Most parents consider having their child see an orthodontist for two reasons:

  • Their dentist has told them that their child's teeth are misaligned, a problem which will eventually affect their oral health
  • They are concerned about the appearance of their child's mouth. Large spaces between the teeth, crooked lower teeth, and a protruding over-bite or bucked teeth are a few of the most common complaints.

    The following are frequently asked questions we hear from parents considering orthodontic treatment for your children.

What is an orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a dental specialist who has successfully completed at least two academic years of continuous advanced studies in an orthodontic program of a dental school or institution approved by the American Dental Association. This advanced training includes such diverse studies as physics, embryology, genetics, human growth and development, biophysics and engineering. Only those dentists with this advanced education can announce that they are orthodontists.

Why should I be concerned about my child's bite?
A bad bite can be detrimental to the future of your child's mouth. Restorations, crowns or bridges are often impossible for a dentist to perform without prior repositioning of the teeth by an orthodontist. Properly aligned and supported teeth are healthier, easier to clean, and therefore more likely to last throughout a patient's lifetime.

At what age should my child see an orthodontist?
Most authorities agree that six or seven is a good age for your child's first orthodontic examination. Conditions may be found that can be corrected at this early age by interceptive measures. This often will lessen or eliminate the need for help at an older age. That in turn can be a savings in the total cost of your child's orthodontic correction.

PLEASE don't wait until your child has lost all of his or her baby teeth. There are definite advantages to correcting many problems at an early age. Waiting until all baby teeth are lost can often complicate an otherwise fairly simple problem. Let your orthodontist decide the best time to intercept or correct your child's orthodontic problem.

What causes crooked teeth?
Crowed teeth, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, premature loss of baby teeth, a poor breathing airway caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils can all contribute to poor tooth positioning. And then there are the hereditary factors. Extra teeth, large teeth, missing teeth, wide spacing, small jaws-all can be causes of crowded teeth.

What part does heredity play?
Heredity is a complicated combination of factors. Both parents may have perfectly aligned teeth, and the first child's teeth may erupt uneventfully. Then comes the second child and it is as if hereditary factors are working against each other. The child's teeth appear normal, but their alignment is going to cause problems in the future. So, assume neither the best nor the worst. Have your orthodontist evaluate your child's bite and proceed from there.

How do orthodontists straighten teeth?
Tooth movement is actually a normal response to light pressure. Pressure is applied by using a variety of orthodontic appliances, the most common being a brace or bracket attached to the teeth and connected by an archwire. Periodic changing of these archwires puts pressure on the teeth. At different stages of treatment your child may wear a headgear, elastics, a positioner or a retainer.

Will my child look funny?
Not necessarily. Minor corrections can be accomplished with braces completely concealed within the mouth. More involved treatment may require braces on the teeth to successfully move them to the desired positions. Braces are the handles used to move your teeth in a positive manner. They vary from the conventional steel brackets cemented on the teeth to less obvious brackets bonded or cemented to the outer surfaces of the teeth. Plastic braces may be used for minor corrections. Ceramic brackets, which blend with the color of the teeth, are less obvious to the casual observer and offer the versatility of regular stainless steel braces. The latest ones are translucent enough to actually allow the natural shading of the teeth to show through. In all cases, regardless of the braces used on your child's teeth, the activating part of the braces is the wire that goes from tooth to tooth. It is not uncommon to observe half of the children in a school with some sort of braces. Many kids consider braces cool.

Will it hurt?
Discomfort has to result when we loosen a tooth for movement. This usually lasts about 48 to 72 hours and then the teeth are comfortable again. Each succeeding adjustment will mean some minor discomfort, although our patients report a lessening of the discomfort as the treatment progresses.

What about extra-curricular activities?
We heartily encourage your child to pursue extra-curricular interests. Athletics can be a regular part of this routine. Speech may at first be somewhat effected, but only for a day or two. so we tell our patients that orthodontics is a normal part of this phase in their lives and that treatment should not preclude any activities they usually pursue within their school's programs.

How much will it cost?
Do not assume your treatment will cost the same as someone else's. Because no two problems are the same, treatment plans and accompanying costs will vary among patients. Those factors affecting the simplicity or complexity of your problem will be explained in detail by your orthodontist. All offices offer reasonable payment plans, conveniently spread over the estimated treatment period.

How often will my child need office visits?
Appointments can be scheduled from two- to multiple-week intervals, depending on the stage treatment. In the initial stage, the appointments are more frequent. Once the appliances (braces) are in place, appointments are scheduled at longer intervals. Every effort will be made to schedule appointments after school hours, but at times your child will have to come during school hours. School authorities are usually understanding.

Will my dental insurance pay for it?
Today many dental policies include orthodontic benefits. For questions concerning eligibility, a pre-determination of available benefits can be requested from your insurance company representative. Some companies require submission of a diagnosis and treatment begins. The percentage of reimbursement varies from plan to plan.

How long will treatment take?
Orthodontic correction can vary from the comparatively simple closing of front spaces in a few months, to the realignment of unsightly and disfiguring teeth. In the young child or the adolescent, treatment is a much a critical matter of timing nd guidance as anything else. The usual treatment time varies from eighteen months to three years depending on the complexity of the problem.

A two-phase treatment is sometimes indicated. This means an early interceptive treatment is necessary. Then, a waiting period as the face and dentition matures. Finally, a finishing period of treatment if it is indeed indicated.

Will the improvement be permanent?
The combined experience of orthodontists across the country points to a 95% permanent improvement rate. Teeth, like all parts of the body, are constantly changing and adapting. Where growth guidance is accomplished, the results are usually permanent. Jaw relationships affecting facial patterns that continue to change even past adolescence. (Should this be the case with your child, of course it will be discussed thoroughly so you are made aware of any detrimental growth indications.) Conscientious retainer wear following treatment will minimize minor movement or relapse.