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Ortho FAQs

What is Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics?
Who is an Orthodontist?
What are the benefits of braces?
Who needs Orthodontics and when?
Why go to the Orthodontist early?
What types of problems can be corrected ‘early’?
How can I tell if my child has an orthodontic problem?
What causes orthodontic problems?
Isn't orthodontic treatment expensive?
How can I get orthodontic insurance?
What if my employer does not have orthodontic coverage for employees?
What do braces cost?
Is it true orthodontics can contribute to mental as well as physical health?
Do orthodontists treat temporomandibular disorders (TMD)?
Can I see how I will look with my teeth straightened?
What about braces as an adult?
What is "surgical" orthodontics?
How long does orthodontic treatment last?
Is it common for men to get braces?
Any health reasons to get braces?

Q: What is Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics?

A: Orthodontics is a specialty area of dentistry which involves the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

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Q: Who is an Orthodontist?

A: Orthodontists are dentists who are uniquely qualified to correct "bad bites." The American Dental Association (ADA) requires orthodontists to have at least two years of post-doctoral, advanced specialty training in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics in an accredited program, after graduation from university and dental school.

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Q: What are the benefits of braces?

A: Straight teeth and a beautiful smile are among the well-known benefits of braces. But orthodontic treatment also aims to provide a proper bite for chewing, facilitate maintenance for healthy teeth, gums, bone and jaw joint, as well as to improve self-esteem and overall psycho-social health and well-being.

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Q: Who needs Orthodontics and when?

A: Studies show that millions of Americans (including 75% of children) have oral health problems that could benefit from orthodontic treatment. Without treatment, many could develop more serious problems, including: cavities, tooth loss, diseased gums, bone destruction, and joint problems. Although there is not a universal best age to begin orthodontic treatment, the AAO recommends that every child see an orthodontist at an early age. This could be as young as 2 or 3, but should be no later than age 7. Although many people associate orthodontic treatment with adolescence, orthodontists can spot subtle problems with jaw growth or with the teeth much earlier, even while the primary (or baby) teeth are still present. However, a visit at any age is advisable if a particular problem has been noted by the parent, family dentist or child's physician.

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Q: Why go to the Orthodontist early?

A: Orthodontic specialists can improve smiles at any age, but there are benefits to early diagnosis. Early examination enables the orthodontist to detect and evaluate problems and determine the appropriate time to treat them. At times, an early visit to the orthodontist can ease a parent's mind, e.g. our recommendation may simply be: ‘let's closely monitor the face and jaws as they develop by periodically checking while the permanent teeth erupt.’ In other cases, "preventive or interceptive" treatment may be initiated to prevent more serious problems from developing. For some youngsters, early treatment can prevent physical and emotional trauma. A child nicknamed "Bucky" may suffer more than teasing. Furthermore, studies show that protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental chipping and other forms of dental injury.

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Q: What types of problems can be corrected ‘early’?

A: Some of the most common corrective measures in children are eliminating abnormal habits, guiding or controlling the eruption of teeth, and correcting deformities in the jaws as they grow. Early intervention (a.k.a. Phase 1) frequently makes the completion of comprehensive treatment (a.k.a. Phase 2) at a later age easier and less time-consuming. In some cases, early treatment achieves results that are unattainable once growth of the face and jaws have slowed or ceased. (However, many orthodontic problems can be corrected in adults as well as children, so adults should not hesitate to consult an orthodontist to discuss a problem.)

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Q: How can I tell if my child has an orthodontic problem?

A: Some of the more readily apparent conditions that indicate the need for early examination include:

• early or late loss of primary (or baby) teeth
• difficulty in chewing or biting
• mouth-breathing
• thumb-sucking
• crowding, displaced or blocked-out teeth
• jaws that shift or make sounds
• speech difficulties
• biting the cheek or the roof of the mouth
• teeth that meet abnormally, or don't meet at all
• facial unbalance
• jaws that are too far forward or too back
• grinding or clenching of the teeth

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Q: What causes orthodontic problems?

A: Most bite problems are inherited, and cannot be prevented, but early diagnosis can help. Orthodontists may use one of several orthodontic appliances designed to guide bone growth. In some patients, early treatment achieves results that may not be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing.

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Q: Isn't orthodontic treatment expensive?

