What is an orthodontic specialist?
Orthodontics is the oldest specialty field in dentistry and, as such, has a broad foundation in the basic biologic and medical sciences. An orthodontic specialist completes three or four years of pre-dental university education followed by four years of dental school and an additional two or three years of specialty training and practice in a university or hospital setting. This education provides the scientific and clinical foundation for the complex treatment decision-making and patient management that is essential for successful orthodontic treatment outcomes.
Why choose and orthodontic specialist?
Proper orthodontic treatment, carried out to the highest standard of care, requires a separate body of knowledge and skills from other dental fields. While general dental education includes basic orthodontic information, the additional two or three years of specialty education, such as pursued by Drs. McNeill and McCulloch, provide the basis for rendering the best orthodontic health care according to the latest scientific principles.
Am I required to wait until my family dentist recommends an orthodontic evaluation?
No, it is not. While your family dentist may recommend an orthodontic consultation, many patients and parents become aware that orthodontics may be desirable and contact our office directly.
At what age should I schedule my first orthodontic screening appointment?
Drs. McNeill and McCulloch agree with the American Association of Orthodontists’ recommendation that children be seen for an orthodontic screening at or before age 7. By this stage of development, in most children, several permanent teeth have erupted. This allows the orthodontist to most effectively evaluate your child’s orthodontic condition and provide you with information regarding future treatment needs.
Will crooked teeth straighten as they grow?
Not usually. In fact, early crowding of teeth is generally a sign that they will become more crowded as facial growth continues since the space for the front teeth reaches its peak very early in life, at about age 6 or 7.
Do teeth have to be extracted for orthodontic treatment?
Removing teeth is sometimes required to achieve the best, most stable bite correction and facial profile balance. But removing teeth is not always necessary for orthodontic treatment. In fact, the frequency of extraction has decreased over the years as a result of technical improvements and increased understanding of patient response.
How long will it take to complete treatment?
Treatment duration is dependent upon each patient’s specific orthodontic problem. In general, treatment times range from 12 to 30 months. The “average” time frame a person is in braces is approximately 22 months.
How much will braces cost? Are financing options available? How does my insurance work?
The financial investment in orthodontic treatment varies widely depending on the nature of each patient’s presenting condition. At the initial examination appointment, we will give you an estimate of anticipated fees and will finalize the cost after a detailed treatment plan has been worked out and presented to you. We have a number of financing options available for your convenience. Our practice’s Financial Coordinator will review these with you. We will also be pleased to review your dental insurance policy, assist you with maximizing your orthodontic benefits, and assist with submitting your claim.
Why is orthodontic treatment so expensive?
In comparison to all other health care, including general dental care, fees for orthodontic treatment have increased minimally over time. Over the past several decades, the cost of orthodontic health care has risen more slowly than the rate of inflation while, at the same time, health care costs overall have undergone an explosive increase. (In the 1960’s, orthodontic treatment cost about the same as a new mid-sized automobile. Now mid-sized cars cost anywhere from 4 to 5 times as much as an average course of orthodontic treatment). The orthodontic specialty takes great pride in the technical, clinical, and patient management innovations that have made this possible. Today a much broader segment of the population chooses orthodontic treatment because it is affordable and because of the tangible health benefits it provides!
Can I schedule all of my appointments after school?
Since most of our patients are school children, we cannot schedule all appointments during after-school hours. However, because most appointments are scheduled 5-10 weeks apart and many will fall on vacation days, most patients will miss a minimum of school-time while undergoing orthodontic treatment. Whenever possible, we will make a sincere effort to meet your scheduling needs.
Do braces hurt?
Generally, braces do not “hurt,” although after certain adjustment visits the teeth may be sensitive to chewing when eating. Because we use high-tech materials and devices, modern braces are much less likely to cause discomfort than was once the case. In the event tooth sensitivity does occur, mild pain medications, such as Advil or Tylenol, will ease the discomfort. However, after most visits, patients do not feel any soreness at all! We often remind our patients, “It does not have to hurt to work!”
Can I return to school or work the day I receive my braces or have an adjustment visit?
Yes. Although new braces can take some time to adapt to, there is no reason to miss normal daily activities because of an orthodontic procedure.
Do you give shots?
No. Anesthetics are not necessary in orthodontic treatment.
Do you use recycled braces? Do you sterilize everything?
We use only new devices on all our patients! For reasons of safety and in order to provide the highest standard of care, we use only the finest quality materials and supplies. We have stringent, controlled sterilization procedures in place that conform to the best disease control requirements.
Are products used for orthodontics safe?
Safety of the patients that we serve in our practice is a top priority. Accordingly we have researched our most commonly used appliances and materials to determine if they pose any risk to human health. Our findings are summarized below.
