Braces can help make a smile great

X-rays will help orthodontists see how your teeth currently align and point out any areas that could be corrected through orthodontic treatment. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

X-rays will help orthodontists see how your teeth currently align and point out any areas that could be corrected through orthodontic treatment. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

Orthodontists are dental professionals who build fabulous smiles for children, adolescents and even adults by bringing teeth into proper alignment through the use of braces and alignment techniques. Many people believe straightened teeth look better and give people more confidence in their appearance.

Why and when should you see a specialist?

How do you know if you need orthodontic care? Even teeth that seem straight may have an improper bite. Here are several factors to consider:

  • Difficulty when chewing or biting food
  • Crowded teeth or teeth that protrude
  • Upper and lower teeth that don't align properly

Most parents feel that the time to see an orthodontic specialist is between the ages of 9 and 14, but the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that your child get an orthodontic checkup no later than age 7. Evaluating teeth at an early age prevents serious problems later on and makes treatment less complicated.

What can you expect on your first visit?

At your first visit, the specialist will check how well the teeth align through a visual exam. Sometimes a mold (impression) is made. X-rays are used to view the jaw and bone structure. At this time, a decision on whether a dental appliance is needed will be discussed. Wearing braces puts continuous pressure on teeth, which in turn keeps them in a straighter position. The professional will determine the type of braces and time frame according to what needs to be corrected.

For the most effective care, it is important to keep all orthodontist appointments. Don't forget routine cleanings and checkups with your regular dentist.

How can you partner with your orthodontist for a healthy smile?

Wearing a dental appliance is a serious investment of time and money. The end goal of a better smile is not just up to your orthodontist. Kids and parents, as well as adults with braces, must take an active role in their care to achieve the desired results. If a patient has poor oral hygiene, plaque can build up around and under the brackets, bands and wires. Because of this plaque, white scars may appear permanently on your newly straightened teeth.

Is there any restriction with food?

Avoid any hard, sticky and chewy foods, which can damage the dental appliance and lengthen treatment time. It's best that cookies are broken into pieces rather than bitten into. Rinse your mouth with water after eating any sweets, and brush your teeth daily--at least twice with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Use a fluoride rinse at night at well.

What precautions should you follow after removing a dental appliance?

An orthodontist will fit you with a retainer when your dental appliance is removed. This helps to make sure your teeth do not shift out of place. Make sure to wear a protective mouth guard when participating in sports. Too many teeth are knocked out through injuries, accidents or rough play.

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