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ADOLESCENT MEDICINE :: Oral Health

Orthodontics / Braces

Picture of a smiling mouth with braces

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the dental specialty that focuses on the development, prevention, and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite, and jaws. Orthodontists also have specialized training in facial abnormalities and disorders of the jaw. A parent may consult an orthodontist after receiving a referral from their adolescent's general dentist. However, the American Dental Association recommends that every adolescent receive an orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7.

Why choose orthodontic treatment?

Any orthodontic problem may be classified as a malocclusion, or "bad bite." The following problems may be helped or minimized with proper orthodontic treatment:

  • misaligned, crooked, or crowed teeth
  • missing teeth
  • extra teeth
  • an overbite
  • an underbite
  • misaligned or incorrect jaw position
  • a disorder of the jaw joint

At what age do braces become appropriate?

In most cases, the ideal age for braces, and other orthodontic treatments, is between 10 and 14 years of age. Moving and correcting the alignment of the teeth follows the same biological and physical process regardless of age. However, an adult mouth must overcome already-positioned facial bones and jaw structure. Thus, overcoming most types of malocclusions may require more than one type of orthodontic treatment for adults and can sometimes involve jaw surgery.

What are the different types of braces available?

Braces, also called fixed orthodontic appliances, generally come in three varieties:

  • brackets, metal or plastic, clear or tooth-colored, that are bonded to teeth
  • lingual-type brackets that attach to the back of teeth, hidden from view
  • bands that cover most of the teeth with metal bands that wrap around the teeth

All three types use wires to move the teeth to the desired position.

Oral healthcare and braces:

The following recommendations will help to eliminate, or reduce, any oral health problems while your adolescent's teeth are in braces:

  • Make certain that your teen is brushing his/her teeth carefully after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush, as food becomes easily lodged in the braces.
  • Make certain that your teen is flossing daily between the teeth and the braces.
  • Maintain every six month cleanings by your adolescent's dentist or orthodontist, or as recommended.
  • Limit your teen's sugar and starch intake, as debris left behind from these types of foods may turn into damaging acids, which may be harmful to teeth and gums and promote plaque formation.
  • Avoid hard and/or sticky snacks that may be difficult to remove from the orthodontic equipment in your adolescent's mouth. This includes foods such as popcorn, hard or chew candy, caramel, and/or nuts.

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.
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