ASK THE DOCTOR

What is so important about orthodontics?

Whether you know it or not, your smile is the cornerstone to your social and professional interactions. A beautiful, healthy, sensational smile, an improved self-image, and a boost in self-confidence are just some of the possible benefits to orthodontic treatment. But, benefits go beyond being purely cosmetic…

What is a malocclusion, and why should it be treated?

A malocclusion or “bad bite” is the term for teeth that do not fit together and function properly. Many times, malocclusions are inherited. In some instances, they result from habits or functional problems like a tongue thrust. Cavities and early loss of baby teeth can also lead to malocclusions.

According to studies by the American Association of Orthodontists, untreated malocclusions can result in a variety of problems. Crowded teeth are more difficult to brush and floss properly, which may contribute to tooth decay and/or gum disease. Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental chipping. Crossbites can result in unfavorable growth and uneven tooth wear. Openbites can result in tongue-thrusting habits and speech impediments. Moreover, the drifting and shifting of teeth that occurs when another tooth is missing may preclude an optimal outcome for the replacement option your general dentist is recommending.

By correcting malocclusions, orthodontics does more than create a pretty smile – it creates a healthier you!

What is an orthodontist?

First and foremost an orthodontist is a dentist, who completed a degree in dental surgery or in dental medicine, and then decided to specialize with an additional 2 to 3 years of formal training beyond dental school in order to learn the advanced skills required to recognize abnormalities of the teeth and jaws, manage tooth movement, and guide facial development.

I see ads for perfect teeth in only one or two visits to the dentist. Will that give me straight teeth?

Quick-fix veneers temporarily cover crooked teeth, and sometimes require the sacrifice of healthy tooth enamel. All veneers have a finite life span. With some diligence, teeth straightened by an orthodontist are good for life. However, in certain situations a couple of veneers can be a viable treatment option. Dr. Levin would be happy to discuss each approach with you and your family dentist to help determine the best one for you.

By what age should my child see an orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that your child be evaluated no later than age 7. An early examination allows the orthodontist to determine how and when a child’s particular problem(s) should be treated for maximum improvement and the best result. Sometimes early intervention (also called Phase I treatment) can be invaluable to a successful outcome.

Learn more about early, interceptive treatment here

Can I look for orthodontic problems at home?

Of course. Ask your child to open their mouth, and look at his/her teeth. If you see any signs of crooked teeth, spaces, or overlapping teeth, your child could benefit from orthodontic treatment. Ask your child to bite all the way down, keeping the lips open so you can see the teeth. Do the front top teeth not line up with the bottom teeth? Do the top teeth protrude out away from the bottom teeth? Do the top front teeth cover more than 50% of the bottom teeth? Do any of the top teeth fit inside the bottom teeth? All these are indicators of potential orthodontic problems.

Look at the alignment of your child’s jaw. Does the jaw shift off center when your child bites down? Is your child’s chin particularly weak or strong in their profile? If so, your child may have a skeletal problem that could improve with orthodontic intervention.

At North Valley Orthodontics, we offer complimentary initial examinations and consultations. You are welcome to bring your child in any time for a complete exam, so that all your questions may be answered.

Do adults wear braces?

YES. We particularly enjoy treating adults because it is wonderful to be able to give someone the smile they have always wanted but never had the opportunity to get as a child. Nationally, nearly one-third (30%) of all orthodontic patients are adults, including those who are 60+ years of age. Often adults can be treated much more quickly than children. In some instances, braces need only be worn for 4-6 months to achieve a great result and the satisfaction of a beautiful smile. Dr. Levin also treats many adults without braces. Let us evaluate you to determine if your problem qualifies for invisible treatment. Additionally, many families are deciding to seek treatment together. As a courtesy, we offer discounts and special payment arrangements for multiple family members.

How long will treatment take?

Treatment times vary greatly, depending on the severity of your case. But, with modern orthodontic technology overall treatment times have decreased substantially. At your initial examination appointment you will be given an estimate of total treatment time. Remember, this is only an estimate. Patients also grow at different rates, and consequently also respond in different ways to treatment.

That said, the single best predictor of finishing orthodontic treatment on time is patient cooperation and motivation. It has been shown that patients who take care of their appliances, keep their teeth very clean, do not miss their appointments, and who cooperate with instructions (such as for wearing rubber bands) will see the fastest results. In many instances, those patients who are great helpers find that their braces actually come off early!

Does it hurt to have braces?

Braces do not have to hurt. Some pressure is normal because the teeth are slowly moving through bone to their new positions. The new miniature brackets and “space-age” wires we use provide some of the gentlest forces available, so your soreness is minimized and you can quickly forget you’re even wearing braces.

