Answers to frequently asked questions about going to an Orthodontist
What is orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic treatment is a way of straightening or moving teeth to help improve their appearance and how they work. It can also help to look after the long-term health of teeth, gums and jaw joints by spreading the biting pressure over all of the teeth.
Orthodontic treatment usually involves the wearing of appliances (braces). Sometimes the extraction of a number of teeth is recommended and very occasionally jaw surgery.
For simple treatments appliances are used that can be removed for cleaning known as removable braces. They have delicate wires and springs attached to them which move the teeth with gentle pressure.
Often teeth need to be guided more accurately so fixed braces are used. These cannot be removed for cleaning. They have brackets and bands temporarily stuck on to the teeth. A flexible wire joins all the brackets and allows the teeth to be moved. They can be made of metal, ceramic or plastic.
A newer technique involves using a succession of clear plates to move the teeth while keeping the look of your "braces' more discreet [Invisalign].
When will braces be fitted?
This depends very much on the teeth being present in the mouth and the stage of growth of the face and jaws.
Why are teeth sometimes recommended to be taken out?
This is a specialized judgment made by the orthodontist on an individual case basis. If there is not enough room for the permanent teeth it may be done to make space. Sometimes space can be created by using other forms of treatment. Your family dentist will be asked to arrange teeth removal and will charge a fee additional to the cost of orthodontic treatment.
How do you go about getting treatment?
The first most important step is to have a full clinical examination. Usually this is done by being referred from your dentist to an orthodontist. The orthodontist will examine the patient to determine the nature of the problem. A set of records will be prepared which may include taking x-rays, plaster models and photographs. The diagnosis, treatment plan and fees will be discussed with you. You will have the opportunity to ask the orthodontist any questions you may have. Most orthodontists also mail out a letter to you setting out the treatment procedure, costs etc.
What will happen next?
There are four likely outcomes:
1. The teeth are not at the right stage for treatment in which case you may need to go back to see the orthodontist again when the patient is older.
2. The patient’s dental health is not good enough. This may be due to poor tooth-brushing or decayed teeth. Oral hygiene needs to be excellent (not just good) and the patient needs to be dentally fit for orthodontic treatment.
3. No treatment is needed because the position of the teeth is perfectly acceptable - or expected to be.
4. The patient’s teeth are ready for treatment and you need to decide whether to go ahead.
How long will treatment take?
This depends on the severity of the problem, patient co-operation and how quickly the teeth move. It may take anything from a few months to two and a half years or more. Most people can be treated in one to two years.
How many visits will it take?
Orthodontic appliances usually need adjusting every 4-6 weeks. Your orthodontist will tell you how often you will need adjustments.
Is it painful?
Having the braces fitted is not painful. However, it is common to have some discomfort after fitting and each adjustment but this is controlled with simple pain relievers.
What happens when the teeth have moved into their right position? When treatment is finished the teeth need to be held in position for a time. (this stage is called ‘retention’). Appliances called retainers hold the newly straightened teeth in position while the surrounding gum and bone settles. (Some people have to wear them permanently.) Even after retention it is normal for minor tooth movements to happen throughout life so no permanent guarantee can be given . However it is unusual for teeth to alter enough to need further treatment.
Because teeth look and function better after orthodontics people are often more self-confident and have better self-esteem.
How successful will orthodontic treatment be?
Success depends on a partnership between the skills of the orthodontist and the enthusiasm and help of the patient and parents. It is important to attend appointments regularly and carry out any instructions given by the orthodontist. The success of the treatment also depends on the commitment of the patient. For children's orthodontic treatment it is very important that the patient is as keen as the parent.
Can orthodontics damage teeth?
Teeth can be damaged if they are not looked after during treatment. Appliances will not in themselves cause damage but poor cleaning, too many sugary drinks and snacks can cause permanent damage. Brackets, wires and braces can trap food and cause more plaque than usual to build up. So the teeth and the appliance regularly need to be cleaned very thoroughly.
Orthodontists who visit Whakatane:
Level 7, Harrington House
Harrington Street Tauranga
Phone 07 577 0916
1206 Ranolf Street Rotorua
Ph 0508 272 237
07 347 8231