Are you new to orthodontics? Here’s a quick guide to help you get started on your journey!

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the practice of realigning teeth and jaws. Orthodontists are specialty dentists who focus on straightening teeth and perfecting the alignment of your smile. Every board-certified orthodontist attends dental school before completing an addition two to three years of specialty training. Orthodontics typically requires equipment such as braces, retainers, spacers, rubber bands, and other necessary accessories.

When should I first see an orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child visit an orthodontist by age seven. When a child is seven years old, orthodontists can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. Early treatment or at least preparation may prevent more serious problems from developing, and may make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. Early treatment may also give your orthodontist the chance to guide natural jaw growth, correct harmful oral habits, and guide permanent teeth into a more favorable position. By choosing to schedule an early orthodontic evaluation, you’ll be giving your child the best opportunity for a healthy, beautiful smile in the future.

I’m an adult, is it too late for me to get braces?

It is never too late to seek orthodontic care! There are many options available today that can make adult braces less obvious and more comfortable for you and your lifestyle. When you are an adult, the primary concern about orthodontics is not their ability to be effective. Actually, the most common concern is oral health. If you have poor gum health or gum disease, it must be treated before you can receive orthodontic care. Once the teeth and gums are healthy, they will be more able to withstand orthodontic treatment. Adult patients are also susceptible to certain oral conditions that our younger patients don’t often deal with. This can include insufficient bone between the roots, mild gingivitis infections and marginal bone loss. Adults considering braces should consult with an orthodontist as well as with their general dentist to discuss their oral health and history.

How often will my orthodontic appointments be?

Orthodontic patients typically need to come in for an adjustment every 4-10 weeks, depending on their age and situation. Invisalign users typically change their trays every two weeks, but orthodontists are usually able to give patients a few trays at a time to limit their visits to the office for cost and convenience.

I go to orthodontist appointments all the time, do I still need to see my family dentist every six months?

Yes! It is actually very important for orthodontic patients to maintain their regular dental checkups. Dentists will professionally clean your teeth to help prevent against cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. This way, your orthodontist can focus on your alignment and braces! With a team of thorough, specialized dental professionals working on your smile you are destined for success!

Do braces hurt?

It is common to feel some aches and tenderness when you first get your braces. Don’t be alarmed, though. These normal pains won’t last too long, and you can gargle with warm salt water to alleviate the soreness. In some cases, the soreness from braces can be a bit more painful, and some orthodontic patients choose to take mild pain relievers.

As your mouth adapts to your new appliances, your lips and cheeks can often become agitated. We are happy to provide you with wax to cover your braces and help reduce the irritation. While your teeth are still tender from tightening, try to stick to soft foods that will be easy to chew and swallow.

Should I brush my teeth more often if I have braces?

Yes! You should brush your teeth at least three times a day if you have braces, once after every meal. You’ll want to obtain a travel toothbrush to take with you to school or work so that you can brush after lunch! Brushing often will kept keep your teeth and braces clean throughout the day, and prevent long term damage.

You need to floss at least once per day, though most orthodontic patients prefer to floss more often than that to eliminate the food particles that accumulate between the braces. You can use traditional floss with a floss threader, superfloss, or pre-strung floss sticks (make sure to use the ones specially made for braces).

Are there foods I should avoid while receiving orthodontic care?

There are definitely foods you will want to avoid when you have braces. Your orthodontist can provide you with a more exhaustive list, but in general you want to avoid foods that are difficult to chew or get stuck between the teeth easily. This includes hard, chewy foods such as bagels, nuts, and tough meats. Crunchy foods like chips and popcorn also pose a threat to your braces, as pieces can get lodged between your brackets and cause damage. Sticky foods like taffy, caramel, and gum are also off limits when you have braces. They can actually pull your brackets off while you chew, or get stuck between them and cause painful issues.

There are some other foods that you can still enjoy as long as you modify them. For example, foods like apples, carrots, and corn can be cut up into smaller pieces and eaten that way! You want to be sure to avoid taking big bites that require your front teeth to tear food, as this pressure can cause damage.

How will I know if Invisalign is right for me?

Invisalign’s virtually invisible aligners are hardly ever noticed by others. Invisalign is perfect for the more image-conscious individual. If you want to perfect your smile, but do not want to sacrifice your current appearance to get braces, Invisalign may be a great option for you. It is important to note that not every orthodontic problem can be fully addressed with Invisalign. For example, Invisalign clear aligners are only able to move teeth vertically, not horizontally. If your teeth need to significantly adjust horizontally, Invisalign may not be able to correct your smile. You’ll want to talk to your orthodontist about whether or not Invisalign is a viable option for your specific situation.

Another important factor to consider with Invisalign is your lifestyle. Invisalign aligners must be removed to eat or drink anything besides water, which comes with pros and cons. Because they are removable, patients have more flexibility in terms of what they can eat. However, in order to be effective, Invisalign should be worn for at least 22 hours per day. This will require a certain amount of discipline and responsibility. If you think you may have a hard time sticking to this schedule, Invisalign may not be the best choice for you. You should discuss these concerns with your orthodontist.

Will I need to wear a retainer after my treatment?

In most cases, orthodontic patients will need to wear retainers after their treatment in order to maintain their smiles. Even Invisalign users will receive clear retainers to wear from their orthodontist. Typically, orthodontic patients need to wear their retainers during the day for 3-6 months after their treatment ends, and patients should wear their retainer at night for as long as possible. The longer and more frequently you wear your retainer, the better your results will be! Your orthodontist will be able to explain your specific maintenance plan when you get your retainers.

Your orthodontist will be happy to help you understand and succeed in your orthodontic treatment. Check out our other guides to learn more!

If you are considering visiting an orthodontist or getting braces, feel free to contact us!