Will braces interfere with playing a musical instrument?

Nope. Following an initial period of adjustment, it should be easy to go back to playing just as you were before your braces were put on.

How often will I need to come for office visits?

Routine office visits for braces adjustments can be made much more infrequently today, the vast majority of visits occurring every 6 to 10 weeks. In fact, due to advanced technologies, even the total number of times adjustments need to be made can be reduced.

Should I continue to see my pediatric or family dentist while I’m in braces?

The answer to this question is a resounding “Y-E-S”!! While you have braces, it is more important than ever to continue to see your regular dentist for frequent cleanings, exams, and check-ups. We also take great pride in communicating effectively with your dentist about your progress, so they will always know where you are at with your treatment.

If you are currently looking for a dentist, ask us for a referral. We know many great dentists in the area, and will make sure you are taken care of.

Do braces cause cavities?

No, braces do not cause cavities. Cavities are caused by plaque, an accumulation of bacteria that forms when food is left on teeth. Braces can sometimes make it more difficult to keep teeth super clean, and therefore it is important that extra special care be taken when brushing and flossing. With proper brushing, flossing, diet and the use of a daily fluoride rinse, cavities and white spots (which are the initial stages of a cavity, and every bit as permanent) can certainly be prevented.

We are very proud of our cavity prevention program. When we first place braces, we thoroughly review exactly how to keep your teeth super clean. Hygiene is closely monitored at each appointment, and feedback is always given. We want our patients to finish with not only straight teeth but straight, healthy teeth.

What is the cost of treatment?

Costs vary with the treatment required. We value the benefits of a beautiful, healthy smile, and do not want financial concerns to be an obstacle to great care. Therefore, we are pleased to offer a variety of payment and no interest financing options. All costs will be discussed with you up-front, during your complimentary examination. Today, orthodontics is more affordable than ever, and dollar for dollar, one of the best investments you will ever make.

Will insurance pay for my treatment?

Today, many insurance plans provide some type of orthodontic benefit. Our knowledgeable staff will work with you to maximize your benefit, so that financial concerns are not a barrier.

What are retainers all about?

Teeth are in bone, not in stone. Like all parts of the body, teeth are constantly changing and adapting. For this reason, following active orthodontic treatment, custom-designed retainers are given to each patient. Retainers are specially designed appliances that help prevent teeth from drifting or moving once the braces are removed.

Early treatment Q & A

What are the benefits of an early orthodontic evaluation?
An early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and a greater opportunity for more effective treatment. If orthodontic intervention is not necessary, Dr. Levin can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when the time is right.

Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for screening?
By the age of 7 the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. This means that Dr. Levin can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors (the front teeth) can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding, or gummy smiles. Timely screening increases the chances for a sensational smile later in life.

What are the advantages of early treatment?
Early treatment is also known as interceptive treatment or Phase I treatment. Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment are: creating room for crowded, erupting teeth, preserving space for teeth that are coming in, creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth, reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth, and reducing the need for removal of permanent teeth later on.

Does everyone need Phase I treatment?
No. Only certain bites really benefit from early intervention. In most instances it is best to wait until all the baby teeth are nearly gone before starting orthodontics. Dr. Levin considers the problems of each patient individually, in order to determine the optimal time to begin treatment.

Early warning signs indicating it is time for an orthodontic exam:
1. Early or late loss of baby teeth
2. Difficulty in chewing or biting
3. Biting the cheek or biting into the roof of the mouth
4. Speech difficulty
5. Mouth breathing
6. Finger sucking or other oral habits, continued beyond the age of 6
7. Crowding, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth
8. Protruding teeth
9. Teeth that meet in an abnormal way or don’t meet at all
10. Grinding or clenching of teeth
11. Jaws that shift, make sounds, protrude or retrude
12. Facial imbalance or asymmetry

How long will Phase I treatment take?
Typically, Phase I treatment takes between 6 and 12 months, depending on the age of the patient, the type of problem being addressed, and the patient’s motivation and desire to cooperate. Dr. Levin approaches Phase I treatment with a “get in…get out” strategy so that benefit is maximized while duration is minimized.

If my child has Phase I treatment, will additional treatment be necessary?
Most of the time, yes. Usually Phase I treatment is meant to address a very specific problem with a very important and specific goal, and while there are still baby teeth in the mouth. Once all the permanent teeth come in, additional treatment (called Phase II) typically involves a full set of braces, and will serve to put all teeth in positions optimal for function and the best smile possible!