Whether you’re considering braces for yourself or your child, the idea of getting braces can cause all sorts of different questions to begin swirling in your mind: Will braces hurt? How long will I (or my child) have to have braces? How will braces affect daily life? While these common questions are all absolutely valid to consider, there are key questions you should be asking yourself and your orthodontist to make sure that you are choosing treatment at the right time, with the right doctor, and with the right organization.

Below, I have outlined the 10 questions you should ask before getting braces.

1. Can crooked teeth be prevented?

In short, the answer to this question is “not exactly.” For younger children, while you and your orthodontist can do things to help guide teeth or encourage proper eruption of teeth with interceptive care, Mother Nature ultimately determines exactly how they are going to erupt into the mouth. The beautiful thing about orthodontics is that we can move the teeth into ideal positions for the best form, fit, and function; giving a beautiful result that will help teeth and your smile last a lifetime. With the advent of retainers, we are now able to prevent teeth from moving or going “crooked” after treatment is complete. The only sure thing in life is change, and that goes for teeth as well. Retainers help hold those teeth in an ideal position following treatment.

2. What is the ideal age for braces?

I will always tell patients that the ideal age for braces is NOW! But in all seriousness, while anytime is a good time for adults, there are averages with ages for children and teens, and each patient is unique. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist at the first recognition of the existence of an orthodontic problem, but no later than age 7. This allows us to start seeing if there might be a need for early orthodontic treatment, which could be a difference-maker for some children, as some changes cannot be accomplished once the face and jaws are no longer growing. Therefore, by having periodic check-ups starting at age 7 or before, we can take advantage of predictable periods of a patient’s growth and intervene when necessary so that orthodontic treatment can have the best results possible. While kids may not need it, many others will benefit from such early intervention. When it comes to comprehensive treatment, the average age is around 11-12 years old; when all the permanent teeth are in or about to come in. This can get tricky because all kids mature at different ages, so keeping an eye on growth starting at age 7 plays a crucially helpful role in determining the right time to start full treatment. For adult patients, even though your face and jaw are done growing, we can still get highly successful outcomes with orthodontic treatment. As I said – the ideal age for braces is NOW!

10 questions to ask before getting braces - child receiving dental care

3. How should I prepare for my or my child’s orthodontist visit?

First, keep in mind that visiting an orthodontist is a totally normal step in maintaining overall health. For adults, visiting an orthodontist is just as normal as visiting any other health professional specialist in order to address a concern you or your primary physician have. For your child, they probably have many friends and peers their age that have seen or will go see the orthodontist. Help them understand the first visit is nothing to be concerned about. We will take some pictures of their teeth, most likely take an X-ray as well, and you will both spend some time meeting the orthodontist. Also, prep them to understand that if the doctor feels like it is time (and if you as their guardian feel ready), then we can start treatment the same day. Overall, we hope you prepare your child to be excited! At Smile Doctors, our goal with each and every patient is to give them a great experience, starting with their very first appointment, through getting their braces off, and even their final retainer check. At the initial consultation, we want you and your child to enjoy meeting our excellent team and learn how we can improve their smile!

4. How will my or my child’s life change during treatment?

Braces can be a very exciting step in creating a beautiful new smile. Along with this step brings minor changes to food choices and how we eat food. There will need to be extra attention given to brushing and flossing in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Like anything new, there will be a short adjustment period that we help coach you and/or your child through to make sure you are well prepared to help maintain the proper care and hygiene. There could also be an adjustment period as you get used to having the brackets and wires in your mouth. We also prepare you for that by sending you home with orthodontic wax to help prevent any abrasion potential on the inside of your mouth. Ultimately, the biggest change will be watching the incredible and exciting movement of your teeth as they shift and align to create your new smile! Learn more about how to maintain a healthy smile during treatment here: Life with Braces.

How will braces impact your life and the way you eat during treatment?

5. How long can we expect treatment to last?

Length of treatment varies person-to-person and can also depend on the goals and problems the patient has. Simple cases will last around 12 months, while full orthodontic treatment with complete bite corrections can last around 24-30 months. Don’t let these numbers scare you, though! There are many factors that play a part in determining the length of treatment, and what you may consider to be complicated may be simpler than you realize. When you come for your complimentary consult, we’ll detail and customize your treatment plan based on your needs and personal goals with treatment.

6. Did you attend a full-time orthodontic specialist residency?

This is an important question to ask your potential provider because it will help you determine the level of training and experience she or he has to make sure they are bringing the best knowledge and experience available to your treatment. Yes, an orthodontic specialist attends a 2-3 year residency *after* dental school to focus only on learning how to properly move teeth using metal braces and clear aligners. Special learning that is not taught in dental school, such as how to safely move teeth, correct the bite, and growth and development from infancy through adulthood, is carefully studied during this residency. This ensures orthodontists are properly educated and experienced to provide you with the best treatment possible.

7. Will you correct my bite/occlusion?

Absolutely. Correcting a bite often requires the use of rubber bands. In cases requiring larger bite improvement, custom-made appliances may be considered to get the optimal result. You may be flashing back to memories of the “headgear” that was often used in the past, but thanks to advancements in technology, headgear is a thing of the past! We now use other options that are not only faster, but also much more comfortable.

8. Will you place brackets on all of my teeth (including second molars)?

Yes, we believe in straightening ALL the teeth – not just the front ones. There may be occasions that we leave some brackets off some teeth, but it is a case-by-case decision. Our goal is to provide the most optimal, customized result for every patient by aligning all teeth to provide the best form, fit, and function for each individual smile.

9. Have you treated many cases similar to mine?

Yes, as orthodontic specialists, we have treated a large variety of case types, and with our extra training we experienced through residency, we have become equipped with both the skill and knowledge to carefully treat any variety of orthodontic cases to give you the best possible outcome. This is why your orthodontist limits his or her practice to only orthodontics – being an expert in this area of dentistry and using that proficiency in a focused manner allows orthodontists to increasingly grow their experience with all different types of unique cases. At Smile Doctors, our orthodontists also utilize our extensive internal network of orthodontists for suggestions and feedback on particularly special cases as an added effort to provide the best treatment possible for our patients.

10. Have you completed all cases without the assistance of an orthodontic specialist?

This is a great question to ask if you are receiving a consultation and are not sure of the level of training the dentist that would be completing the orthodontic treatment has received. You should then ask yourself if you are comfortable having someone less qualified than an orthodontic specialist complete the treatment before you begin.

At the end of the day, orthodontic treatment is a very unique and personal experience – for both you and your child. Only you can truly know what the best path is for your situation, but we hope that these questions and answers may help you navigate the process. With Smile Doctors, consultations are absolutely FREE, and we are more than happy to be your first, second, or even third opinion to help you understand all your options and figure out how you or your child can best benefit from orthodontic treatment. Find your nearest clinic and give us a call today!

Dr. Joshua Adcox completed his undergraduate studies in biology from Brigham Young University before earning his DDS from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. He also holds a Certificate of Orthodontics from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Dr. Adcox practices with Smile Doctors in Harker Heights, TX. To learn more about Dr. Adcox and his caring Team, visit our Harker Heights location page.

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