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Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.


An orthodontist is a specialist that has completed an advanced education program following dental school to learn the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development.


  • A more attractive smile
  • Reduced appearance-consciousness during critical development years
  • Better function of the teeth
  • Possible increase in self-confidence
  • Increased ability to clean the teeth
  • Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
  • Better long term health of teeth and gums
  • Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
  • Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
  • Aids in optimizing other dental treatment


  • Upper front teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth, or are “bucked”
  • Upper front teeth cover the majority of the lower teeth when biting together (deep bite)
  • Upper front teeth are behind or inside the lower front teeth (underbite)
  • The upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together (open bite)
  • Crowded or overlapped teeth
  • The center of the upper and lower teeth do not line up
  • Finger or thumb sucking habits which continue after six or seven years old
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
  • The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting together
  • Spaces between the teeth


Orthodontic treatment can be started at any age. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected at an early age before jaw growth has slowed. Early treatment may mean that a patient can avoid surgery and more serious complications. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child first visit an orthodontist by age 7 or earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist, or the child’s physician.


Phase I (first phase or early interceptive treatment), is limited orthodontic treatment (i.e. expander or partial braces) before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Such treatment can occur between the ages of six and ten. This treatment is sometimes recommended to make more space for developing teeth, correction of crossbites, overbites, underbites, or harmful oral habits. Phase II treatment is also called comprehensive treatment because it involves full braces when all of the permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen.


Two-phase orthodontic treatment is a very specialized process that encompasses tooth straightening and physical, facial changes. The major advantage of two-phase treatment is that it maximizes the opportunity to accomplish an ideal healthy, functional, esthetic result that will remain stable throughout a patient’s life.


The disadvantage of waiting for complete eruption of permanent teeth and having only one phase of treatment for someone with a jaw discrepancy is facing the possibility of a compromised result that may not be stable.


Just as orthodontics repositions teeth, surgical orthodontics (also known as orthognathic surgery) corrects jaw irregularities to improve a patient’s ability to chew, speak, breathe, and for improved facial appearances also. In other words, surgical orthodontics straightens the jaw. Moving the jaws also moves the teeth, so braces are always performed in conjunction with jaw correction. This helps insure that teeth are in their proper positions after surgery.


An orthodontist will consider surgical orthodontic treatment for non-growing adult patients with improper bites and those with facial aesthetic concerns. Jaw growth is usually completed by age 16 for girls and 18 for boys. All growth must be completed before jaw surgery can be performed. However, the pre-surgical tooth movements can begin one to two years prior to these ages.


During orthodontic treatment (which usually lasts 6-18 months), a patient will wear braces and visit the orthodontist for scheduled adjustments to his or her braces. Surgery is performed in the hospital with an oral surgeon. After completing surgery, most patients should be able to return to school or work within 1-2 weeks. After the necessary healing time (about 4-8 weeks), the orthodontist “fine-tunes” the patient’s bite. In most cases, braces are removed within 6 months following surgery.


Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age. Everyone wants a beautiful and healthy smile. Twenty to twenty five percent of orthodontic patients today are adults, and this percentage is growing each year.


Braces apply steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. The brackets that are placed on teeth and the arch wire that connects them are the main components. When the arch wire is placed into the brackets, it tries to return to its original shape. As it does so, the arch wire applies pressure that moves teeth to their new, more ideal positions.


Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by rate of growth and severity of the correction necessary. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments are important in keeping treatment time on schedule.


Overall, most orthodontic discomfort is brief and easily managed. The placement of bands and brackets on your teeth does not hurt. Once braces are placed and connected with the arch wires there may be some general soreness of the teeth for one to four days. A patient’s lips and cheeks (‘soft tissue’) may need one to two weeks before adapting to the braces. (Orthodontic wax helps reduce soft tissue irritation during this period.) Most patients manage their discomfort with whatever pain medication they may commonly take for a headache.


No. It is recommended, however, that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouth guard when participating in any sporting activity. Mouth guards are inexpensive, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors and patterns.


No. However, there may be an initial period of adjustment. In addition, brace covers can be provided to prevent discomfort.


Yes, you should continue to see your general dentist every six months for cleanings and dental checkups.

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