Frequently asked questions
Starting orthodontic treatment can be daunting, but we’re here to make it easy for you! Our knowledgeable team at The Ortho Place is happy to answer your questions and set your mind at ease. Before you come in for your consultation, however, feel free to browse the answers to some of the most commonly asked orthodontic questions.
What is a malocclusion?
A malocclusion is an irregularity with how your teeth meet or bite together. Some examples of malocclusions are crowding, spacing, underbites or overbites.
What are the causes of a malocclusion?
A malocclusion is most often caused by an abnormal relationship between the size of your teeth and jaws. It may also be the result of missing teeth or be formed from habits such as thumb sucking.
Will you need to extract my teeth?
At The Ortho Practice we aim to keep as many teeth as we can and therefore do not take the extraction decision lightly. If you are young and your jaw is still growing, we can work with the growth to straighten your teeth, often without the need for extraction. If you are an adult, we are a little more limited because your jaw is no longer growing. Extraction may be the only way to successfully straighten your teeth and correct your bite; however, it will depend on your individual case.
How long does it take to close gaps between teeth after an extraction?
It can take anywhere from a few months to a year to close extraction gaps. Gaps in teeth on the lower jaw tend to close slower than ones on the upper jaw.
I wore my retainer when I was younger, but now my teeth have shifted. Is this common?
Yes, it’s more common than you think! Your teeth will continue to move throughout your life, so it’s important to keep wearing your retainer after orthodontic treatment. A number of adults choose to get braces a second time to get their perfect smile back.
Can I get invisible braces instead of traditional ones?
That depends on your specific case. Invisalign® treatment involves the use of clear plastic aligners which are almost invisible. While they do work very well, they do not suit all types of malocclusions.
What are Invisalign® clear aligners made of?
Invisalign® clear aligners are made of clear, strong, medical grade, non-toxic plastic that is virtually invisible when worn.
What do the aligners look like?
Invisalign® clear aligners look similar to clear tooth-whitening trays, but are custom made for your exact smile. Some dentists have referred to them as “contact lenses for teeth”.
How long will Invisalign® treatment take?
The length of treatment is dependent on the severity of the individual case. Treatment may vary from anywhere between 6 months to two years, with an average treatment of about 12 to 14 months.
Does Invisalign® treatment really work?
Absolutely! In both clinical research and in dental practices around the world, Invisalign® treatment has been proven effective at straightening teeth. Over one million patients are enjoying straighter smiles thanks to Invisalign® clear aligners.
How do Invisalign® clear aligners effectively move teeth?
Invisalign® clear aligners move teeth through the appropriate placement of controlled force on the teeth. You will receive a series of aligners during treatment that you will switch out every couple weeks. Each set of aligners is shaped slightly differently to gradually move your teeth into their desired positions.
Has Invisalign® conducted clinical tests and studies?
Invisalign® conducted extensive testing prior to commercially releasing their clear aligners. Various US universities have conducted clinical studies and numerous clinical articles have been published by US and Australian dentists.
Can I claim a rebate on Invisalign® treatment?
There may be a government rebate available to taxpayers whose eligible net medical expenses for the year exceed $1,500. The amount of the rebate is 20% of the excess payment over $1,500 but it cannot exceed the amount of the tax otherwise paid. The rebate is claimed when the patient lodges their annual income tax return. Invisalign® treatment may also be claimable through your Private Health Insurance fund.
Are there certain dental conditions that automatically exclude you from being an eligible patient?
Cases that are difficult or unsuitable for Invisalign® treatment may include patients with severely tipped teeth, multiple missing teeth, teeth that have not erupted or poor periodontal conditions.
How long will it take to begin treatment after my initial consultation?
After or during the initial consultation, the staff at The Ortho Practice will need to take x-rays, photos, and moulds of your teeth. These records will be sent to the US to be used to manufacture your custom made aligners. This process will take approximately 6 weeks (from the time the moulds are taken of your teeth).
Will the treatment be painful?
You aligners should never be painful! Most people experience some temporary, minor discomfort for a few days at the beginning of each new stage of treatment. This is normal and typically described as the feeling of pressure. It is a sign the aligners are working – sequentially moving your teeth to their final destination. This discomfort typically goes away a couple of days after you insert the new set of aligners.
Will Invisalign® clear aligners affect my speech?