A: Not in comparison with the cost of dealing with untreated problems. Orthodontic treatment may bring long-term health benefits and may contribute to the avoidance of costly, serious problems later in life. Historically, the average cost of all health services has risen faster than the average cost of orthodontic treatment. Also, the cost of orthodontic treatment has increased significantly less than the rate of inflation. This means the public's buying power has increased over time relative to orthodontic fees. Finally, orthodontic offices typically provide various payments plans so orthodontic treatment is truly affordable for most families who really need and want braces, even if they do not carry orthodontic insurance.

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Q: How can I get orthodontic insurance?

A: Orthodontic insurance is not available on an individual basis, but millions of people are covered by group dental plans including orthodontic coverage which are offered through their employers. Typically, these plans limit the amount any one family member can collect in a lifetime, typically ranging from $500 to $1,500.

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Q: What if my employer does not have orthodontic coverage for employees?

A: The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) offers its assistance at no charge to companies interested in offering employees a dental plan that includes orthodontic coverage. The AAO provides Concept DR, a self-funded, direct reimbursement dental/orthodontic benefits program that is generally less expensive and offers better benefits than traditional dental insurance plans. For more information, please contact the AAO via telephone: 1-800-STRAIGHT or Web site: www.braces.org.

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Q: What do braces cost?

A: Orthodontic fees vary widely, depending on the severity of the patient’s problem, complexity of treatment, length of treatment time and region of the country you live. Orthodontists routinely discuss fee arrangements after individual clinical examinations. Generally, orthodontic fees are paid as an initial down payment and interest-free monthly installments over an extended period of time during the course of treatment. Our practice accepts credit cards, and other third-party financing options, including a no-down-payment plan. In addition, many employers now include orthodontic coverage in their dental benefit programs which may significantly decrease a family’s out-of-pocket expenses toward orthodontic treatment, making braces quite affordable for most families.

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Q: Is it true orthodontics can contribute to mental as well as physical health?

A: Although dental health concerns are usually the primary reason for getting braces, orthodontic treatment is also frequently initiated for the patient's emotional well-being. For example, first impressions often are based on the appearance of a person's face, mouth and teeth.

A person with a facial deformity or crooked teeth often is judged negatively not only on appearance, but also on many other characteristics such as intelligence and personality. Independent research studies also have shown that children and adults who believe their teeth or jaws are unattractive may suffer from a lack of self-esteem and confidence. In some cases, the psychological impact of crooked teeth has been found to hamper a person's social or vocational growth. Dr. Joyce Brothers, a leading psychologist and former adult orthodontic patient, holds that the need for acceptance is something we never outgrow. An adult who feels unattractive because of crooked teeth may cover his or her mouth when speaking or laughing, and may feel self-conscious in social situations. Naturally, one feels better when one looks better, and a pleasing appearance is a vital asset to one's self-confidence and self-esteem. A person's self-consciousness often disappears as orthodontic treatment brings teeth, lips and face into their proper positions. Although dental health concerns are frequently the primary impetus for orthodontic treatment, it is not unusual for treatment to be initiated for the patient's emotional well-being. In many cases, orthodontics provides both physical and psychological benefits.

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Q: Do orthodontists treat temporomandibular disorders (TMD)?

A: Disorders of the temporomandibular joints, which connect the lower jaw to the skull, may be one of the reasons millions of people suffer from chronic headache, earache and facial pain. No other joints are subject to such precise functioning as those involved in the meeting and biting of teeth. Symptoms frequently associated with this problem include popping, clicking or grinding noises of the jaw joints when eating or opening the mouth, soreness and limitation of opening the mouth, headaches, stiffness of the neck and shoulders, and ringing of the ears. The bizarre and seemingly unrelated combination of symptoms, however, makes diagnosis difficult for both medical and dental practitioners because many other conditions can cause similar symptoms. Temporomandibular disorders can arise from a variety of causes. For this reason, treatment of TMD may include a variety of procedures performed by orthodontists and/or other health professionals. Although the diagnosis may be initiated by a dentist or by a dental specialist, if the symptoms are not solely related to jaw function, other conditions may need to be identified by a physician or psychologist. To learn more, see an orthodontist or ask your family dentist for a referral.

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Q: Can I see how I will look with my teeth straightened?

