What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that corrects irregularities in your teeth and jaws through prevention and treatment. An orthodontist attends an additional 6–7 years of school after they earn their undergraduate degree. The school they attend must be accredited by the American Dental Association and they must spend at least two of their academic years studying orthodontics.

What are some advantages of orthodontic treatment?

Straighter smile
Better functioning teeth and jaws
Higher self-esteem and more confidence
Healthier gums and teeth that are easier to clean
Improved wear patterns on teeth

What are some signs my child might need orthodontic treatment?

Deep bite: The front teeth cover most of the lower teeth when biting together.
Under bite: The upper teeth are behind or covered by the lower front teeth.
Open bite: The upper and lower teeth don’t touch when biting together.
Overjet: The upper teeth extend too far over the lower teeth.
Spacing issues: Teeth are too crowded or too spaced out.
The jaw shifts to the right or left when biting together.
The centers of the upper and lower teeth don’t line up.
Difficulty chewing.
Uneven wear on teeth.
Thumb-sucking continued after age six or seven.

When should my child first visit the orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first visit the orthodontist at age 7 or earlier. Many issues are easier to fix if found at a young age, and early treatment can prevent surgery or more serious issues. Treatment can begin at any age, though. Adults can still fix their smiles!

What is early, standard, and comprehensive treatment?


Early treatments begin before all the permanent teeth are through the gums, which is usually between the ages of 7 and 10. Early treatments usually use expanders and partial braces to fix crossbites, overbites, underbites, or to make space for adult teeth. Standard treatment begins when all the permanent teeth are through the gums and fully developed. This usually happens between the ages of 11 and 13, and the most common treatment is braces.

Comprehensive treatment is a combination of early and standard treatment options.

Can adults benefit from orthodontic treatment?

Yes! Orthodontic treatment works at any age. Why live with a smile you’re unhappy with just because you’re not a teenager anymore? A fourth of orthodontic patients today are adults.

How does the treatment process work?

Orthodontic work is gradual and takes time. Braces work by putting brackets on teeth and connecting an archwire to each bracket. The archwire gently pushes on the teeth to move them into their new position. Braces can be made of metal, ceramic, or plastic.

How long will orthodontic treatment take?

Orthodontic treatment usually takes between one and three years. It’s different for every patient and Dr. Hansen or Dr. Miller will give you a timeline at your initial appointment. To keep the treatment on schedule, it’s important to maintain your oral hygiene, wear bands when you’re supposed to, and attend scheduled appointments.

Do braces hurt?

They don’t hurt, but they can make your mouth sore. You won’t feel any discomfort while Dr. Hansen or Dr. Miller is putting braces on your teeth. You might feel sore for a couple days after you get your braces. Your lips and cheeks might take a couple weeks to get used to the braces as well, but we’ll give you wax so you can cover any uncomfortable brackets.

Will I be able to play sports?

Yes! But you should wear a mouth guard while playing sports with braces. Mouth guards are comfortable and inexpensive.

Will I be able to play my musical instrument?

You shouldn’t have any problem playing your musical instrument with braces. There will be an adjustment period and we can give you covers that will help you feel comfortable playing.

Do I need to see my dentist during orthodontic treatment?

Yes. Your orthodontist won’t clean your teeth or check for decay. Continue to visit your general dentist every six months for cleanings and checkups.

What is a space maintainer?

A space maintainer is used when a patient loses a baby molar and we need to hold the space for the permanent tooth. It’s a wire appliance that we place where the baby tooth was.

How does a child’s growth impact orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontic treatment can be tied closely with a child’s development. Sometimes a child’s upper teeth protrude too far forward over the lower teeth. While a child is still maturing, we can fit them with an orthodontic appliance that will help the lower jaw move into line with the upper jaw. The upper and lower jaw are still growing so they’re able to be adjusted easily. Jaw-length discrepancies can also be fixed while the child is still growing, and if left untreated, these issues can lead to surgery. Be sure to treat your child’s jaw discrepancies before the age of 10 for girls and 12 for boys to get the best results.

What appliances are used to correct jaw-growth problems?


We treat jaw-growth discrepancies with dentofacial orthopedics. These aren’t as common as braces, but there are a couple types of dentofacial orthopedics that we regularly use.

Palatal Expansion Appliance: A palate expander is fitted to the back of the upper teeth and fits along the top of the mouth. Expanders do just what their name implies: expand the upper jaw to fit properly with the lower.

Herbst: The herbst appliance treats protruding upper teeth. It is attached to the upper and lower molars and it holds the jaw forward to change jaw growth and tooth positions. Our orthodontists will let you know in your initial appointment whether they recommend one of these treatments for your child. Often they will use a combination of appliances to treat patients with jaw and teeth conditions.

Does orthodontic treatment sometimes last longer than anticipated?

Sometimes it does. We give each patient an estimate that might change if their mouth isn’t moving as quickly as we expected or if the patient isn’t following our recommendations. The primary reason for treatments lasting longer than anticipated is patient compliance. If Dr. Hansen or Dr. Miller instructs bands and appliances be worn and the patient follows instructions, then the treatment will likely be done on time. Most patients will finish within the given timeline.

Why do I need to wear retainers after I get my braces off?

When we take your braces off, your teeth aren’t done settling and they may move into a different position. Retainers stabilize the teeth until your gums and bones adjust to the new position. Your results will last a lifetime if you wear your retainer as recommended.

Can my child’s tooth alignment change after their treatment ends?

Your child’s teeth may shift as they get older. Shifting slows down after the early 20’s, but most people have some movement throughout their life. Wearing retainers will stabilize your teeth in their new positions, and wearing your retainer at night after the recommended full-time wearing period will prevent movement later on.