Orthodontics Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to our Orthodontics Frequently Asked Questions page! We know that orthodontic treatment can be a big decision, so we’ve compiled answers to some of the most common questions we hear from patients. From what orthodontics is and when to start treatment, to how to care for your braces and retainers, we’ve got you covered. Discover the many benefits of orthodontic treatment, and learn why nobody is ever “too old” to straighten their teeth. Plus, find out what happens after your treatment is complete and how to maintain your new smile for a lifetime. Click here to view our FAQs specific to children.

What is orthodontics and how is it different from general dentistry?

Orthodontics is the practice of moving teeth and modifying jaw growth to improve smiles and bites.

How do I know if I need braces or other orthodontic treatment?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends each child be screened for Orthodontic needs by age 7. An Orthodontist will let you know if treatment is necessary at that time, or if it should begin later, or not at all. Many problems that involve bites are not obvious to parents or patients who have not been educated about what to look for. Of course more obvious problems like crowding, spaces, front teeth that stick out, or lower teeth that bite on the outside of the upper teeth definitely need to be looked at by an Orthodontist.

How long will my orthodontic treatment take?

Orthodontic treatment generally ranges from 6 months up to about 2½ years, but depends greatly on the severity of the problems. Bite problems are usually more complicated to treat than esthetic problems, so many mainly-cosmetic treatments will finish in a year or less.

How often will I need to visit the orthodontist during treatment?

With modern treatment techniques, we typically will only need to see our patients about every 6-8 weeks.

How much will my orthodontic treatment cost and what payment options are available?

Just like the length of treatment varies greatly between patients, so does the cost. Since every patient is different, the only way to get an accurate fee quote is by scheduling a free consultation. Our fees typically run slightly below the average for our area.

Does my dental insurance cover orthodontic treatment?

Many dental plans have benefits for Orthodontic treatment. Sometimes there is an age limit that prevents adults from receiving any benefit, but we accept nearly all PPO insurance plans. Give us a call and we will be happy to verify if you have any Orthodontic benefits on your insurance plan. If you do not have any Orthodontic coverage, and are a cash patient, we give a discount that can bring the cost down for you.

What age is best for orthodontic treatment?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children be screened by an Orthodontist by age 7. This does not mean that all children NEED braces at seven, but there are some children that–if not treated while young–may require much more extensive work, possibly even requiring compromises in treatment when older. However, NO PATIENT IS TOO OLD to be treated! We can always improve smiles and bites REGARDLESS of age.

How can I take care of my teeth and braces during treatment?

In addition to regularly visiting your General Dentist, and keeping all your appointments with our office, you really only need to brush and floss as you did before getting braces. Of course with many more places for food and plaque to hide, it will take a bit longer to do just as good of a job as before! Rinsing with mouthwash and using a Waterpik can be helpful as well. To care for the braces, make sure to stay away from hard or sticky foods and candy, as well as biting on objects such as pens, fingernails, or little brothers.

Will braces or orthodontic treatment hurt?

Actually it won’t hurt us at all! But seriously getting braces on is very much like starting a new exercise routine–the teeth are not used to moving yet, so there will be some initial soreness. Typically it’s no worse than what Tylenol or Advil can take care of, and usually lasts only about a week or two. Each time we adjust your braces, there may be a little soreness, but usually not as much as at first.

Can I still play sports or musical instruments with braces?

Yes! We have had football players, trumpet players, even a few boxers that have had braces! If you anticipate any jarring contact we recommend using a mouthguard to protect your lips and cheeks while playing. Just make sure not to use the boil-and-bite mouthguards, as they will prevent your teeth from moving the way we want them to!

Will I need to wear retainers after my orthodontic treatment is complete?

Yes. If your teeth are crooked to begin with, then that’s what is natural for you. Making them straight puts them in a bit of an “unnatural” position. Everyone who has orthodontic treatment needs to wear a retainer–at least at night–to keep the teeth straight.

