After Braces
Orthodontic treatment is often an involved process that takes a few years and a lot of commitment. After orthodontic treatment is completed, patients are usually very pleased with their beautiful new smiles. To keep teeth looking beautiful after braces, however, there are steps must be taken. Failing to follow through with tooth care and maintenance after treatment has been completed can be a huge and costly mistake that can undermine the efforts of orthodontic treatment.

Wearing a Retainer

A retainer is a small device made out of plastic and metal that is designed to fit over the teeth. Depending on the case, orthodontists may recommend that the retainer be worn at night or for a certain number of hours per day. Instructions may change as time passes and changes in the teeth and mouth occur. It is important that patients carefully follow retainer instructions to maintain tooth placement after braces.

How Long Do Retainers Have to Be Worn?

It is common for patients to be instructed to wear retainers all day for several months after treatment, then overnight for years or indefinitely. Retainers may help to close gaps in between the teeth in addition to maintaining tooth alignment and stability. It is not possible for retainers to be worn for too long, so patients are better off continuing to wear the retainer if in doubt. Many patients are instructed to wear retainers nightly for the rest of their lives.

What if Teeth Shift?

Orthodontic treatment is not a permanent fix, as patients’ mouths undergo changes along with the rest of their bodies as they age and as teeth are used for chewing and eating. Some tooth shifting is to be expected, especially in the lower front teeth. However, more serious shifting can occur if later-than-expected growth occurs. Wearing retainers after braces will help to reduce tooth shifting, but it is important to contact an orthodontist if the changes seem more dramatic.

Dental Health and Tooth Care

While retainers can help to maintain tooth alignment, patients must brush and floss to keep the teeth looking white and clean and to maintain gum health. All efforts to keep teeth straight can be undermined if decay makes it necessary to remove teeth. A smile cannot remain beautiful for long if dental care is ignored.

Subsequent Check-Ups

Patients should visit a dentist and orthodontist regularly to keep their smiles beautiful long after braces. Dentists should be visited about once every six months for standards cleanings, examinations, and x-rays. Dentists may be able to spot orthodontic issues or relapses and recommend an orthodontic visit. Orthodontists should be visited about twice a year after successful orthodontic treatment or as recommended according to the treatment plan. If there are concerns about tooth shifting, patients should contact orthodontists to make an appointment.  

Orthodontic Expanders

Certain orthodontic techniques have shifted over the last several years, especially the increased introduction of orthodontic expanders. In the past, it was common to extract teeth in order to create space in the mouth. Now, orthodontists are trying to save healthy teeth by expanding the arches to correct crowding issues. Expanding the arches is successful in creating more space in the mouth in most cases, but it may cause large gaps to form between the teeth. This can be unnerving for patients and their families.

When to Use an Expander

The roof of the mouth contains two bones which are joined in the middle. When children are young, these bones are joined together by cartilage. At around the age of 14, this cartilage begins to be replaced by bone. If patients can be treated prior to this period of maturation, the roof of the mouth can actually be expanded to help avoid tooth crowding. It is important to treat patients long before the bones begin to permanently fuse.

Appearance of a Tooth Gap

When the expander begins to work, a large gap will typically appear between the top front teeth. This is a sign that the two bones of the palate have been separated. The gap will disappear after further orthodontic treatment. While it may be uncomfortable because of the altered appearance, patients should rest assured that this gap is temporary and necessary to effectively correct misalignments caused by crowding.

Stabilization Period

After the palate has been widened, orthodontists will leave the expander in for a few weeks to several months in order to allow the body to adjust to the newly expanded palate. New bone may form to accommodate the spacing. The teeth may begin to come back together because of the elasticity of the gums and the gap may diminish or disappear even before the expander is removed. This is also normal, but does not happen in every case. After the expander is removed, the palate may come back together slightly. Orthodontists typically anticipate this change by expanding the palate slightly more than needed.

Advantages of Using an Expander

An expander can help patients to avoid costly surgeries and treatments later. Crowding issues may cause teeth to become painful or to rot. An expander will help to naturally make space in the mouth. Expanders can be used even before a patient’s permanent teeth erupt so that the teeth can come in comfortably and free from complications.

Orthodontics Career

Orthodontists help patients correct improper bite patterns caused by jaw misalignments and tooth irregularities. Becoming an orthodontist takes work, but can be fulfilling and rewarding. Patients’ lives are forever enhanced when they are proud to show off a healthy and beautiful smile.

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

An orthodontist examines, diagnoses, and treats problems involving malocclusions. Orthodontists are skilled at using different devices and methods in order to move the teeth into a more desirable position. If needed, orthodontists may also use devices to guide facial development for young patients, in order to avoid future malocclusions. While some malocclusions may be corrected strictly for aesthetic purposes, many corrections help patients to avoid dental problems or make it easier for patients to talk, eat, and breathe.

What Does it Take to Become an Orthodontist?

To become an orthodontist, students must first complete a course in general dentistry. After a DDS, DBS, DMD, or equivalent has been obtained from an accredited school for dentistry, students must complete an additional two to five years of schooling in the science of orthodontics, accompanied by a two to three year residency in an ADA approved program.

