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Common Questions


Common Orthodontic Questions

How do Teeth Move?

Tooth movement during orthodontic treatment is a result of applying light pressure to the teeth over a period of time. Pressure is applied by using a variety of orthodontic appliances, some of which are fixed while others are removable. The most common orthodontic hardware is braces or brackets attached to the teeth, connected to each other by an arch wire. Periodically changing the size and shape of the arch wires puts controlled forces of movement on the teeth. At different stages of treatment your child may wear headgear, elastics, a positioned, or a retainer. Most orthodontic appointments are scheduled approximately six (6) weeks apart to give the teeth time to move. Under certain circumstances orthopedic appliances (appliances that can expand the upper or lower arch) are attached to the teeth and are not removable until the desired correction has been achieved.

Do Braces Hurt?

Some patient report slight discomfort for a day or two after initial placement of brackets or an appliance, as teeth are first beginning to move. This discomfort is usually brief. We encourage our patients to eat solid foods to stimulate the teeth; we have found that avoiding meals or eating very soft foods (scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, soups and puddings) results in a longer period of discomfort, if discomfort occurs.

During the course of orthodontic treatment patients are seen approximately every six (6) weeks to make periodic adjustments which control the movement of the teeth. When these adjustments are made, the mild forces cause pressure on the brackets to move the teeth and jaws into the desired position. Usually the patient does not notice the result of new forces immediately; they may, however, report a slight soreness a day later. Patients recover from this discomfort quickly. If you experience this discomfort, Dr. West encourages you to maintain your proper diet. Just as you would massage a cramp out of your arm or leg muscle, chewing will massage the teeth and their support structure relieving the discomfort.

How Long Will I Wear Braces?

To be successful and efficient requires that the patient be dedicated to the completion of their care. Every patient’s treatment is individualized; therefore, treatment time will vary depending on the individual patient’s needs and ease at which teeth move, as well as patient compliance with instructions and care of their teeth while wearing braces. Treatment times for Phase One is usually between 6 - 12 months. Phase II is usually about 12-14 months and for comprehensive treatment which have not needed Phase I treatment, 18-36 months. Every patient grows at different rates and may respond differently to the various modalities of orthodontic treatment. During treatment the patient must be diligent in following instructions for wearing rubber band, headgear or any other auxiliary appliance and avoid repeated appliance breakage or missed appointments.

At the completion of treatment braces will be removed from the teeth and retainers will be fabricated. Although the active phase of treatment is complete, the retention phase is also very important. You would not like to see the final result that took months to achieve collapse and relapse to the pre-orthodontic state. You will be given specific instructions concerning your individual retention needs.

Can I Play Sports While I Have Braces?

Many orthodontic patients play contact sports and this should not prohibit a patient from getting braces. If you do play contact sports it is strongly advised that you get the proper mouth guard to protect your teeth and lips. Dr. West will recommend the correct type of custom fitted mouth guard – usually a standard store bought “boil and bite” mouth guard is not the appropriate mouth guard.

What If I Play a Musical Instrument?

Obviously, playing the piano, drums or guitar should not be effected BUT playing an instrument that requires you to purse your lips will require some adjustment when you first get braces. However, you should be able to adjust to the braces within a few days. Ask Dr. West about a special lip guard which he can provide to hasten your adjustment to your braces.

How Do We Get Started?

Dr. West offers a complementary orthodontic evaluation to all patients.

The complementary evaluation involves a review of your (your child’s) dental and medical history forms, a thorough oral exam noting which teeth are present, the periodontal conditions present, along with the bite and the relationship of the upper and lower jaw to each other to determine whether treatment is necessary. This complimentary evaluation does not include specialized radiographs, models of your teeth, and photographs needed to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

If, during the complementary evaluation it is determined that you or your child is a candidate for orthodontics and you wish to proceed with a complete diagnostic work-up an appointment can be scheduled. Occasionally time is available and we can gather the diagnostic records necessary to develop a comprehensive treatment plan during the current visit. After Dr. West has evaluated your records an orthodontic treatment consultation appointment will be set.

Every Smile Starts With Thorough Treatment Consultation

Dr. West likes to complete a formal treatment consultation before beginning orthodontics with both parents or caregivers, having an opportunity to be present, to review the need for orthodontics and options for completing the necessary treatment.

Dr. West will review the individualized treatment plan options, estimate the number of months in treatment, estimate frequency of appointments, and appointment scheduling polices. Additionally, financial information and payment plans will be presented. After all your questions have been answered, an appointment for appliance placement will be scheduled.

When Will Braces be placed?

After your treatment consultation, an appointment to place your orthodontic appliances will be scheduled. The appointment to place appliances (braces) usually takes about an hour. These appointments are usually scheduled for late morning before lunch or early afternoon after lunch. By scheduling during these times we can make sure Dr. West is not interrupted during this most important appointment of your treatment plan. The placement of the brackets on the teeth controls were the tooth/teeth will be positioned at the completion of treatment.