Why Should I Get Braces?

girl with braces

People get braces for different reasons.  Some seek out orthodontic care at the referral of their general dentist who has recognized a particular problem with their bite.  The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children be seen by an orthodontist around age 7 when the 6 year molars have erupted.  Most children will not need braces at this age but there are a few who may need some limited appliances to help correct a thumbsucking habit or to hold space after the early loss of a baby tooth.  The average age for girls to need full braces is 10-11 years and for boys 11-12 years.  The orthodontist can determine at an early age if braces will be needed in the future by doing a clinical examination and evaluating radiographs to look at the developing permanent teeth.

Some children may have flared protrusive upper incisors and an overbite which would make them prone to fracture.  They would benefit from some early treatment to lessen the severity in the future.  Some children have an overgrowth of the lower jaw and need some early growth modification to help normalize the bite.

The decision to get braces as an adult may be as a confidence booster in their job or relationships.  They may never have had the opportunity as a child to get them and it is something that has always bothered them.

Whether it is for aesthetics, a bite problem, or simply to improve your confidence, braces are always a good option.  Call for a consultation to get an orthodontist’s opinion on your particular needs so  you can make an informed decision as whether it is the best choice for you.


How does wearing braces as an adult compare to wearing braces as a child?

adult bracesDid you miss out on having the opportunity to have braces as a child but it’s something that still bothers you as an adult?  Well, it’s not too late.  Most adults with healthy bones, gums, and teeth can still have braces placed to improve the alignment of the teeth.  It is true that a child’s teeth move more easily in response to a force because of the malleability of the bones and because everything is in a state of transition during the growing years.  The bones become denser as we age and often it takes longer to move the teeth as an adult.  If the bite is off because of a skeletal problem such as an  overbite, crossbite or underbite, it may be necessary to have braces in combination with orthognathic surgery.  The teeth can be aligned within the separate bony bases but cannot be matched into a perfect bite without growth in your favor.  That is why it is important to allow the orthodontist to evaluate your bite clinically and with the use of a panoramic and cephalometric radiograph and photographs to study your face, teeth and jaw alignment.  If surgery is needed, it is done by an oral surgeon mid-treatment with the braces on.  Orthodontists and oral surgeons work as a team to plan the treatment from start to finish.

Other differences for an adult may be the presence of periodontal disease or missing teeth.  This must be addressed prior to the initiation of braces to insure healthy supporting structures.  A post-treatment bridge or implant may need to be planned into the treatment.

Wearing braces as an adult may make you feel self conscious but there are options now that make it more appealing such as ceramic brackets which match the color of the teeth.  Having your bite aligned and your smile improved can give you a boost of self confidence in all areas of your life.

Got more questions? Give us a call at Whitehead Orthodontics at 988-9678. We’d love to help you have a smile you could be proud of.

How Do I Become an Orthodontist?

Are you interested in helping give people a smile they can be proud of?  Do you enjoy school?  Do you make good grades in science and math?  If the answer of all of these questions is yes, then you may consider pursuing a career in orthodontics.  To see if you enjoy working on teeth, it is advisable to observe or shadow an orthodontist to see what it is they do on a day to day basis.

The education requbooks stacked up 5ired to become an orthodontist is 4 years of college with an emphasis in biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, physiology and biochemistry.  You are required to take the DAT (Dental Admissions Test), apply to Dental School, go through an interview and get accepted.  There is a limited number of spots available each year so it is very competitive to get in.  The interview committee takes into account your overall GPA in college, your grades in the individual science and math classes, your community involvement, your leadership positions and the DAT score.  Dental School is 4 years and is a combination of basic science classes and clinical skills.  Upon graduation you will have either a DMD or DDS degree.

To be accepted into an Orthodontic Residency program, you must graduate from Dental School in the top 10% of your class, apply to a Residency program, take the GRE test ( Graduate School Entrance test), and you go through an interview process.  Most residencies accept 5 students a year.  The residency program is 2-3 years of specialty training and includes the study of growth and development of the face and teeth.  You are required to start and finish a certain number of orthodontic cases including early treatment, full treatment and surgery cases.  The completion of your residency results in a Masters degree.

So like I said, you must love school because it take a total of 10-11 years after high school but it leads to a very rewarding career.

Beware of Do It Yourself Braces

rubber bands around teethThere are several YouTube videos out that talk about Do It Yourself braces.  Straightening teeth is a medical procedure involving the teeth, the gums and the supporting bone structure.  This should be done only under the guidance of a university-trained orthodontist.  Using rubber bands, dental floss, paper clips, or anything ordered over the internet can lead to permanent damage or loss of teeth.  Elastics worn around the teeth can work their way under the gums and down the roots, eventually extracting them.  A thorough examination of the teeth and bite and overall oral health should be done prior to the movement of teeth.  An orthodontist receives 2 or 3 years of specialized education after 4 years of dental school.  It is important to understand the controlled movement of teeth through the bone to achieve the desired result and how it affects the bite.

