The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist no later than age seven. Although only a few orthodontic problems need to be corrected at that age, an early exam allows the orthodontist to offer advice and guidance as to when the appropriate age to start treatment would be. Let your orthodontist guide you as to when to start treatment. Feel free to ask questions about the timing of treatment.
The length of treatment varies depending on the complexity of the orthodontic problem that requires correction, growth and tissue response to treatment as well as the level of patient cooperation during their treatment. Orthodontic care requires a team approach in which the family dentist, the orthodontist and the patient play key roles that can impact the length of treatment and the quality of the end result. Generally, the length of comprehensive orthodontic treatment can range from approximately 18 months to 30 months, depending on treatment options and individual characteristics.
Generally, there are two or three stages of orthodontic treatment. Most patients will benefit from an active corrective stage followed by a retention stage. Some patients will benefit from two active treatment stages often referred to as two-phase treatment. The goals of each stage should be discussed with the orthodontist so that patients and/or parents have realistic expectations.
Teeth respond to the gentle forces that are applied to them. “Braces” are a combination of “brackets” and “wires”. Brackets are the part of the braces that attach to the teeth. Brackets are the “handles” that help control movement of the teeth. Braces require a wire called an “archwire” that connects the brackets and provides the forces to steer the teeth in the proper direction. It’s actually the wires that move teeth. The interaction of brackets and archwires enables the orthodontist to have three-dimensional control over the movement of the teeth. In many cases, additional forces are needed to help balance the underlying jaw structure and to help the upper and lower teeth fit properly together to make the bite right. Examples of these extra forces include: elastics (rubber bands) hooked to teeth (see photo below); headgear (see photo at right); functional appliances; and palatal expanders (see photo below).
Rubber bands provide additional forces to move teeth
A palatal expander
©2006 American Association of Orthodontists