Like all orthodontic appliances, aligners may temporarily affect the speech of some people, and you may have a slight lisp for a day or two. However, as your tongue gets used to having the aligners in your mouth, any lisp or minor speech impediment should disappear.
*Invisalign® aligners are a registered medical device, you should always read and follow the label and the instructions of your treating orthodontist.
How do braces work?
Braces use a system of brackets and metal wire to apply pressure on your teeth. This loosens the supporting soft tissue ligament surrounding the teeth, allowing your teeth to move.
Do braces hurt?
You may experience a dull ache after fitting or adjustment appointment. This is because your teeth are not used to the pressure and your cheeks are not used to the metal or ceramic rubbing against them. After a few days to a week, the discomfort should diminish. In the meantime, you can use over-the-counter pain relief for discomfort, or dental wax to create a barrier between the braces and your gums.
What is an adjustment and how is it done?
At an adjustment appointment, the elastics (and sometimes the archwires) of your braces are changed or adjusted to reposition the teeth. Elastic chains can also be added to help with tooth movement. We use these appointments to monitor your progress, and they are designed to be short visits to accommodate school and work schedules.
What is an archwire?
An archwire is the metal wire that goes across your braces, from one end of your mouth to the other. You have two archwires – one on the top teeth and one on the bottom teeth. The pressure from the archwire is what helps to move your teeth.
What is a module (ligature)?
A module is a tiny elastic that holds the archwire onto each bracket of your braces. Modules (ligatures) come in a variety of colours. Some brackets are self-ligating, which means they do not need elastics to hold the archwire onto the brackets.
Am I too old for braces?
There is no age limit for braces. As long as you have good periodontal health, braces can be used to straighten your teeth and correct your bite. More and more adults are choosing braces to straighten their smiles.
Can I get braces just on the top or bottom?
That depends on your case. Orthodontics isn’t just about making your teeth look pretty. Our doctors take a lot of things into consideration when recommending treatment, such as:
- how the top and bottom teeth meet with each other (i.e. your bite)
- how well you can chew your food
- whether extractions or surgery will be necessary
- whether you will need any appliances in your treatment, such as a palate expander or headgear
When will I begin to see changes in my teeth after the braces are put on?
Most people begin to see changes in their teeth in the first 2 to 6 weeks of treatment.
I just got my braces recently and my teeth feel loose. Is this normal?
Yes, this is perfectly normal! The periodontal ligament which helps to hold your teeth in place is loosening up to allow your teeth to move. Your teeth should stop feeling loose after a few weeks, but if you’re concerned about it, or if your teeth feel loose for months on end, please contact us about it.
Why do I use wax when I have braces?
Wax helps to create a barrier between the brackets and the inside of your cheeks. This is helpful if a bracket is irritating your cheek or gums. Usually your Specialist Orthodontist will give you some dental wax after your braces are fitted. Most pharmacies also carry dental wax.
If one of the ends of your archwire is poking your mouth, please let us know so we can arrange an appointment to trim it down for you.
How do I use orthodontic dental wax?
To use dental wax, break off a tiny bit of wax from the container, squeeze it with your fingers to mould it, then place it directly onto the bracket that is causing the irritation. Dental wax is non-toxic, so it is ok if you swallow it. Wax tends to break down over time, so you will probably have to apply more after eating a meal. Take off the wax before you brush your teeth, or it will gunk up your toothbrush!
Do I need to use a special toothbrush when I have braces?
Yes and no. You can use a regular soft toothbrush; however, we recommend an orthodontic-cut toothbrush, where the bristles in the middle are lower than the bristles on the edges. You can also use any electric toothbrush. You might also want to get a small spiral dental brush or a rubber-tipped stimulator to help clean food debris out from between the brackets before you brush.
We recommend that you brush your teeth after every meal (and especially at night) to keep your teeth clean and healthy during braces treatment.
Can you use whitening toothpaste when you wear braces?
It’s probably best not to use whitening toothpastes until after your braces come off. If you use whitening toothpaste on a daily basis, the teeth underneath the brackets may not be as white as the rest of your teeth when your braces come off!
How do I floss my teeth with braces on?
It’s a little tricky at first. You’ll have to thread the floss under the arch wire between each tooth, floss and then remove it. Repeat for each tooth. You can use any type of floss that is comfortable. Most people attach the floss to a plastic needle called a floss threader, or use floss that has a stiff end.
I seem to have excess saliva now that I have braces. Why?
