What is orthodontics?

Man smilingOrthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a specialist who has completed 2 to 3 years full-time in an advanced education program following dental school, to learn the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development.

What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?

  • A more attractive smile
  • Reduced appearance-consciousness during critical development years
  • Better function of the teeth
  • Increased ability to clean the teeth
  • Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
  • Less wear of teeth so there is less need for crowns and other dental work later in life
  • Better long term health of teeth and gums
  • Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
  • Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
  • Aid in optimizing other dental treatment

Often, the best benefit that we see is the increased self confidence that comes with a beautiful smile.

What are some signs that orthodontic treatment 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
  • The center of the upper and lower teeth do not line up
  • Finger or thumb sucking habits which continue after FOUR OR FIVE years old
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
  • The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting together
  • Spaces between the teeth
  • The jaws (TMJ) are uncomfortable or clicking and locking

At what age should orthodontic treatment occur?

Orthodontic treatment can be started at any age. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected at an early age before jaw growth has slowed. Early treatment may mean that a patient can avoid surgery, extractions and more serious complications. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child first visit an orthodontist by age 7 or earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist or the child's physician.

Dr. Yoshikane will ensure that the treatment will commence at a time where it will make the least impact of your life, be it financially, effort-wise and time-wise. We start our patients based on their individual optimal starting point from a growth and development perspective. We recommend waiting for full (one stage) treatment whenever possible.

What is Phase I and Phase II treatment?

Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is orthodontic treatment (i.e. expansion, active retainer or partial braces) that is done before all of the permanent teeth have erupted, and often occurs between the ages of six and ten. Phase I treatment is recommended by Dr. Yoshikane when there is a moderate to severe orthodontic problem that should not wait until later to be treated. Dr. Yoshikane is very conservative and does not recommend Phase I treatment unless she can make a significant difference in her patients' outcome by doing it. We want to wait until treatment that is efficient and economical can be delivered. We wait until we can do the best care, at the best time, for the best value. If treatment should not be delayed, Dr. Yoshikane will recommend Phase I treatment.

The goal of Phase I Treatment is to develop the child's jaws to make room for the future eruption of permanent teeth and to improve the relationship of the upper and lower jaws. An upper or lower jaw that is growing too much or not enough can benefit from this early orthodontic treatment. This early correction can often prevent dental trauma, later removal of permanent teeth or even jaw surgery. Leaving a severe condition untreated until all permanent teeth erupt could result in a problem too severe to correct with braces alone.

The treatment time for Phase I treatment is usually between 9-18 months. After this, our patients wear retainers and are checked every four to six months while waiting for the remaining permanent teeth to erupt.

Later, when most of the permanent teeth have erupted (usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen), Phase II treatment will be recommended.

The goal of Phase II Treatment is to position all the permanent teeth to maximize their appearance and function. This is best accomplished with full braces or Invisalign and is usually between 12-18 months long. Due to the improvements made in Phase I Treatment, Phase II Treatment requires less patient participation (no headgear and less rubber bands), often eliminates extraction of permanent teeth and reduces the time spent in full braces. This is especially important for patients as they enter their teenage years!

Potential Benefits of Phase I Treatment:

  • Influence jaw growth in a positive manner.
  • Improve the width of the dental arches.
  • Reduce the need or eliminate the need to extract permanent teeth.
  • Lower the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth.
  • Correct harmful oral habits.
  • Improve self-esteem.
  • Simplify and shorten treatment time for definitive orthodontic treatment (phase II).
  • Increase the stability of the final treatment results.
  • Reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth.
  • Improve speech development.
  • Improve the position of the first molars.
  • Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions.
  • Improve lip competence.
  • Preserve or gain space for erupting teeth.
  • Improve compliance before the busy teenage years.

Would an adult patient benefit from orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age. Everyone wants a beautiful and healthy smile. Thirty-five to forty percent of our patients today are adults. Adult treatment requires special consideration and experience. We offer:

  • A separate Adult Treatment Room for patients who prefer privacy
  • Expertise with Invisalign treatment that straightens teeth without braces
  • Clear brackets in addition to metal braces
  • State of the art technology which means minimal discomfort during tooth alignment
  • Retainer treatment for minor tooth movement
  • Braces on upper or lower arch only (limited treatment goals)
  • Early morning or late afternoon appointments to fit into your schedule.

How does orthodontic treatment work?

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. When the archwire is placed into the brackets, it tries to return to its original shape. As it does so, it applies pressure to move your teeth to their new, more ideal positions. With the brackets we use, the pressure is very light and results in very little discomfort.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by rate of growth and severity of the correction necessary. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments are important in keeping treatment time on schedule.

Do braces hurt?

The placement of bands and brackets on your teeth does not hurt. Once your braces are placed and connected with the archwires you may feel some soreness of your teeth for one to four days. Your lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks to get used to the braces on your teeth. Our patients with the Damon braces report that they feel less discomfort for less time than with the old fashioned braces.

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. Mouthguards are inexpensive, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors. We normally recommend the boilable ones from the sporting goods store that can be adjusted as your teeth move. When your orthodontic treatment is complete, a custom mouthguard can be made for the ultimate comfort and protection. Let us know if you need one!

Will braces interfere with playing musical instruments?

No. However, there may be an initial period of adjustment. Wax or silicone wax will 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 four to six months for cleanings and dental checkups.