How often will I need to wear my retainers?

While everybody is different, the retainers need to FIT as long as you want your teeth to be STRAIGHT. For some people this means they need to wear them for a couple of years at night. For others, it may even mean a lifetime of wearing them to bed! BUT if you don’t have a problem remembering to put on your pajamas before bed each night, putting in a retainer won’t be any harder to remember! You just need to make the habit, and that only takes a couple of weeks.

Can I eat normally with braces or are there any restrictions?

Hard and sticky foods should be avoided, along with popcorn. Hard things break the brackets off the teeth. Sticky foods can too, but mostly just sit on the teeth a long time and can cause cavities. Popcorn leaves little orange husks up under the gums that can sit there for a long time, even after brushing. These husks can cause big problems if braces are on!

What should I do if I have an emergency with my braces or orthodontic appliance?

Call our office! Many things that patients believe are problems can be dealt with easily and quickly at home. For other things we will bring you into our office whenever is convenient for you to fix the problem. On rare occasions, we may need to see you right away. A staff member is always on call and can meet you at the office.

What is the process for getting braces or orthodontic treatment?

A free consultation is necessary in order to determine what problems you may have, and what will be the best way to address those problems. Next–usually at the same visit–we will take some pictures and one X-ray to look at the bone and roots of the teeth. From all this information, the Doctor creates a treatment plan. At the next visit the braces will be fixed to your teeth (or whichever appliance or system you need), and that’s it! Every six to eight weeks you will come in for a quick adjustment. When the teeth are straight, we remove the appliances and give you retainers to hold them. Then you enjoy your beautiful new smile!

Can adults get orthodontic treatment?

Yes! Nobody is “too old” for orthodontic treatment. Teeth can move regardless of your age. We have several appliance systems (Clear, ceramic braces or Aligners) that are far less noticeable than traditional metal braces. Most of the time nobody will even know you are straightening your teeth, and will only notice that your smile is looking better!

What are the benefits of orthodontic treatment?

The benefits are many: Self-confidence (you won’t need to avoid pictures or conversations!) Keeping your teeth healthy (straight teeth are MUCH easier to clean and will not need nearly as much dental work!). In kids, harmful habits like thumb-sucking can be eliminated, leading to fewer future dental or orthodontic problems. Early orthodontic treatment can prevent much more extensive work from being needed later (jaw surgeries or extraction of permanent teeth can be avoided). Plus LOTS more!

What happens after my orthodontic treatment is complete?

If you wear your retainer as instructed, you get to enjoy your new smile for a lifetime! You might even become more popular, rich, or famous! Just kidding–but then again, we’re NOT saying it WON’T happen either 🙂

FAQs Specific to Children

What types of orthodontic treatment options are available for my child?

Depending on the age, some children begin with a first phase of orthodontics that may include expanders, space maintainers, retainers, habit controlling appliances, braces, or a combination of these

At what age should my child start seeing an orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children be SCREENED for orthodontic needs at age SEVEN. Some children need treatment at this age, but many can wait until they have lost all baby teeth. We will be happy to let you know.

How long will my child’s orthodontic treatment take?

Some limited treatments can be completed in as little as 6 months, but most children who need orthodontics take anywhere from 12 months up to about 30 months. Often more complicated treatments will be split up into two short phases, to take advantage of growth spurts.

What are the costs associated with my child’s orthodontic treatment?

Children’s orthodontic needs vary even more widely than most adults. For this reason, costs are totally dependent on both the needs and the length of treatment. We never charge anything for our consultations, so give us a call and we can see what your child needs.

Does my dental insurance cover my child’s orthodontic treatment?

Most dental insurance includes orthodontic coverage. Age limits usually don’t apply to children. We love to get creative with insurance coverage, and would always rather take insurance money than yours! Come see how your insurance can be applied to your child’s orthodontic care.

Are there any risks or potential complications associated with orthodontic treatment for children?