Excess saliva is actually very common. Apparently your mouth mistakes the feeling of the brackets on the inside of your cheeks for food and sometimes produces extra saliva to help digest it. This generally diminishes with time.
Suddenly I’ve developed gaps between teeth which never had gaps before. Should I be worried?
It is very common for your teeth to shift and develop gaps while treatment is underway. Your bite will change many times during your treatment. Remember, any strange gaps or bite problems will be resolved by the time your treatment is finished. If you are really concerned, mention it to The Ortho Practice at your next visit.
If I have headgear, can I wear it only at night?
It is important to wear your appliance for as many hours as your doctor recommends, or your treatment won’t progress as quickly as it should. You might even need to wear headgear for extra months!
Do ceramic braces stain?
The brackets themselves usually do not stain. It’s the elastics that stain. These are changed at each adjustment. This means that if your elastics or power chains stain, you’ll only have to live with it for a short time.
What stains the elastics of your braces the worst?
Foods like curry, mustard, black coffee and red wine create the worst stains. Smoking also causes staining of your elastics.
What colours elastics or power chains resist stains the best?
Clear or white elastics show yellow stains the worst. The best colours to hide staining are smoke, pearlescent, glow-in-the-dark and any dark vibrant colours.
Do I have to change my diet when I wear braces?
You should still be able to eat most of your favourite foods with minor adjustment. At first, your teeth will be sore and you will not want to bite into hard foods, big sandwiches, or anything too chewy or crunchy. It is best to stick to soft foods until your teeth begin to feel better, usually in a week or so.
It’s also best to avoid very sticky, chewy foods, and crunchy food like ice chips, as these can dislodge the brackets from your teeth.
Do dental plans cover the cost of braces?
Most dental plans cover children up to age 18; however, they do not cover adult orthodontics. If your plan covers adult braces, consider yourself in the lucky minority.
Remember, most dental plans do not cover treatment that is already in progress. So, if you are going to sign up for a dental plan, do it before any treatment begins. Also, be aware of any waiting periods your dental plan may enforce. Jaw surgery or extraction is sometimes covered under your medical plan, so be sure to look into this too.
Is it ok to have braces if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant?
Yes, many pregnant women have had orthodontic treatment. Your teeth may be a bit looser than average because of the hormonal changes and the effect on your periodontal ligaments. However, as long as you maintain good periodontal health, it shouldn’t be a problem to wear braces if you’re pregnant.
Can I wear braces if I play sports?
Yes, you can. It is probably best to wear a special orthodontic mouthguard to protect your mouth and appliance while playing contact sports.
Can I wear braces if I play a wind instrument?
Yes, you can. Several companies make mouthguards specifically for this purpose. Ask your doctor for one that he/she recommends.
How can I keep my braces clean after eating at a restaurant or travelling?
Most people who have braces carry a little dental kit to help them in such situations. A dental kit should contain a dental pick, some floss and floss threaders, a toothbrush and some toothpaste.
A travel cup is also a good idea!
*You should always follow the instructions of your treating orthodontist.
What are the types of retainers?
Orthodontic retainers are used to keep your teeth in their new position after treatment. There are a few types of retainers you can choose from:
A clear plastic retainer is sometimes placed on the upper teeth one or two days after the braces are removed. It resembles an Invisalign® clear aligner. It is normally worn only at night and lasts an average of 24 months. After it wears out, your Specialist Orthodontist may replace it with a traditional wire retainer.
A bonded retainer is normally placed behind the lower teeth after the braces are removed. It is a wire ‘permanently’ bonded to the teeth with composite material. Sometimes this type of retainer is used for the upper teeth, however usually this is not possible because it would interfere with your bite. A bonded retainer will remain in place for several years.
A wire retainer (also called a Hawley Retainer) is the type of removable retainer that has the added benefit of being adjustable so that minor tooth movement is possible.
Why do I have to wear a retainer after my braces come off?
It takes many months for your periodontal ligaments and bone to ‘remember’ the new position of your teeth and keep them in place. The retainer helps keep them in their proper positions. It’s important to wear the retainer exactly as your doctor recommends, otherwise your teeth may shift.
How do I keep my retainer clean?
You should brush your retainer each night as directed by your Specialist Orthodontist. You can also use a retainer cleaner, or even denture cleaner (on a Hawley retainer), to keep it extra clean.
*You should always follow the instructions of your treating orthodontist.
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