Orthodontic Facts

More than 4 million people in Canada and the United States are in the care of an orthodontic specialist and looking forward to a beautiful, healthy smile that's good for life. The obvious potential reward is straighter teeth that are less prone to decay and injury. But just as important is the boost to self-confidence that a better smile can provide. As you prepare to make decisions about orthodontics, it's very important to be armed with the facts. Here's a checklist of what to keep in mind:

Why is orthodontics important?

Orthodontics can boost a person's self-image as the teeth, jaws and lips become properly aligned, but an attractive smile is just one of the benefits. Alleviating or preventing physical health problems is just as important.

Without treatment, orthodontic problems may lead to tooth decay, gum disease, bone destruction and chewing and digestive difficulties. A "bad bite" can contribute to speech impairments, tooth loss, chipped teeth and other dental injuries.

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for these problems is "malocclusion," which means "bad bite." The practice of orthodontics requires the professional skill in the design, application and control of corrective appliances (braces) to bring teeth, lips and jaws into proper alignment and achieve facial balance.

What is the Canadian Association of Orthodontists?

The Canadian Association of Orthodontists is a professional association of educationally qualified orthodontic specialists dedicated to advancing the art and science of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, improving the health of the public by promoting quality orthodontic care, and supporting the successful practice of orthodontics.

Who is an Orthodontic Specialist?

Your orthodontic specialist is a specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontic specialists must first attend college, then complete a 4 year graduate program at a dental school in a university or other institution accredited by the Canadian Dental Association. They must then successfully complete an additional residency program of at least two-three academic years of advanced education in orthodontics, again accredited by the CDA. This advanced training includes such diverse studies as genetics, embryology, human growth and development, and biophysics. Only dentists with this advanced specialty education can present themselves as orthodontic specialists.

What is the benefit of Orthodontics? - 
In fact, the results are more than you can see!!

You already know that braces straighten teeth. But what you may not know is that a beautiful smile is just one of the benefits orthodontics has to offer. Bringing teeth, lips and jaws into proper alignment not only produces a great smile, but a healthy one as well. Straight teeth simply function better and are easier to clean.And last but far from least is the increased confidence and self-esteem that a healthy smile provides. This psychological benefit can be a significant factor in the decision to undergo treatment and is often listed as a patient's #1 treatment goal. A beautiful smile is a pleasure to own and a pleasure to see.

So remember: an attractive smile is just the start. Improved oral health and general well-being are important treatment goals as well.

What is a Malocclusion?

It may be a new word to you. "Malocclusion" is a technical term for crooked, crowded or protruding teeth which do not fit together properly. Literally, the word means "bad bite." Most malocclusions are inherited. These include crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth, cleft palate and a variety of irregularities of the jaws and face. Some malocclusions are acquired. They can be caused by thumb-sucking, tongue thrusting, dental disease, premature loss of primary or permanent teeth, accidents or some medical problems. Left untreated, these orthodontic problems can become worse. Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. This may contribute to conditions that may cause tooth decay, eventual gum disease and tooth loss. A bad bite can also cause abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, difficulty in chewing and excess stress of the supporting bone and gum tissue.

Who can benefit from orthodontics?

At one time, most people believed braces were "just for kids." The fact is, that of the thousands of Canadians now in orthodontic treatment, more than one of every four is over 21. Because the basic process involved in moving teeth is the same in adults as in children, orthodontic treatment can usually be successful at any age. The health of the teeth, the gums and the supporting bones will also determine the prospects for improvement.

So who can benefit? Most anyone, really. The truth is you're never too old to be your best. Regardless of age, orthodontic treatment is always a change for the better.

When should my child first see an orthodontic specialist?

The AAO recommends that every child should see an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. In some cases, this could be as young as 2 or 3. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected early rather than waiting until jaw growth has slowed. Early treatment may mean a patient will avoid surgery or other more serious corrections later in life.

Is it ever too late for a person to get braces?

No. Because healthy teeth can be moved at any age, an orthodontic specialist can improve the smile of practically anyone - in fact, orthodontic specialists regularly treat patients in their 50s, 60s and older!

For "Good Beginnings," the AAO's free brochure on early orthodontic diagnosis, or for brochures on adult orthodontics and many other topics, call 1-800-STRAIGHT (1-800-787-2444). Or write the AAO at 401 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141-7816, or e-mail address: aaortho@worldnet.att.net.

What makes an orthodontic specialist
different from a dentist?

Orthodontic specialists are the dental specialists who correct dental and facial irregularities, day in and day out. An orthodontic specialist is expert at moving teeth, helping jaws develop properly and working with the patient to help make sure the teeth stay in their new positions.

CAO members are uniquely qualified to correct "bad bites." The Canadian Dental Association requires orthodontic specialists to have at least two years of post-doctoral, advanced specialty training in orthodontics in an accredited program, after graduation from college and then dental school.

What about costs? 

While it's important to keep in mind the lifetime value that orthodontics offers, we know you have specific cost questions, so don't be afraid to ask. You may discover the price tag is considerably lower than you ever thought. Cost, of course, depends on the nature of the problem. Many orthodontic problems require only limited treatment.

Your orthodontic specialist will be happy to discuss fees. He or she may offer payment plans to help meet individual fmancial needs. In addition, many dental insurance plans now include orthodontic benefits for just a few dollars a month.

Should I ask to talk to present and/or former patients?

It is wise for a consumer to investigate the value of any product or service. Most orthodontic patients will give it to you straight -- orthodontics is one of the best investments they've ever made. Better self-esteem and better oral health are benefits that can last a lifetime.

A CAO member will be glad to have you talk to current or former patients, who can tell you firsthand how braces have improved their lives.

Who can recommend an orthodontic specialist?

Finding an orthodontic specialist for you or your child is really quite easy. You can call the Canadian Association of Orthodontists (416) 491-3186 or the American Association of Orthodontists at their toll-free number, 1-800-STRAIGHT. Upon request, the AAO will furnish you with more information on orthodontics. Your family dentist can also help with a recommendation and with more information on orthodontics. As you consider your options, keep in mind that members of the Canadian and American Associations of Orthodontists are orthodontic specialists. They have met the exacting standards of education and experience set by the Canadian and American Dental Associations and required by the AAO for membership. CAO/AAO membership is your assurance of quality care and the highest professional standards. 


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