Personal Traits

Besides formal training, orthodontists must possess certain skills and characteristics to be successful in the field. Orthodontists must truly love working with people and helping people in order for the field to be fulfilling. Orthodontists should be quick thinking and have an eye for details in order to be successful. If an orthodontist wishes to go into private practice, the orthodontist should also possess management and leadership skills.

What Options are Available for Certified Orthodontists?

Many certified orthodontists open up private practices on their own. However, some may choose to gain employment at existing offices, or may partner with other orthodontists to start an office. When offices are privately owned or are owned jointly, orthodontists can adapt the practice to suit their lifestyle. Since many patients are still in high school, remaining open on weekends may allow orthodontists to operate on more flexible schedules.

Orthodontist Salary Expectations

Orthodontist salaries fluctuate according to where the office is located and what skills are applicable, as with any profession. However, the mean orthodontist salary in the United States is about $140,850 annually. The middle 50 percent of orthodontists make between roughly $100,000 and $175,000 per year. In addition to this base salary, orthodontists may receive benefits, pension, and bonuses. When orthodontists are Board Certified, salary may be increased.

About Orthodontics A person’s smile is an important part of the way that they connect to the world. A healthy and beautiful smile can convey confidence, trust, and enjoyment. A smile also reveals the state of a person’s teeth and dental health. Unfortunately, when an individual’s teeth or bite is misaligned, it can affect the way that they are perceived and the way that they feel about themselves. The goal of orthodontics is to help people achieve healthy and beautiful smiles, so that smiling is never a source of concern again.

Types of Orthodontic Problems

There are many different types of problems that orthodontists can help to correct, including:
  • Crowding of teeth
  • Improper spacing of teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Extra teeth
  • Issues with jaw growth

Causes of Orthodontic Problems

The main cause of orthodontic problems is heredity. Misalignments may also be caused by habits such as finger sucking or thumb sucking. Accidents may cause many different types of complications with the alignment of the jaws and teeth. Dental disease may cause the gums to weaken, which can cause the teeth to shift.

Selecting an Orthodontist

Orthodontists receive two to three more years of training than regular dentists to be able to correctly diagnose, prevent, and treat dental and facial irregularities. Only after receiving this specialized training may individuals be referred to as orthodontists. It is important to do research and select an orthodontist that is experienced and meets expectations before agreeing to receive treatment.

What is the Ideal Age for Orthodontic Treatment?

Orthodontic treatment can benefit patients of any age. Children should receive the first orthodontic treatment as young as age seven, as certain complication can be corrected beginning at that age. Children and teenagers commonly undergo orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth and correct other issues. Adults can also benefit from orthodontic treatment.

What Is the Patient’s Role in Treatment?

Patients must take an active role in order for treatment to be successful. The orthodontist will evaluate the patient, determine the best course of action, and implement measures to correct alignment issues. The patient must follow the instructions of the orthodontist carefully and attend all appointments for subsequent check-ups. Patients must also maintain outstanding dental health so that teeth and gums remain strong and orthodontic treatment is effective. Orthodontists will regularly track the progress of treatment and make adjustments as needed to help patients achieve the healthiest and most beautiful smile possible.

Two-Phase Treatment

Two-phase treatment is an orthodontic process that separates orthodontic care into two distinct phases beginning when the patient is very young. The advantage of two-phase treatment is that orthodontists can effectively control jaw and tooth misalignments as patients’ mouths and jaws develop. In some cases, this will help patients to avoid costly surgeries and procedures.

In most cases, it will help patients to enjoy maximum tooth health and appearance throughout their lifetime. Two-phase treatment is not necessary in all cases, but if the orthodontist recommends two-phase treatment, it can help patients to avoid the development of complications.

Phase One Treatment

The objective of the first phase of treatment is typically to ensure adequate jaw space to fit all teeth once the permanent teeth erupt. Keeping proper alignment of the jaw and teeth is also important throughout this phase. Jaw misalignments can often be recognized after the patient reaches the age of six and steps can be taken to correct this before it worsens.

How Phase One Works

Orthodontists utilize x-rays, models of the teeth, and photographs to decide which appliances to use during phase one treatment. After the appliances have been installed, orthodontists will schedule frequent visits with the patient. Close records will be kept of the patient’s progress in order to make adjustments for the best results. Participating in phase one treatment often prevents patients from requiring tooth removal later on.

Resting Period

During the resting period, appliances are removed. It is at this time that the remaining permanent teeth erupt and fill in the space that has been created during phase one treatment. No retainers are usually prescribed during this period, as the retainers may interfere with the natural eruption of the permanent teeth. After all permanent teeth have erupted, the orthodontist will schedule an appointment to assess the alignment and spacing of the teeth.

Phase Two Treatment

During the second phase of treatment, orthodontists utilize all past and current records to determine the best course of action. Patients may require additional space for teeth, and in some cases it will be necessary to remove teeth or use devices to assist with this goal. Braces are typically worn for a period of about 24 months during phase two treatment.

After the removal of the braces, patients are given a retainer to maintain the positioning and alignment of the teeth. If patients follow all care instructions and recommendations throughout two-phase treatment, patients’ smiles are usually healthy and beautiful for a long time.