A Quick Intro and Answers for Common Questions
Orthodontics is the branch of dental science focused on correcting and preventing misalignment of teeth.
Orthodontists are dentists who use braces
or other means to help ensure your teeth are correctly aligned. Many people have teeth that are naturally
straight and fit together well. However, those with problems such as an overbite or teeth that are too far apart
may need help from an orthodontist. If you need to know if insurance will pay for orthodontia,
see "Does dental insurance cover
Orthodontists are commonly associated with braces and other devices applied to the teeth. These devices may be
- Straighten crooked or misaligned teeth
- Correct problems related to the way teeth come together ("bite")
- Close any gaps between teeth
- Ensure the lips and teeth are properly aligned
Children are not the only patients receiving orthodontic treatment. Adults may also receive braces and
successfully address misaligned teeth or other problems. The American
Association of Orthodontists estimates nearly one-in-three (27 percent) of orthodontic patients in
the U.S. and Canada are adults.
There is an urgency to children receiving orthodontic care to help ensure the jaw grows properly. When the jaw
grows as expected, permanent teeth have a better chance of growing into place correctly. Having properly aligned
permanent teeth can also help to prevent future oral health problems that can negatively affect appearance as
well as eating habits.
Braces alone may not always be enough to treat the way teeth and jaw are growing within a patient. For these
situations, orthodontists may recommend wearing orthodontic headgear. People wear this type of device outside of
the mouth to provide added traction. Headgear can help move teeth into a better position and keep them from
shifting. Orthodontic headgear is typically worn while at home, such as in the evening or while sleeping.
A retainer is a custom-made orthodontic device holding teeth in a desired position. Retainers may be either
fixed in place on the teeth or removable. People usually wear a retainer after the conclusion of treatment with
braces. More rarely orthodontists prescribe them to treat teeth without the prior use of braces. Whether used
alone or with braces, retainers help keep teeth correctly positioned. They are typically made of plastic or
rubber and have metal wires that cover the teeth. For post-braces care, patients should wear their retainer at
all times for the first six months, then usually only while sleeping.
Pros and Cons of Invisalign Braces
People who need braces but dislike the appearance of traditional metal braces may consider alternative
orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign. Invisalign straightens teeth using clear, removable aligners that are
virtually undetectable when worn. Invisalign has several benefits and drawbacks to consider before initiating
Appearance. Even before the Invisalign treatment is completed, improvements will be visible
through the clear aligners. With each set of aligners, teeth gradually shift into place, so smile improvements
will be more and more noticeable at each stage of treatment.
Cost. The price of clear aligners like Invisalign can be substantially less expensive than
traditional braces. According to Consumer
Affairs, the cost of metal braces averages from $5,000-$6,000. Clear aligners, in comparison,
may cost as little as $1,000 to $3,000.
Freedom to Remove Braces. Invisalign aligners are removable so they can be removed to eat,
floss, and brush teeth. Almost every other type of orthodontic braces risks tooth decay with respect to food
getting trapped within the orthodontia.
Comfort. The impressions made by an orthodontist to create an aligner is not painful. The use
of smooth plastic reduces the probability of the gum and cheek irritation that can accompany metal braces.
Invisibility. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of Invisalign is a cosmetic: Invisalign braces
are clear and may go unrecognized and certainly are less conspicuous than traditional metal or wire-on-plastic
Turnaround Time. Orthodontists may be unable to accurately forecast the duration of
conventional braces treatment because they lack a reliable model for the patient' s teeth movement. Invisalign
treatment, in contrast, includes a pre-planning phase enabling an orthodontist to accurately project treatment
time. This time may be equal to or less than experienced with regular braces. Several studies have shown
Invisalign treatment time to be quicker than that of traditional orthodontic braces; however due to
insufficient clinical research, the validity of this has been debated within the medical community.
Easy to Lose. Removability is one of the aligners' best qualities but this convenience is a
double-edged sword. Since the Invisalign braces are easy to take out, it is equally easy for patients to
misplace them just as it is easy to misplace a retainer after the completion of traditional braces. When signers
are lost, replacements will need to be made.
Not an Option for Every Patient. Invisalign is not appropriate for every orthodontic
condition, especially for patients needing major teeth adjustments. Due to its design, there are some
limitations on what Invisalign aligners can accomplish.
Discomfort During Alignment. The gradual re-alignment of teeth with Invisalign is as
uncomfortable as it is with traditional braces.
Commitment to Treatment. The success of Invisalign aligners is dependent on the patient's
commitment to the required treatment schedule. The process requires a series of aligners to be worn for a set
amount of time. If a patient fails to follow the treatment schedule for a set of aligners then the subsequent
aligners will not fit properly. If this occurs, a new set of aligners will be needed to resume Invisalign