What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Braces, retainers, Invisalign® and other dental appliances are part of the orthodontist’s “tools” used to make these corrections.

What is an orthodontist?

FAQAn orthodontist is a highly trained specialist who has completed two to three years of training after graduating from dental school. Orthodontists are dentists first, who then go on to become specialists in their field. This additional education elevates the specialty to a level of expertise that is unmatched by other practitioners and makes orthodontists more qualified than all other dental professionals to align and straighten teeth. ONLY those with this formal education may call themselves "Orthodontists", and ONLY orthodontists may be members of the American Association of Orthodontists. In addition to straightening teeth, an orthodontist can also enhance and influence the bite, facial profile, and oral growth. An orthodontist usually stops practicing general dentistry and limits his practice exclusively to orthodontics. This allows one to concentrate all efforts and procedures in the office toward a single goal.

Why is orthodontic treatment important?

Crowded or incorrectly spaced teeth are often more difficult to clean. This can contribute to dental problems down the road, like tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Gum disease (periodontal disease) is now a confirmed risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. Also, some cases can lead to unusual wear-and-tear on tooth surfaces, stress on the gums and bone that support teeth, and misalignment of the jaw joints (this can lead to headaches and pain in the neck or face). Orthodontic treatment helps correct these problems by properly aligning the teeth. Also, orthodontic treatment can greatly improve your smile. Many times the first thing that people notice when they look at you is your smile. Improving your smile can boost your self-esteem as well as enhance your appearance.

How do braces straighten crooked teeth?

Braces use steady, gentle pressure over time to move teeth into their proper positions. At times your braces may seem like they're not doing much, but in fact, every moment of your orthodontic treatment, there’s something good happening in your mouth. We bend the arch wire to create your ideal bite and ideal tooth position. The wire threads through the brackets and, as the wire tries to return to its original shape, it applies pressure to move your teeth. Picture your tooth resting in your jawbone. With pressure on one side from the arch wire, the bone on the other side gives way. The tooth moves and new bone grows in behind. Thanks to new materials and procedures, all this happens much quicker than ever before.

How can I tell if my child needs orthodontic treatment? When is the best time to schedule an initial consultation for my child?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that you bring your child to an orthodontist when your child is 7 years old. Though you can bring your child in at an earlier age, it is usually difficult to know if they will need orthodontic treatment until the permanent teeth start coming in. At this time, the orthodontist will evaluate your child and, if necessary, recommend appropriate steps to help avoid more involved treatment later on.

Am I too old for braces or Invisalign®?

No, you cannot be too old for braces or Invisalign. Healthy teeth can be moved at any age! About 25% of orthodontic patients are adults. Adults can be treated successfully at any age and have the benefits of orthodontic treatment.

Will additional jaw growth allow self-correction of crowded teeth visible in an 8-year-old?

No. The space available for the front teeth does not increase after the permanent 6-year molars erupt. In most people, the space available for the front teeth decreases with increasing age.

Is there a chance that my child's bite will get better on its own?

Usually it is just the opposite. With time, orthodontic problems almost always get worse.

What is Phase I or Early Treatment?

Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period when a child is younger, that offers a greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Prudent intervention guides growth and development of the jaws, preventing serious problems later. Once the child is older or an adult, most of these interceptive treatments can no longer be done effectively. So timing and age are of the essence!

Some of the most direct results of early interceptive treatment are:

  • Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth
  • Creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth (for jaws that are too far forward or backward, or too narrow or wide)
  • Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
  • Preserving space for unerupted teeth
  • Reducing the need for tooth removal
  • Reducing the treatment time with braces

What causes crooked teeth?

We inherit mouth and jaw features from our parents. Other factors such as finger sucking, high cavity rate, gum disease, trauma, or premature loss of baby teeth can also contribute to a bad bite.

Can I have my teeth straightened without having braces glued to my teeth?  What is Invisalign®?

Yes. If all the permanent teeth are erupted, utilizing Invisalign® is sometimes an option. These “braces” consist of a series of clear plastic trays, or aligners, that are specifically designed for you by your orthodontist. These aligners are clear and removable and adjust your teeth on a stage by stage basis; about two weeks per aligner. Invisalign® has many benefits, the greatest being that they are nearly invisible. If Invisalign® is not an option for your case; we do have the highest quality aesthetic braces on the market. They are completely clear as glass and very hard to detect.

What do rubber bands do?

Rubber bands (elastics) contribute significantly to bite correction. Attached to your braces, elastics exert the force that creates the right amount of pressure to move teeth in directions that the braces alone can't. It's important to wear your elastics as prescribed and change them every day so the force is constant. A lack of consistency in wearing rubber bands can bring treatment to a standstill. Teeth never fail to move when elastics are worn consistently as directed.

Will braces correct TMD, TMJ or jaw joint problems?

Braces may or may not improve jaw joint problems. A thorough evaluation must be performed to evaluate the best approach for every individual experiencing these problems. Many times conservative treatment options can be very effective.

How long do you have to wear braces?

That greatly depends on how cooperative you are during treatment, and how severe your bite problem is when treatment begins. The better you are about wearing and taking care of your braces, the sooner your teeth will improve. Some treatments can take only a few months, while others can last from 1-3 years. The exact length of your treatment will be discussed at your initial consultation appointment.

Will any teeth be pulled?

We always strive for non-extraction treatment whenever possible, but sometimes teeth must be removed. Don't worry, if you need teeth removed, the spaces will be closed and no one will even notice. Dr. Tanzilli only removes teeth as a last option, when nothing else will work.

Will it hurt to put the braces on?

Not usually. Dr. Tanzilli takes special care in placing your braces to make your experience as comfortable as possible. Thanks to the advances in modern technology, the procedure to put on your braces is quite easy. Your teeth are first cleaned and polished, then prepared, so the doctor can place each bracket on the front surface of your tooth. We use very small brackets to help maximize your comfort, and special wires of titanium alloys that greatly minimize discomfort and shorten treatment time.

Are braces uncomfortable? How long do braces take to put on?

Each person finds braces quite different. Placing braces takes about an hour. However, it is a relatively painless procedure. During the following couple of days the teeth may be slightly uncomfortable, however they soon settle down and you get used to the new feeling. Patients generally adjust very quickly to the braces and before you know it is it just another part of everyday life.

What about the safety of the X-Rays you need to take?

Dr. Tanzilli exclusively uses digital X-rays. It is reported these digital images reduce patient exposure to radiation by 50-70%, when compared to traditional film X-rays. Digital manipulation of the images allows us to glean much more information than traditional film. We are also able to send these images to your general dentist or any other specialist, instantly via e-mail, thus enhancing communication.

My son/daughter wants to play sports. Will braces interfere?

Special mouth guards that are made for braces have allowed patients to continue participation in sports while in treatment. These are available at any sports supply store.

My child plays the trumpet, saxophone or flute. Will his ability to play be affected by orthodontic treatment?

Most patients report no change in the ability to play their instruments with braces.

Are there foods that you should avoid?

We generally recommend that you avoid hard, sticky, gooey, or crunchy foods. Caramel and taffy can stick to the braces and make cleaning difficult. Crunchy foods can occasionally knock off a bracket, which would have to be re-attached by Dr. Tanzilli. Simply using common sense will help you decide which foods you should avoid eating.

What home care will I need for my braces?

When you have braces, you need to take extra care to brush and floss each day. Food can get stuck in your braces, so it is very important to brush and floss daily. Our staff will show you how to effectively care for your teeth while in braces. We will also prescribe a special fluoride paste to insure that no cavities form during treatment.