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Frequently Asked Questions: Orthodontics

What is the difference between traditional metal braces and Invisalign clear aligners?

Traditional metal braces consist of metal brackets, thin metal archwires, and rubber o-rings.  The archwires are threaded through the brackets that are bonded to the teeth, and they are secured with rubber o-rings.  At regularly scheduled treatment visits, the archwires are gradually tightened to apply a gentle, constant pressure on the teeth and jaws, helping guide them into proper alignment.

On the other hand, Invisalign is a trusted brand of clear aligners.  A clear aligner treatment plan requires a series of thin plastic aligners, called trays, that are molded to fit your teeth and that gradually shift them into place.  During each subsequent visit, you will receive a new set of trays and new instructions of when to swap them out.  Even though the trays are removable, they must be worn for a minimum of 20 to 22 hours a day to be effective.

How long will I have to wear my braces or Invisalign?

The length of orthodontic treatment times vary for every individual and depends on several factors, such as the extent of teeth re-positioning required, the condition of the gums and bones, the quality of oral hygiene, and the adherence of an orthodontist’s guidelines.

Our orthodontist will carefully monitor your treatment progress during routine treatment visits.  It is important to commit to these scheduled appointments because that’s how your orthodontist can make the necessary adjustments to help you achieve the smile you desire.

Invisalign and traditional braces are comparable in treatment time, with an average treatment length between 6 and 24 months.  Your orthodontist will discuss with you your projected treatment time during your first consultation and will then update you during subsequent visits.

What are Damon brackets?

Damon brackets are a type of self-ligating braces, which are braces that use a spring-loaded door, instead of elastics, to hold an archwire in place.  This allows for more flexible tooth movement and minimizes friction.  Also, Damon brackets may shorten treatment time due to offering more precision in alignment than traditional braces.

How much will my orthodontic treatment cost?

Traditional braces and clear aligners, like Invisalign, average between $3,000 and $7,000.  Clear ceramic braces and lingual braces, like Damon brackets, average between $4,000 to $10,000.  Orthodontic treatment costs vary depending on several factors, such as treatment time, extent of treatment, and type of treatment.

Will my orthodontic treatment be covered by dental insurance?

While most dental and medical insurance plans do not cover orthodontic treatment for adults over the age of 18, they often will partially cover for those under 18, sometimes up to 50%.

You can also discuss flexible payment plans using pre-tax dollars from your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA).

Orthodontic care is an investment in you or your child’s emotional and physical health.  Receiving the proper treatment while maintaining good oral hygiene following treatment may allow this investment to last a lifetime.

For more information on orthodontic treatment options and costs, schedule a consultation with our office.

Am I too old for braces?

No, you are never too old for orthodontic treatment.  According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), one in three orthodontics patients is an adult.  Your orthodontist considers many factor when developing an individualized treatment plan, and age is rarely a deciding variable.  Orthodontic treatment can be as successful for adults as it is for children and teenagers.

A healthy, properly aligned smile is more than beautiful—it’s essential for good health.  Teeth that are too crowded or crooked are difficult to clean, and as such, increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.  Improper alignment, or malocclusion, can negatively affect biting, chewing, swallowing, speaking, and breathing.  It can also place excessive strain on the jaw muscles, causing facial pain.

However, because adult teeth and jaw bones have fused and stopped growing, orthodontic treatment may take longer to complete.  The average treatment time for adults is approximately 2 years.  Fortunately, our board-certified orthodontist (not every orthodontist is board certified!) has experience working with patients of all ages, including adults.

When can my child get braces?

Orthodontic treatment typically begins between the ages of 8 and 14, when most children have grown their permanent adult teeth, yet their jaws and facial bones are still developing.  The best way to know if your child is ready is to make an appointment with our board-certified orthodontist who can determine when your child should start treatment.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends children receive an initial orthodontic evaluation by age 7.  While treatment may not begin this early, it allows the orthodontist to diagnose your child while creating a plan for any future treatment that may be required.  This proactive approach helps prevent development irregularities from worsening.

Depending on your child’s condition, your doctor may recommend interceptive treatment, such as palatal expanders or spacers, to help prepare your child’s mouth for braces later.  This is common with cases like overcrowding where there isn’t enough room in the mouth for teeth to develop and erupt properly.

How do I know if my child needs braces?

Here are signs your child may need orthodontic treatment such as braces:

  • Misplaced or crowded teeth
  • Teeth that do not align properly
  • Jaws that protrude, shift, make sounds, or are recessed
  • Teeth and/or jaws that are disproportionately larger or smaller than the face
  • Thumb or finger sucking
  • Mouth breathing
  • Difficulty biting or chewing
  • Early, late, or irregular loss of baby teeth

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children have an initial orthodontic exam by age 7, regardless if they show any of these signs.  While treatment may not start, early diagnosis allows the orthodontist to plan ahead of time for any future treatment.

Why should I choose an orthodontist over an at-home teeth straightening kit?

Lately, more of our patients have been asking about at-home kits that are much cheaper than professional orthodontic treatment such as braces and Invisalign.  And it’s understandable as the cost difference could be significant.  However, here are things to consider:

At-home teeth straightening kits are promised to work fast—often in less than 6 months.  On average, Invisalign treatment takes 6 to 24 months to complete.  When teeth shift too quickly, you’re at risk of damaging bones and gums.  And this may also lead to poor changes in your bite, causing additional wear and damage over time.

However, working with an orthodontist, your teeth will be carefully and gradually moved while your bite (along with every other factor of your facial anatomy) is evaluated and cared for.  When moving teeth, attention to detail matters.  At-home kits can’t plan for and treat possible complications.

Also, at-home kits are not likely to discover existing tooth decay or gum disease the way an in-office exam will.  It can be costly and dangerous to begin orthodontic care without first treating these problems.  

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) has a list of questions you should ask any at-home teeth straightening kit companies before you commit to their treatment.  Here are a few questions to think about before deciding to move forward with their treatment:

  • As part of the treatment, are comprehensive diagnostic records like x-rays taken before getting started?
  • As part of the treatment fee, are there any in-person visits to a dentist or orthodontist during treatment?
  • How do you know if your teeth and gums are healthy enough for orthodontic treatment?
  • Who can you speak with about your orthodontic treatment?
  • Who is responsible for detecting any issues that may occur during treatment?
  • If an issue arises during treatment, how will it be handled and who will be responsible for handling it?
  • If a doctor is involved, how can you contact them over the course of your treatment?
  • If an emergency happens, does the company have a dentist or orthodontist in your are that you can see in-person?  If not, who would cover the cost associated with seeing a dentist or orthodontist in your area?

Do your research before proceeding with any orthodontic treatment.  And we recommend staying in contact with your dentist regardless of which treatment you think is best for you.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.