are unable to contact us or if you need a “quick fix:”
Occasionally, a glued bracket may come loose. You can remove the loose bracket and save it in an envelope to bring to the office or leave it where it is, if it is not causing any irritation. Call the office as soon as possible in order for us to allow time to replace the bracket.
If a wire is poking your child’s gums or cheek, there are several things you can try until you can get to the office for an appointment. First, try a ball of orthodontic wax on the wire that is causing the irritation. You may also try using a clean nail clipper or cuticle cutter to cut the extra piece of wire that is sticking out. Sometimes, a poking wire can be safely turned down so that it no longer causes discomfort. To do this you may use a pencil eraser, or some other smooth object, and tuck the offending wire back out of the way.
Wire Out of Back Brace
Please be careful to avoid hard or sticky foods that may bend the wire or cause it to come out of the back brace. If this does happen, you may use clean needle nose pliers or tweezers to put the wire back into the hole in the back brace. If you are unable to do this, you may clip the wire to ease the discomfort. Please call the office as soon as possible to schedule an appointment to replace the wire.
Poking Elastic (Rubber Band) Hook
Some brackets have small hooks on them for elastic wear. These hooks can occasionally become irritating to the lips or cheeks. If this happens, you may either use a pencil eraser to carefully push the hook in, or you can place a ball of orthodontic wax on the hook to make the area feel smooth.
You may be experiencing some discomfort after beginning treatment or at the change of wires or adjusting of appliances. This is normal and should diminish within 24-72 hours. A few suggestions to help with the discomfort:
- Rinse with warm water, eat a soft diet, take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) as directed on the bottle.
- Chewing on the sore teeth may be sorer in the short term but feel better faster.
- If pain persists more than a few days, call our office.
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