When does your child need an Orthodontist?

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dentist who has specialized in orthodontics, the specific area of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. To become an orthodontist, a dentist must return to school to attend a 2-3 year full time residency program of advanced education in orthodontics accredited by the American Dental Association.


What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?

  • A more attractive smile
  • Reduced appearance-consciousness during critical development years
  • Better function of the teeth
  • Possible increase in self-confidence
  • Increased ability to clean the teeth
  • Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
  • Better long term health of teeth and gums
  • Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
  • Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
  • Aids in optimizing other dental treatment


What are some signs that braces may be needed?

  • Upper front teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth, or are bucked
  • Upper front teeth cover the majority of the lower teeth when biting together (deep bite)
  • Upper front teeth are behind or inside the lower front teeth (underbite)
  • The upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together (open bite)
  • Crowded or overlapped teeth
  • The center of the upper and lower teeth do not line up
  • Finger or thumb sucking habits which continue after six or seven years old
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
  • The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting together
  • Spaces between the teeth

If you recognize any of the signs below in your child, it might be time to schedule a consultation with our office.


At what age should orthodontic treatment occur?

Orthodontic treatment can be started at any age. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected at an early age before jaw growth has slowed. Early treatment may mean that a patient can avoid surgery and more serious complications. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child first visit an orthodontist by age 7 or earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist, or the child’s physician.


What is Phase I and Phase II treatment?

Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment (i.e. expander or partial braces) before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Such treatment can occur between the ages of six and ten. This treatment is sometimes recommended to make more space for developing teeth, correction of crossbites, overbites, and underbites, or harmful oral habits. Phase II treatment is also called comprehensive treatment because it involves full braces when all of the permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen.


How does orthodontic treatment work?

Braces use steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. The brackets that are placed on the teeth and the archwire that connects them are the main components. When the archwire is placed into the brackets, it tries to return to its original shape. As it does so, it applies pressure to move teeth to their new, more ideal positions.


How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by rate of growth and severity of the correction necessary. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments are important in keeping treatment time on schedule.


Do braces hurt?

The placement of bands and brackets on teeth does not hurt. Once braces are placed and connected with the archwires there may be some soreness of teeth for one to four days. The lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks to get used to the braces on the teeth.


Will braces interfere with playing sports?

No. It is recommended, however, that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouth guard when participating in any sporting activity. Mouth guards are inexpensive, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors and patterns.


Will braces interfere with playing musical instruments?

No. However, there may be an initial period of adjustment. In addition, brace covers can be provided to prevent discomfort.


Should patients still see the pediatric dentist while they have braces?

Yes, they should continue to see the pediatric dentist every six months for cleanings and dental checkups.


Dr. Reem Stephanos is a native of the Bay Area.  She trained at UCSF Dental School and received her Masters and Orthodontic training at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas.  She currently practices orthodontics at Danville Pediatric Dentistry in the East Bat.  She lives in Danville with her husband and two children.