Overview : The Road to a Straighter Smile
Who Needs Braces?
Getting braces is more than just having a nicer smile; orthodontic problems can cause adverse oral health problems and pain further down the line. There are five typical signs to look for with either your child or yourself. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to get a consultation with an orthodontist as soon as possible to determine what course of action to take.
The most common reason for orthodontic treatment involves a lack of space for your teeth, resulting in crooked teeth. Crowding problems tend to get worse with time. Crowding can make brushing and flossing difficult and this can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
An overbite involves a pronounced vertical and horizontal overlap of the front teeth. Problems with having an overbite can include: increase risk of injury to the front teeth or complications with dental work such as fillings and crowns.
A crossbite involves an upper front tooth behind a lower front tooth. This problem can cause fractures to both teeth with the inability to repair, increased gum recession, and asymmetric jaw growth.
Similar to the crossbite, an underbite involves all of the front teeth behind the lower front teeth. This can cause an unbalanced facial appearance with accelerated aging. Underbites can also cause problems with biting and chewing.
This abnormal bite happens when there is no contact between the front teeth. As a result, biting difficulties, lisps, and other speech problems can occur.
What Are My Options ?
There are many options of braces available to fit different lifestyle needs and budgets. Most dental insurance policies do not cover braces. However, if your policy does cover orthodontics, costs will depend on your coverage. Some orthodontists offer a package deal where you pay a set price and it covers the cost of the braces and follow-up visits. The following price estimates are based on average costs without insurance coverage.
Traditional Metal Braces
These are the full metal brackets and wires most people think of when they are told they need braces, but there’s good news if you’re afraid of the “metal-mouth” look most adults remember. Today’s metal brackets are small and less noticeable than in the past. The traditional archwires have also gotten a high-tech upgrade. Now these wires are heat-activated, using body heat to help move teeth more quickly and with less pain.
• Cheapest option – $5,000
• Optional colored bans for self-expression
• Most noticeable
These are similar to metal brackets in size and shape but made clear (or tooth colored) to blend in better with your teeth. You can even get archwires that match your teeth for even more camouflage.
• Less noticeable
• Work faster than Invisalign
• Average cost is comparable to metal braces – $5,500
• Stain easily
• Break more easily than traditional
These are the same as traditional braces, except they are attached to the inside of the teeth rather than the outside.
• Not seen from the outside
• Harder to clean
• Higher cost – $5,600 to $13,000
• Won’t work for severe cases
• More discomfort
• Adjustments take longer
• Hard to find availability
A series of clear plastic mouth guards that are custom made and replaced every 2 weeks. The patient may need 18-30 of these aligners for treatment.
• Almost invisible
• Eat and drink whatever you want
• No hardware is attached to the teeth
• Won’t work for severe cases
• Not available for young children
• Higher cost – $5,600 and up
• Easily lost
• Longer treatment time
Choosing an Orthodontist
Finding the right orthodontist is important because getting braces for you or your child is a multi-year commitment. You want to do a thorough search for your best fit.
Ask you family dentist, as well as friends and other parents, for recommendations.
- Did the doctor spend any extra time to make the experience better?
- Was the doctor and office staff accessible for advice?
- How did they handle any emergencies?
Take the time to go and personally meet and interview your potential doctors. Remember, while at the office to interview the doctor, make sure to notice the whole office environment. Are the hygienists friendly and understanding? Are they flexible with scheduling? Did you have a long wait?
- How many doctors work here?
- What type of options do you provide for braces?
- What are your office hours?
- How do you handle emergencies?
- How long have you been practicing here?
- How is the treatment cost determined?
- After the braces, will follow up care with the retainer be included in those costs, or will that be a separate cost?
- What insurance plans do you accept?
Many orthodontists offer free consultations, especially for young patients who may not be ready for braces quite yet. At this visit, they will record your dental history and take x-rays to examine your teeth to determine if braces are needed and if so, what options are available, payment options, and estimated length of treatment. Also, this would be the time to add spacers between your teeth to make room for the braces, but not all patients need this.
Placing the Braces
If you choose metal, ceramic, or lingual braces, they will attach the brackets to your teeth. Then they attach the archwire with bands to the brackets. If you chose Invisalign, you will get your first aligner tray.
Return to the orthodontist for a check-up to have your braces adjusted or to get a new Invisalign tray.
1-2 Years Later
You will get your braces taken off and given a fitted retainer that you will wear daily to keep your teeth properly aligned.
You will need to come in for occasional check-ups and possible adjustments to your retainer.