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Do I need to see a dentist during orthodontic treatment?

It’s critical that you continue seeing your family dentist during orthodontic treatment. Your dentist will provide professional cleanings and check-ups, and like your orthodontist, will keep an eye on oral health. Visit your dentist at least every six months during orthodontic treatment, or more often, if recommended.

Is all orthodontic treatment done with braces?

Not these days. Among the choices are braces, which consist of brackets and wires, and, for some people, clear aligners.

What kinds of appliances are there?

Here are examples of some of the orthodontic appliances used to move teeth and align jaws.


Braces are the most common appliance used in orthodontic treatment. Fortunately, they have come a long way. Basically, braces have two parts: brackets and wires. Wires move the teeth; brackets serve as stationary handles to hold the wires. As needed for an individual’s treatment, other components can be added.

Contemporary braces can be:

  • Stainless steel
  • Gold-colored
  • Tooth-colored ceramic

Brackets are affixed directly to teeth. Wires are threaded through slots in the brackets. Most braces go on the front of the teeth. Sometimes braces can be put on the backs of teeth – these are called “lingual” braces. These are virtually invisible. Not all orthodontists offer this form of treatment, and not all kinds of orthodontic problems can be successfully treated with lingual braces. The wires on some braces are held in place by tiny rubber bands (“ligatures”), and come in a huge assortment of colors. Other braces are “self-ligating” – they do not require ligatures to hold the wires in place.

Clear aligners

People sometimes call clear aligners “invisible braces.” They are made of a transparent plastic-like material. They are made to fit the patient’s teeth at different stages of their treatment. Each set of aligners is worn for 1-3 weeks, at least 22 hours a day, before moving on to the next set. Each set is engineered to move the teeth incrementally, per the orthodontist’s treatment plan, until the desired alignment is reached. Tooth-colored attachments on the teeth will help aligners move teeth properly. Some, but not all, kinds of orthodontic problems can be successfully treated with clear aligners.

Temporary Anchorage Devices (TADs)

Temporary anchorage devices, or TADs, are tiny implants used as a fixed point from which to apply force to move teeth predictably. They can be placed in many different sites in the mouth, depending upon the patient’s needs. TADs are removed when no longer needed.

Power chains

Power chains are sometimes used with braces. A power chain is stronger than individual elastic o-rings, so they can apply extra force when needed.

What Are Orthodontic “Appliances”?

Orthodontists use a variety of “appliances” to move teeth and align jaws. Braces may be top-of-mind when you think about orthodontic treatment. But there are many more appliances that orthodontists use in treatment.

What happens if orthodontic problems are not treated?

Generally, untreated orthodontic problems may become worse. Lack of orthodontic treatment can be a factor in tooth decay, gum disease, destruction of the bone that holds teeth in place, tooth loss, chewing/digestive difficulties, or abnormal wearing away of tooth enamel. Ultimately, orthodontic treatment may cost less than the restorative treatment that could be needed to treat decayed, worn or lost teeth, or gum disease.

Who provides orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontists are specialists in orthodontic care, but some general dentists and pediatric dentists offer orthodontic treatment. Like general and pediatric dentists, orthodontists graduate from dental school. Unlike general and pediatric dentists, those who wish to become orthodontists must continue their education after dental school, and successfully complete a two-to-three year course of study in orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program. 

This extra education qualifies them as specialists in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. As specialists, orthodontists limit their scope of practice to orthodontics only. Orthodontists are uniquely qualified, by virtue of education and scope of practice, as experts who have the skills and experience to give your child a healthy and beautiful smile.

Orthodontic treatment is just cosmetic, right?

Wrong! There’s much more to orthodontic treatment than meets the eye. An improved appearance is the most obvious result. But when teeth and jaws are in alignment, it means function (biting, chewing, speaking) is improved, too.

The beautiful smile that results from orthodontic treatment is the outward sign of good oral health, and sets the stage for the patient’s overall well-being. Orthodontic treatment plays a larger role in healthcare than is generally realized.

What is the purpose of orthodontic treatment?

The purpose of orthodontic treatment is to create a healthy, functional “bite,” which is part tooth alignment and part jaw position. When jaws and teeth line up correctly, they are able to function as nature intended. This promotes oral health and general physical health. That orthodontic treatment also brings about an attractive smile is an added bonus.

Some important advice about retainers.

Retainers work only when they are in the mouth. Removable retainers should be in one of two places: in your mouth, or in the case your orthodontist gave you. Removable retainers should not be placed on cafeteria trays. They can be thrown away quite easily. Removable retainers should not be wrapped in napkins or placed in pockets or purses. Napkins get tossed into the trash, retainers fall out of or get broken in pockets or purses. Keep retainers out of the reach of pets. Dogs in particular are attracted to retainers.

Will I need to visit the dentist?

Continue visiting your dentist for check-ups and cleanings at least every six months, or more often, if recommended.