Everyone wants to have straight teeth and a beautiful smile. There are several different options for straightening teeth today. It is important to know that braces, by themselves, do not correct jaw or bite problems. A comprehensive orthodontic treatment plan will address both jaw and tooth misalignment. Also, it is important that adult teeth have grown in before braces are applied. There’s no point in straightening baby teeth.


At any given time, over four million people in the United States are wearing braces. As orthodontics have gotten less expensive, as well as less invasive, it’s become increasingly common for people to correct their teeth with orthodontic appliances that correct crooked teeth, adjust bite alignment, and improve the overall look of teeth — as well as preventing health problems that can result from orthodontic issues.


If you are thinking about getting braces for yourself, or for your child, here are some important things to know:


See an orthodontist.


An orthodontist is a dental specialist that fixes problems with jaw and tooth alignment.  Orthodontists graduate from a 4-year accredited dental school first, and then go on to complete a 2-3 year residency in order to fully understand malocclusions of the dento-facial structure. Some dentists provide orthodontic services without having completed the additional training of an accredited orthodontist. Orthodontists straighten teeth and jaws all day long everyday. It’s what we do. Learn more about Dr. Dixon here!


Think about jaw alignment, then teeth straightening.


There are some “quicky” treatments out there that promise to fix your smile in just a few months, or even using an at-home kit. Yes, using these methods you may be able to straighten out your front teeth. However, without an expert evaluation, you could be missing underlying issues with jaw misalignment. Peoples’ bites can be off in several ways. Sometimes, either the top or bottom jaw is too far forward. Other times, the jaws skew to the side, or don’t bite down on top of each other. Simply straightening your front teeth won’t address the overall structure of the face, issues with speech patterns, breathing, and the ability to chew food properly and may actually exacerbate any underlying problems. That’s why it’s important to consult an orthodontic specialist before undertaking any orthodontic treatment.


Go early and stay late.


The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children be seen by an orthodontist at the age of seven. Of course, most seven-year-olds do not need orthodontic treatment,  but emerging issues with jaw size or structure can be diagnosed at this age. Since the palate bones are not fused together until later, there are certain issues that are easier to treat sooner rather than later. Often, preventative treatment takes place around ages 8-10 and then straightening of the teeth takes place when all adult teeth have come in. On the other end of the spectrum, there is no age limit to orthodontics. Options for straightening teeth are becoming less invasive and more discrete all the time.


Look at your dental benefits.


The cost of orthodontic treatment depends on the severity of the issue and the length of time it will take to treat. Many people have some type of orthodontic coverage as part of their dental benefit. It is definitely worth it to check on your orthodontic benefit and go to an in-network provider! At Dixon Orthodontics, we contract with all major insurance groups and file claims on your behalf. This can substantially decrease your out of pocket expense. In addition, we do not charge for consultations and offer no-interest, in-house financing to qualified patients.


Choose Your Brackets.


There are several types that you can choose from. Different kinds of braces have different advantages and disadvantages, and not all varieties are applicable for every type of orthodontic problem. Your orthodontist can recommend an option that will work well for your individual defects.


Metal Braces


Metal braces are the most common type, and remain the most cost-effective and popular method. They’re made out of stainless steel, although they’re quite a bit smaller and more subtle than they were in previous decades. Metal brackets are adhered firmly to the teeth, connected by wires that can be adjusted, tightened, and replaced during treatment. These braces work by applying gradually increasing forces to teeth to move them in the right direction. These pressures create space in the direction the teeth are moving, while filling in the space where teeth used to be. For adults, however, their appearance can be a dealbreaker. If this is an issue, adults often opt for either ceramic braces or Invisalign instead.


Ceramic Braces


Ceramic braces are less conspicuous than metal braces. They’re constructed in a similar way to traditional metal braces, but the brackets are made from ivory-colored ceramic that mimics the natural coloration of your teeth. The brackets may also be clear, which also minimizes their visibility. The wires are often tooth-colored as well. Many people find this option more appealing than metal braces.


Ceramic braces are more costly than metal, and they’re more likely to stain. Wearers will need to take greater care to maintain a “clean” appearance.


Placement of Braces


When braces are placed on your teeth, the tooth surface must be dry and free from contamination. Cheek retractors are used to keep cheeks from touching the teeth so that they don’t get saliva on them. Once the teeth are dry and prepped, an adhesive is applied to the teeth with a small brush. The adhesive is specially designed to have just the right amount of strength. In the past, adhesives that were too strong caused damage to tooth enamel when braces were removed. Today’s adhesives are strong enough to keep braces on (as long as you avoid sticky or crunchy foods) but will not damage tooth enamel.


When the bracket is strategically placed on the adhesive, it will be cured with a special light.


Once the brackets are cured, the archwire is placed. The archwire connects all the braces and guides teeth into the correct form. Throughout treatment, increasingly stronger wires are used, gradually guiding teeth into the right position. The archwire is connected to the brackets with either steel or elastic ties, called O-ties. Some brackets have small doors built in so that you don’t have to use steel or O-ties. Sometimes hooks are placed on individual brackets so that patients can wear rubber bands in order to create jaw movement.


Braces are usually worn for six to twenty-four months, depending on the severity of the case. You will be seen every four to six weeks during treatment in order to check progress and move to the next stage. Oral hygiene is especially important while wearing braces since food tends to get caught in them. It is also important to avoid hard, crunchy and sticky foods so that they stay on your teeth.


For information about Invisalign, visit our Invisalign page.