As with any medical or dental procedure, there will always be risks associated with treatment. However, the procedures we use are all common and well established, and it is extremely rare for there to be any unwanted side effects. In nearly all cases, the risks associated with NOT doing orthodontics far outweigh the very small likelihood of complications with DOING treatment.

What steps will you take to ensure my child is comfortable during their orthodontic treatment?

First of all we don’t do anything in our office that hurts. Many times children are nervous because they feel like since they are in a “dental office” something is going to hurt. We take as long as we need to to get to know your child, and to make them feel comfortable being here. Once kids are no longer scared, they will be able to relax, and have a fun, easy experience!

How often will my child need to visit the orthodontist during treatment?

Although some visits may need to be closer together, most of the time we see our patients on a 6-8 week interval.

How can I help my child take care of their teeth and braces during treatment?

Two things: First, brush and floss. Keeping teeth clean is huge. It’s not hard to keep teeth clean during orthodontic treatment, but it does take longer. If you are encouraging and helpful with brushing and flossing routines, they will do great! And second, eating the right things, and NOT eating the wrong things. Eating the wrong things will break braces. Hard or chewy things will break braces, and that means treatment will take longer.

Can my child still play sports or musical instruments with braces?

Absolutely. We’ve had saxophone players, trumpet players, clarinet players, flute players as well as football, basketball, soccer, water polo, even boxers wearing braces! It may take a few extra practices with instruments to play as well, or a mouthguard for some sports. But you can definitely do it!

What happens if my child has an emergency with their braces or orthodontic appliance?

Give us a call! We always have someone on call. Many problems can be dealt with at home with a little phone help. If not, we’ll be happy to meet you at the office to help. Everything can be fixed.

What qualifications and experience does the orthodontist have with treating children?

We have treated over 15,000 patients. Well over half of those patients have been children. We LOVE kids, and especially love to make them feel comfortable and happy.

How does the orthodontist involve parents in their child’s treatment plan?

From the very first visit, Dr. Wright or Dr. Feusier will make sure EVERYTHING is explained in ways (and language) that both kids AND parents can understand. Parents are welcome at every visit, and can even sit with kids as they are treated, if that is what you want. We love questions, and our Doctors are wonderful teachers. They encourage any questions about why they are recommending whatever they feel your child needs, and are always open to suggestions and alternatives.

Will my child need to wear retainers after their orthodontic treatment is complete?

Yes! Teeth love to move back after we put them in place. That’s what retainers do: keep teeth where we put them. There are many kinds of retainers, and our Doctors will explain which one is the best for your child.

How often will my child need to wear their retainers after treatment?

Sometimes just at night. Other times they need to be full time. It depends on the age and the stage of treatment.

Can my child eat normally with braces or are there any restrictions?

90% of what is usually eaten before braces can be eaten WITH braces on. The exceptions are HARD AND CRUNCHY things (like ice cubes or hard pretzels), and STICKY/CHEWY things (like Tootsie Rolls or Starbursts). POPCORN is also bad for braces.

What happens if my child misses an appointment with the orthodontist?

Just call us and get back in as soon as you can. Without seeing patients regularly, no progress is made and treatment will be extended.

Are there any alternative treatments available for my child’s orthodontic needs?

There are always alternatives, and we will definitely go over those at your consultation visit.

What can I expect in terms of follow-up care after my child’s orthodontic treatment is complete?

We do retainer checks after 3 months, 9 months and 21 months with patients who are totally done with treatment. For patients who are between phases, we see them after 3 months, and then every 6 months until they are ready for the second phase. However, we NEVER charge anything for retainer checks! Come in whenever you want to have us look at your teeth or retainers, or even just to say Hi! We love all our patients and LOVE to see them years later!

How can I schedule an initial consultation with the orthodontist for my child?

Call our office at 805-687-6453 (805-68-SMILE), and let us help you or your child get the smile you (and they) deserve!