An orthodontist is a specialist that can choose the best way to straighten your teeth, align your jaw structure, and make your smile beautiful with healthy, functional teeth. A dentist who has completed 4 years of dental school in the top of their class can apply for an orthodontic specialty program accredited by the American Dental Association. He/she then completes 2 to 3 years of additional university training consisting of facial growth and engineering principles to accomplish tooth movement.

Any age at which you’d like to improve your smile is the perfect time. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child consult an orthodontist no later than age 7. Detecting problems early may help avoid serious complications and possibly surgery.

See Do I need braces? for more information.

Phase I – Early orthodontic treatment is generally performed between the ages of 7 and 10 before permanent teeth have come in. Children with severe crowding, jaw discrepancies, or harmful oral habits at this age may need early treatment to avoid severe problems later.

Phase II – Comprehensive orthodontic treatment in adolescents generally begins between 11-12 years of age for girls and 13 years of age for boys.

Every tooth should be moved to the optimal position in order to create the best smile. This means the teeth fit together with function (proper chewing, speech), health (teeth within bone and tissue support), and stability (during retention). Orthodontic treatment is important during this time because maximum growth is occurring in children and facial growth can be best corrected. Once growth slows or stops, usually at 14 years of age for girls and 16 years of age for boys, severely abnormal facial growth changes may not be able to be addressed with routine orthodontic procedures and may require jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery) to move the jaws to the proper position after facial growth stops. 

The average treatment time for comprehensive orthodontics is 20 to 24 months.  Our office understands everyone wants to have their treatment finished quickly and we try very hard to deliver the best result in the least amount of time. However, the length of orthodontic treatment varies on a case-by-case basis and may be affected by facial growth, case severity, and patient compliance.

Placing orthodontic appliances on teeth doesn’t hurt. However, teeth may feel sore for a few days after each appointment while they start to move. We use light orthodontic forces to maximize tooth movement and minimize patient discomfort. Although braces are quite small and comfortable, your lips and cheeks may need a few weeks to adjust to your new appliances.

See Emergency Care for more information.

Yes! It’s even more important that you see your dentist during orthodontic treatment. Food caught in your braces can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. In fact, Dr. Zahrowski recommends seeing your dentist every 3 to 6 months when you have braces to keep your teeth healthy.

Braces adhere to each of your teeth and a wire links each brace together. The wire, using very light pressure, returns to its shape, and gently allows your body to change the bone surrounding the teeth and move teeth into a new position. Braces give the orthodontist the most three-dimensional control to move crowded teeth into their ideal positions. Since all types of braces are similar (providing an attachment hold upon the tooth), proper tooth movement is accomplished by the skill of the orthodontist not by the type of brace. Braces can be clear (not easily seen) or metal (with vibrant colors), however all brace types can provide equal superior results.

Aligners , such as Invisalign, are clear plastic trays that apply light pressure to your teeth by pushing them into their ideal positions. Initial tooth positions are changed in plaster models or changed digitally in complex software with a new clear plastic aligner made with the teeth moved slightly. New sequences of trays are made to continue tooth movement to the desired position.

Moving teeth with aligners is biologically similar but mechanically different than the tooth movement accomplished with braces. Clear aligners may have superior esthetics during orthodontics, however they may not be able to provide adequate tooth movement in specific cases. It is important that prior to orthodontic treatment, full orthodontic records are evaluated and a comprehensive diagnosis is made in order to use the most esthetically pleasing appliances that will deliver the best possible result.

See Types of Braces for more information.

You should brush your teeth at least twice daily; in the morning after breakfast and at night before bedtime. After lunch when at work or school, you can rinse your mouth with water to dislodge food particles. You should floss between each tooth every night before bedtime. After you brush and floss each night, approximately one teaspoonful of a fluoride rinse (purchased at any pharmacy) should be swished around your mouth for 1 minute then spit out. A fluoride rinse will strengthen the outside of the teeth and help prevent tooth decay. Dr. Zahrowski’s office will discuss the proper brushing methods when braces are present.

Braces will not prevent you from participating in any school activities. If you play a contact sport (like football, soccer, or hockey), a mouth guard is recommended to protect your mouth and braces. Braces do not affect the playing of most musical instruments, however brass horn instruments may require extra practice to adjust.

Talking with braces may feel strange at first, but your mouth and speech will usually adjust in a few days. Sometimes orthodontic appliances may have to be placed close to the tissue on the inside portion of the upper or lower teeth. These appliances may take up some of the space that the tongue normally has to move around while speaking or eating. These temporary changes to speaking or eating should go away within one or two weeks, as the tongue adapts to the new space available.

When active orthodontic treatment begins, we usually see our patients every 6 weeks for adjustments since it takes time for large tooth movements to occur. Toward the end of orthodontic treatment, appointments may be sooner, such as every 4 weeks, since small, refined tooth movements are needed to provide the best possible result.

Since braces are placed on teeth to allow the orthodontist to properly move teeth, broken braces will allow teeth to move to undesired positions and lengthen treatment time. Hard foods (such as ice, hard candies, tortilla chips, granola bars, large carrots, hard crusted bread, and tough meats) should be avoided because they can break the braces attached to the teeth. Foods with high sugar content (especially soft drinks) should be avoided because they can cause more tooth decay and permanent tooth discoloration. Sticky foods (such as caramel and gum) may stick within the braces or wires and make tooth brushing and cleaning teeth more difficult.

See our Braces Care page for a more complete list of items to avoid.