What is an orthodontist? An orthodontist is a dentist who has completed an additional two to three years of full-time training at an accredited residency program after graduating from dental school. Orthodontists limit their practices to the field of orthodontics so they can focus on correcting misaligned teeth and jaw problems. Is orthodontic treatment for adults different than treatment for children and teens? Yes and no. Orthodontic treatment is similar because the braces and appliances used to move the teeth are similar. However, due to adult bone being more mature, treatment may take longer. Adults may be missing teeth or have worn down teeth so involvement with the restorative dentist may be needed to plan the final positions of the teeth and spaces. Also, adults are more likely to have damage to their gums or surrounding bone structures and may need to see a gum specialist before orthodontic treatment can begin. In kids, modifying jaw growth will help correct bite problems. However, in adults, because there is no growth, jaw surgery may be needed to correct severe bite problems. How do orthodontic braces work? Orthodontic braces work by applying steady, gentle pressure to guide teeth to their new positions. Braces consist of a system of brackets, and archwires. The brackets are attached to the teeth and the archwire is placed into the slots of the brackets. If the teeth are crooked, the wire needs to be deflected into the brackets when tied in. Then, as the wire returns to its original shape, it moves the tooth with it. If my teeth are straight now, can they get crooked later? Yes. As you age, your jaws, muscles, and bones will change which may affect the alignment of your teeth. If you have had braces before, you may be more prone to having crooked teeth again. This is why you must wear your retainers as directed by your orthodontist to minimize this relapse. Do I need braces? Very few people "need" dental braces. For example, a person who has a severely protrusive jaw, who cannot chew because of this underbite needs braces (in addition to jaw surgery procedures). For most people, orthodontics is an elective treatment to straighten teeth and correct mild to moderate bite problems. Do braces hurt? For the most part, braces do not hurt. The first time you get separators or new wires, your teeth may be sore for a few days. The soreness usually peaks during days 2-3, but should start getting better by days 4-5. Future adjustments may or may not cause you discomfort depending on what is being done to your teeth. To relieve the discomfort, you can take whatever pain medication you would normally use for a headache. Because your lips, cheeks and tongue are not accustomed to rubbing against the braces, you may experience sores or ulcerations inside your mouth. The sores may last one to two weeks until your lips, cheeks, and tongue get used contacting your braces. If there is part of the braces that is irritating your mouth, you can place orthodontic wax to help smooth the rough area of the braces. After your lips, cheeks and tongue get used to the braces, you may even forget you have them on. In the old days, only stiff wires were available so there was more discomfort associated with braces. Now, the new technology and flexible wires, there is signficantly less discomfort associated with tooth movement. In fact, some patients complain about not having any pain because they think that without pain, their teeth are not moving. Remember, "it does not have to hurt to work!" Can I get braces if I play sports? Yes. Many orthodontic patients play sports. However, be sure to protect your braces from cutting the inside of your mouth by wearing a mouthguard. If you have questions on what protective guard is appropriate for you, ask your orthodontist. Your orthodontist will be able to tell you which mouthguard to get and where to buy one. Can I get braces if I play a wind instrument? Yes, but the braces may feel a little rough on your lips. You can use wax to cover your braces when playing. Can I get braces and return to school or work the same day? Yes. Getting braces is not like getting a tooth extracted. It is relatively painless and you should be able to return to school or work the same day. Can I get braces even though I have crowns and/or bridges? Yes. Your orthodontist can put a band or bracket on the crowned tooth and move it just like any other tooth. Bridges, because they involve multiple joined teeth, will not move well with braces. If you need to move a bridged tooth, your orthodontist may have to section the bridge or have your dentist remove it. Can I get braces even though I have missing teeth? Yes, your orthodontist can align the remaining teeth and adjust the space of the missing teeth so that restorations can be placed. Do I still need to see the general dentist when I have braces? Yes, you should continue to see your general dentist at least once every six months to have your teeth cleaned and checked. Will I need to have teeth extracted? Your orthodontist may decide to extract for a variety of reasons. Common reasons for extracting teeth are to provide space to align crowded teeth and improve facial balance. If your orthodontist wants to extract teeth, he or she will usually plan to close the spaces by the end of your treatment. When teeth are extracted for orthodontic treatment, the recovery period is typically about 2-3 days. When will I start seeing changes? Many patients begin noticing changes within the first 4 to 8 weeks, with some patients reporting changes in as little as 2 weeks. Are there foods I should avoid while wearing braces? Yes. Several types of foods can do damage, like bending wires or breaking off brackets. Types of food to avoid eating are: Hard Foods such as ice, hard candies, popcorn, crunchy chips and nuts.  Apples, pears, carrots and corn-on-the-cob should be cut into bite sized pieces rather than biting into them. Sticky Foods such as bubble gum, taffy, caramels and Jolly Ranchers. Foods High In Sugar Content should be an occasional treat rather than an everyday snack.  Be sure to brush after eating sweet treats such as cakes or pies. Soda and sports drinks contain high amounts of sugar also, so be sure to brush your teeth after drinking these as well. You also don't want to chew on pencils, pens, or fingernails!
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