What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a specialist who has completed an advanced education program following dental school, to learn the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development.

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?

  • A more attractive smile
  • Reduced appearance-consciousness during critical development years
  • Better function of the teeth
  • Possible increase in self-confidence
  • Increased ability to clean the teeth
  • Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
  • Better long-term health of teeth and gums
  • Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
  • Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
  • Aid in optimizing other dental treatment

What are some common orthodontic appliances?

In some cases, we may have to design a treatment that uses some appliances. Common appliances used during orthodontic treatment include the following:

  • Elastics (Rubber Bands): Wearing elastics (rubber bands) improves the fit of your upper and lower teeth. Wear rubber bands as instructed because the rubber bands work far more efficiently if they are worn as prescribed.
  • Herbst® Appliance: The Herbst appliance reduces overbite by encouraging the lower jaw forward and the upper molars backward. This fixed appliance is used mostly for younger, growing children and is worn for about 12-15 months.
  • Expander: There are two general types of expanders: the palatal expander and the lower lingual expander. They both basically do the same thing, but are designed differently to be used in either the upper jaw (palatal expander) or the lower jaw (lower lingual expander). An expander is used to slightly increase the sizes of the jaws to relieve the crowding or lack of space to allow straightening of crooked teeth. Expanders widen by putting gentle pressure on your back molars each time an adjustment is made. We will instruct you about when and how to adjust your expander, if needed. When the required expansion has been achieved, they are usually then left in place for a short period of time to stabilize and maintain these changes.
  • Retainers: Retainers may be removable or fixed. They hold your teeth in their new, correct positions after your teeth have been straightened. Wearing your retainer as directed is crucial to prevent regression of your treatment.
  • Separators: An orthodontic band, which is a brace that is attached to a tooth by completely surrounding it, is not used as often in orthodontics today as they used to be. On the occasion that they are required, a small space between the teeth where the band is to be placed is needed. A separator does that for us. They are temporary little rubber doughnuts that, when placed between your teeth, push them apart so that an orthodontic band may be placed during your next appointment. The separators will be removed before we place the band.
  • Holding Arches and Space Maintainer (Spacers): Holding arches are a fixed or permanent form of a retainer. Generally, they are used prior to all the permanent teeth erupting into the mouth. They will hold open space for these permanent teeth while they are coming in. The space we are holding open may have been a result of premature loss of a baby tooth or a successful Phase-one orthodontic treatment.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by rate of growth and severity of the correction necessary. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments are important in keeping treatment time on schedule.

How does orthodontic treatment work?

Braces use steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. The method of applying this force may vary (e.g., braces, Invisalign), but how it works is the same. The appliance or brackets are placed on your teeth with a very light continuous force directed toward the position we want the tooth to be. The body, in its attempt to relieve this light force, adjusts the biologic support around the teeth allowing the teeth to move toward, and eventually occupy, their new, more ideal positions.

What are some signs that braces may be needed?

  • Upper front teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth, or are bucked
  • Upper front teeth cover the majority of the lower teeth when biting together (deep bite)
  • Upper front teeth are behind or inside the lower front teeth (underbite)
  • The upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together (open bite)
  • Crowded or overlapped teeth
  • The center of the upper and lower teeth do not line up
  • Finger- or thumb-sucking habits which continue after six or seven years old
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
  • The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting together
  • Spaces between the teeth

At what age should orthodontic treatment occur?

Orthodontic treatment can be started at any age. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child first visit an orthodontist by age 7 or earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist or the child’s physician. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected at an early age before jaw growth has slowed, but not all orthodontic problems require early treatment. Only an evaluation by an Orthodontic Specialist can determine if early intervention is required. It is always better to be too early especially for your peace of mind.

What is Phase I and Phase II treatment?

Two Phase Orthodontic treatment is typically used on younger children with the more severe orthodontic problems where waiting for all permanent teeth to come in may compromise the treatment results. Treatment is broken into two steps:

Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment (e.g., expander or partial braces) before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Such treatment is dependent on the age the permanent teeth are actually coming into the mouth, usually between the ages of seven and ten. This treatment is focused on “Putting Nature on a Better Path.” It is sometimes recommended to make more space for developing teeth, correction of crossbites, overbites, underbites, or harmful oral habits.

The Phase II portion of treatment is then done once all the permanent teeth have come in and is the “finishing” process. It typically involves full braces, usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen.

Do braces hurt?

The placement of bands and brackets on your teeth does not hurt. Once your braces are placed and connected with the archwires you may feel some soreness of your teeth for one to four days. Your lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks to get used to the braces on your teeth.

What is the best way to treat mouth soreness caused by braces?

When you get your braces on, you may feel general soreness in your mouth and teeth may be tender to biting pressures for three to five days. This can be relieved by rinsing your mouth with a warm saltwater mouthwash. Dissolve one teaspoonful of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, and rinse your mouth vigorously. Placing Orabase on the affected area may help; this can be found in your local pharmacy. If the tenderness is severe, whatever you normally take for headache or similar pain.

The lips, cheeks and tongue may also become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become accustomed to the surface of the braces. We will show you how to put wax on the braces to lessen this.


What should I do if a loose appliance is causing discomfort?

If your appliance is poking you, place wax on the offending part of your appliance. If the appliance becomes loose in your mouth, call the Comfort Care number (720-333-1938); this could be something that needs to be repaired as soon as possible.

What should I do if my/my child’s braces have a loose wire?

Using tweezers, try to place your wire back into place. If doing this and using wax does not help, as a last resort use toenail clippers to clip the wire behind the last tooth to which it is securely fastened. If your discomfort continues, place wax on it until you are able to schedule an appointment to fix what is broken.

How should I handle a loose bracket or band?

If your bracket or band is still attached to the wire, you should leave it in place and put wax on it. If the wire comes out entirely, place wax on the wire or try to clip the wire with clean toenail clippers.

Will braces interfere with playing sports?

No. It is recommended, however, that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouthguard when participating in any sporting activity. Mouthguards are inexpensive, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors and patterns.

How do I take care of my retainer?

Retainer wear needs may be modified specifically for you so follow any directions which are different from the following general guidelines given below.

  • Once you have adjusted to wearing your retainers, they usually are required to be worn only in the evenings before you go to bed and at night while you sleep.
  • Make sure your retainers are in your mouth in the morning and not accidentally taken out while you sleep and found in your bed. If that happens, wear the retainers more during your waking hours until they stay in your mouth all night. It’s just a training process.
  • Take your retainers out when eating, and always put retainers in their case! (Most appliances are lost in school lunchrooms or restaurants.)
  • Clean retainers thoroughly once a day with a toothbrush and water only; the abrasives in toothpaste will scratch the clear type retainers. Toothpaste is OK for the type of retainers with wires in them. Use warm but not hot water. Brushing retainers removes the plaque, and eliminates odors. Efferdent or other orthodontic appliance cleaners can be used, but do not take the place of brushing.
  • When retainers are not in your mouth they should ALWAYS be in a retainer case. Pets love to chew on them!
  • Initially, you may find it difficult to speak. Practice speaking, reading, or singing out loud to get used to them faster.
  • Retainers are breakable, so treat them with care. If retainers are lost or broken call us immediately.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your retainers, or your retainers need adjusting, call us. Do not try to adjust them yourself.
  • Always bring your retainers to your appointments.
  • Retainer replacement is expensive; with proper care they will last for years!
  • Remove retainers when swimming.