A: Anyone considering orthodontic treatment for themselves or for a loved one can take advantage of the "Smile Bank," the AAO's state-of-the-art computer imaging program. To receive a complimentary computer-generated photo of how you might look after orthodontic treatment, simply mail a close-up, front facial color photo featuring a wide, "toothy" smile with your name, address and phone number, to:

American Association of Orthodontists
c/o "SMILES"
401 North Lindbergh Boulevard
St. Louis, Missouri 63141-7816.

You'll receive a FREE photo showing how your smile might benefit from orthodontic treatment.

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Q: What about braces as an adult?

A: Although early treatment in children has been stressed, more and more adult irregularities are being successfully treated with very healthy and pleasing results. There is no reason for an adult to forego consideration of orthodontic treatment with today's advanced appliances and techniques. In fact, today one out of every four orthodontic patients is an adult. According to a census conducted by the AAO, the percentage of adults seeking orthodontic treatment increased from 17 percent in1979 to 23 percent in 1992. Regardless of a person's age, orthodontic treatment is usually a change for the better. The mechanics involved in the movement of teeth are essentially the same in adults as in children. Gaps between teeth, crowding, protruding front teeth and teeth in abnormal positions are problems that may be corrected in the adult by orthodontic treatment. However, because an adult's facial bones are no longer growing, certain conditions cannot be resolved with braces alone. Sometimes, combined orthodontics and jaw surgery are required to obtain the correct result. The health of teeth, gums and supporting bone, as well as jaw relationships, are key factors in determining the prospects of improving one's appearance through orthodontic treatment. Contrary to popular belief, wearing braces will not interfere with an adult lifestyle. Patients can make business presentations, sing, play a musical instrument, dine out—and, of course, kiss! The biggest inconvenience, generally, is working regular visits to the orthodontist into an adult's busy schedule.

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Q: What is "surgical" orthodontics?

A: In cases of extreme facial disharmony, it is necessary to combine surgery with orthodontics to produce a satisfactory result. Usually the orthodontist will make the diagnostic recommendations and treatment plan in close association with an oral or plastic surgeon at the proper time.

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Q: How long does orthodontic treatment last?

A: Treatment time in braces varies considerably, depending on the patient's growth, individual response to orthodontic forces, the degree of patient cooperation, and the complexity of the malocclusion. Generally, orthodontic treatment will vary between 15 and 30 months.

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Q: Is it common for men to get braces?

A: Self-improvement and interest in health and fitness are no longer primarily just concerns to women. A recent AAO survey has revealed that men make up 30 percent of adult orthodontic patients. More and more men are recognizing the increased confidence that a good-looking smile can bring. And men also are becoming more aware of the importance of good dental health and the role of orthodontics in creating beautiful, healthy smiles that can last a lifetime.

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Q: Any health reasons to get braces?

A: Health concerns are often the primary consideration for adult treatment. Crooked teeth and bad bites may seriously affect oral health. Orthodontic treatment might help prevent many serious potential problems such as tooth decay, gum disease and eventual tooth loss. One of the most prevalent adult orthodontic problems is teeth that they are too crowded. These teeth are extremely difficult to clean, making them more prone to decay, even if good oral hygiene is practiced. Conversely, spaces can also be a problem, especially if the early loss or extraction of teeth causes healthy teeth to tip into open spaces. Deterioration of the supporting bone may occur, causing teeth to become loose. Protruding front teeth, in addition to being unattractive, do not meet properly during chewing. This can cause abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, as well as excess stress on supporting bone and gum tissue. The stress on supporting tissues might cause gum disease and possibly lead to the loss of teeth. Orthodontic problems are not always confined to the mouth. Disorders of the temporomandibular joints, which connect the lower jaw to the skull, may be one of the reasons why millions of people suffer from chronic headaches, earaches and facial pain. Though temporomandibular disorders (TMD) may have a variety of causes, treatment sometimes may include procedures performed by an orthodontist.

In summary, orthodontics is an important health service for anyone at any age for optimal long-term health, function and aesthetics of the teeth and gums. In addition, a pleasing appearance is a vital asset for one's self-esteem and overall psychological well-being. Finally it should be noted that the ultimate result will not be attained without some sacrifice on the part of the patient as well as parents. Although orthodontic treatment may seem long, the final results are always well worth the effort. The beauty of a radiant smile, the realization of good dental health, and the self-confidence assured by this health service, will reward both patient and parents for the rest of their lives.

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[This information is endorsed and provided courtesy of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). For more information, visit AAO’s website: www.braces.org.]

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