Frequently Asked Questions About Orthodontics
WHAT AGE SHOULD MY CHILD HAVE AN ORTHODONTIC EVALUATION?
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends an orthodontic screening for children by the age of 7 years. At this age the teeth and jaws are developed enough so that the dentist or orthodontist can see if there will be any serious bite problems in the future. Most of the time treatment is not necessary at age 7, but it gives us the ability to monitor the development of the patient and decide on the best mode and timing of treatment.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT AT A YOUNG AGE?
Research has shown that serious orthodontic problems can be more easily corrected when the patient’s skeleton is still growing and flexible. By correcting the skeletal problems at a younger age, we can prepare the mouth for more optimal eruption of the permanent teeth. If the permanent teeth have adequate space to erupt, they will come in fairly straight. If the teeth erupt in optimal position, their tendency to get crooked again after the braces come off is diminished significantly. After the permanent teeth have erupted, usually from age 12-14, complete braces are placed for final alignment and detailing of the bite. The final stage of treatment will be more concise, easier on the patient, and result in a more stable long term result. This phase of treatment usually lasts from 12 - 18 months and is not started until all the permanent teeth have erupted.
Doing orthodontic treatments in two steps provides excellent results often allowing the doctor to avoid removal of permanent teeth and jaw surgery. The treatment done when some of the baby teeth are still present is called Phase-1. The last part of treatment after all the permanent teeth have erupted is called Phase-2.
WHAT CAUSES CROOKED TEETH?
Contributing factors to poorly positioned teeth include non-nutritive finger habits such as thumb/finger sucking, tongue thrusting, premature loss of baby teeth, and an obstructed airway caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Hereditary factors often play a role in mal-positioned teeth as well. Extra teeth, missing teeth, tooth shape and size discrepancy, small jaws - all can be causes of crowded teeth.
HOW DO TEETH MOVE?
Tooth movement is a natural response to light pressure over a period of time. Pressure is applied by using a variety of orthodontic hardware (appliances), the most common being a brace or bracket attached to the teeth and connected by an arch wire. Periodic changing of these arch wires puts pressure on the teeth. At different stages of treatment, your child may wear headgear, elastics, a positioner or a retainer. Most orthodontic appointments are scheduled 4 to 6 weeks apart to give the teeth time to move.
WILL IT HURT?
When teeth are first moved, discomfort may result. This usually lasts about 24 to 72 hours. Patients report a lessening of pain as the treatment progresses. Pain medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) usually help relieve the pain. Softer food textures/choices will also help to provide more comfort with nutrition during this short period of adjustment.