Conventional Braces - Today’s orthodontic brackets and bands are primarily made of metal or porcelain. The thin wires used to connect the brackets are made of titanium alloy or stainless steel. These materials do not contain or release Bisphenol-A (BPA) or other known materials that pose a health risk. The most recent study (January, 2007) from the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics found that orthodontic adhesive resins (compounds used to bond brackets to teeth) also do not release BPAs.
Invisalign Aligners - Invisalign aligners do not contain BPA or phthalate plasticizers. These devices are made with USP Class VI medical grade, high molecular weight, polyurethane resins. Tests conducted to determine the biocompatibility of these materials show that they are biocompatible and pass all applicable regulatory requirements and thresholds for human wear in the mouth. (Invisalign Website, 2010)
Retainers Made in Our Office - The most recent studies conducted have found that neither of the materials most commonly used to fabricate retainers in our office (Biocryl, Essix polycarbonates) pose risk of BPA release. These materials cannot release BPAs when heated or exposed to oral fluids. We have chosen the least hazardous materials currently available to make our retention appliances. (Great Lakes Orthodontics, Tonawanda, NY, 2010)
Retainers Made at Offsite Laboratories - We have made every effort to partner with laboratories that only use the safest materials available. We have signed business vendor agreements in our office that assure, to the best of our ability, the physical safety of our patients.
A Final Thought - The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) and the American Dental Association (ADA) have been following the development of and analyzing the risks of BPAs and other materials for many years. These organizations, as well as our practice, will continue to support the findings of and follow the recommendations of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the HHS (Dept of Health and Human Services) as we strive to make patient safety our top priority.
*Bisphenol A (BPA) is a raw material used in the manufacturing of some types of plastics. Concern has risen in recent years as to the safety regarding the release of BPAs from plastic-based materials. Studies suggest long-term exposure may pose a health risk.
Can I still play sports?
Yes. We do recommend that a mouthguard be worn for all contact sports. We will be pleased to assist you with the adjustment of your mouthguard so that it is comfortably adapted to your braces and does not interfere with the progress of your orthodontic treatment.
Do I need to see my family dentist while in braces?
Yes! Regular checkups with your family dentist are important while orthodontic treatment is being carried out. Your family dentist will determine the intervals between cleaning appointments while you are in braces. Drs. McNeill and McCulloch make a special effort to maintain good communication with our patients’ family dentists so dental health is maintained in the best possible fashion.
Are there foods I cannot eat while I have braces?
Yes. Some foods are so hard and/or sticky that they can break or distort the braces. When this happens, treatment may be slowed down so it cannot be completed within the estimated time frame. Once treatment begins, we will provide a comprehensive list of foods to be avoided. Some of those foods include: ice, hard candy, raw vegetables and all sticky foods (i.e. caramel, taffy, chewing gum). Foods high in sugar, particularly soda pop, must be consumed sparingly, if at all, in order to be certain there is no scarring of the teeth around the braces.
How often should I brush my teeth while in braces?
Patients should brush their teeth at least four times each day – after each meal and before going to bed. We will provide instructions in the special brushing methods and flossing techniques that have proven most effective for patients in orthodontic appliances.
What is an emergency appointment? How are those handled?
If braces are causing extreme pain or if something becomes broken, we encourage patients to call our office immediately. In most cases, we can address these issues over the telephone. If not, and if you require an emergency appointment in the office, we will schedule it at the earliest possible time. A telephone number is available on our answering machine message in the event of an after-hours emergency.
Can orthodontic correction occur while a child has baby teeth?
Yes. Some orthodontic problems are significant enough to require early intervention. However, Drs. McNeill and McCulloch often monitor patients’ facial growth and dental development for a considerable period of time before recommending orthodontic intervention. Proper treatment timing is critical to a successful outcome!
What is Phase One (Early) Treatment?
Phase One treatment, if necessary, is usually initiated between the ages of 7 and 10. It can take from 6-24 months, depending on the severity and complexity of the condition being treated. The primary objectives of early treatment are to correct significant malocclusion problems during periods of rapid facial growth, to prevent such problems from becoming more severe, and to simplify any treatment that will be necessary during adolescence.
Will my child need full braces if he/she has Phase One treatment?
It is best to assume that your child will need orthodontic treatment during adolescence even with successful Phase One results. If a bite problem is severe enough to require early correction, it is highly unlikely that the permanent teeth will erupt into an acceptable bite position. While early treatment usually simplifies and shortens treatment during adolescence, it rarely eliminates the need for Phase Two orthodontics.
Is it too late to have braces if I am already an adult?
A surprising percentage of our patients are adults. In fact, 25 percent of all orthodontic patients are adults. Dental health and optimum facial appearance are vitally important to adults. No patient is “too old” to wear braces!
Can I wear braces even though I have crowns or missing teeth?
Yes. A tooth with a crown will move just like a natural tooth or one with a simple filling. When teeth are missing, orthodontic treatment is often employed to align the remaining teeth in preparation for implants, bridges or partial dentures.