What may appear to be a simple fix could result in expensive dental work in the future.  This should never be attempted by anyone other than an orthodontist.

Congenitally Missing Teeth

congenitally missing lateralsMost adults have 32 teeth unless they  have had some extracted for orthodontic treatment or their wisdom teeth removed.  There are some people, however, that may be congenitally missing a permanent tooth.  This condition resulting in the failure of a tooth to develop is called hypodontia.  A rare developmental anomaly characterized by the absence of 6 or more teeth is called oligodontia.  This can be isolated or often associated with a syndrome.

Twenty percent of all adults are missing at least 1 tooth.  This can be genetic, so it is often seen in families.  The most commonly missing teeth are: the wisdom teeth, the 2nd bicuspids, the upper laterals, and the lower incisors.  Some adults retain baby teeth in their mouth if there is not a permanent tooth to replace it.  The baby teeth, however, tend to have shorter roots and may spontaneously resorb over time due to occlusal trauma.

If the baby tooth comes out or is extracted, it is important to replace it or close the space orthodontically.  Leaving a space can lead to the adjacent teeth tipping into the space or the opposing tooth extruding vertically into the space.  Both of these can change the bite.  Also, when there is no tooth, the bone resorbs over time in height and width.  There are several ways to replace a missing tooth: a fixed bridge, a removable appliance, or an implant.  It is best to have this done as soon as possible to prevent unwanted movement or bone changes in the adjacent teeth.  It is also possible in some situations to close the space orthodontically but this is best done at an early age.

Even though teeth can be missing, there are options to restore your bite to function normally and to give you a nice smile.

Flavors and Colors Can Make Braces Fun

One of the first appointments in an orthodontic office is the taking of orthodontic records which include impressions of the teeth.  These are used to make an exact replica of the patient’s mouth so that the orthodontist can study the case and come up with a plan to straighten their teeth.

Impressions are molds of the mouth that are taken using plastic trays that fit around the teeth.  A material called alginate is used.  It starts out as a “cookie dough” consistency and turns into a rubbery material in about a minute when placed in your mouth.  We offer a variety of flavors, 24 in fact, such as watermelon, raspberry, chocolate cake, root beer and cotton candy.  It’s always nice to have options.  This helps the patient be part of the decision making process and helps alleviate any anxiety they may have.

colors of bandsAnother fun option that we offer is colored rubber rings to put on the braces.  These are placed on each individual tooth over the bracket and can be changed at each appointment.  We offer a rainbow of colors and the patients can choose each month which color to decorate their braces with.  Some choose team colors, Holiday colors or even rainbow colors.  It is so popular that some of the adults join in the fun and decorate their braces as well.

Not only do you get a finished beautiful smile, but you can have fun along the way.

Losing Baby Teeth

     It is an exciting losing toothmilestone in a child’s life when they lose that first tooth.  The first tooth lost is usually the lower front tooth and is around age 6.  If your child was slow to get their baby teeth, they are also usually slow to lose them as well.  If they lose one on one side, then the same tooth on the other side is usually close behind.

     Sometimes a baby tooth is lost early due to an accident or decay. If on the radiograph the permanent tooth is not ready to erupt a spacer needs to be placed to  keep the adjacent teeth from drifting and closing the space available.

If a baby tooth comes out and the permanent tooth does not erupt within a few months, it is important to have the orthodontist take a radiograph to check on the developing permanent replacement tooth.  It could be blocked out or erupting in an unusual direction.  If so, it may be necessary to create some space to clear the path for it while it is trying to erupt.  If you wait too long sometimes the permanent tooth can complete the development of its root, losing its eruptive force and become impacted.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their initial evaluation by an Orthodontist at age 7 to check on the developing permanent teeth and growth of the jaw.  A panoramic radiograph is helpful to look at the permanent teeth.  Some people are missing teeth and some people have extra teeth.  In both cases, it is helpful to know as early as possible.  Extra teeth may inhibit the eruption of the other permanent teeth and need to be extracted.

Baby teeth are lost usually between the ages of 6 -11.  Girls tend to be early and boys later.  Encourage your child to wiggle their teeth as soon as they get loose because that means the tooth underneath is trying to take its place.  It is better to get it out of the way because sometimes the permanent tooth can erupt in front of or behind the retained baby tooth.

Make losing a tooth an exciting event for your child.  It is part of the growing up process and the Tooth Fairy rewards them!