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FAQs & Common Problems

Orthodontic treatment includes diagnosis and correction of teeth and jaws that are not positioned correctly. The bite problems that orthodontists treat include:

Crossbite

Underbite

Overbite

Openbite

Crowding

Excessive Spacing

Upper Teeth Protrusion

These problems are related to how the upper and lower teeth connect (or don’t) and the spacing between the teeth within the jaw.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What do orthodontists do?

A: Orthodontists are dental specialists who diagnose and treat problems with the position, alignment or spacing of the teeth, and related irregularities in the face and the jaw. We use a number of special treatments, including braces and other oral appliances, to correct these problems.

Q: Why should I (or my loved ones) get orthodontic treatment?

A: There are two good reasons: aesthetics and function. Having an attractive smile not only changes the way people see you — it enhances your own self-image as well. Orthodontic treatment also allows your teeth to function better and makes it easier to keep them clean, which can improve your overall health.

Q: When should orthodontic treatment be started?

A: You’re never too old to begin orthodontic treatment — but if you start at an earlier age, your problems may be easier to treat. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child who may need orthodontic treatment should come in for a first visit around age 7.

Q: How can I recognize a potential bite problem?
A: Teeth that are protruding, crowded together or erupting out of position are clear indications that treatment is needed. Less obvious signs are mouth breathing, frequent biting of the cheek or palate, speech difficulties, and thumb sucking that goes past 3-4 years of age. If teeth don’t meet properly when the mouth closes, or if jaws make sounds or shift as they move, this may also indicate an orthodontic problem.
Q: Does getting braces hurt? What about wearing them?

A: Having braces put on is generally painless. Some people experience minor aches and pains in the first couple of days or so, as they adjust to wearing their appliances; periodic adjustments may sometimes cause soreness as well, though it typically lasts only a short time. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to alleviate any discomfort, but are usually unnecessary.

Q: How long will treatment take?
A: It’s different for each person, but generally the active stage of treatment (that is, wearing braces or other appliances) may take from 6-30 months. After that, a retainer is worn.
Q: How often will I come in for an appointment?

A: It depends on what’s being done, and how often you need to be monitored. During active treatment, you’ll typically come in to our office once every 4 to 10 weeks.

Q: Will I need to have any teeth extracted?

A: If your teeth are severely crowded (because your mouth is too small to properly accommodate all of them) — or if you have impacted teeth (teeth that are trapped beneath the gum line by other teeth) — then extraction may be necessary. In the case of younger patients, early treatment may make extraction unnecessary.

Q: Will I have to watch what I eat?

A: Yes — you should pass up the types of foods that could damage or become trapped in your braces. Some of these include raw vegetables, hard candy, caramel, taffy and ice cubes (fortunately, ice cream is OK). We will give you a list of foods to avoid.

Q: Will I be able to play sports/ play my instrument?

A: In a word: Yes. Of course, whether you wear braces or not, we recommend you wear a mouthguard when playing most sports. Musicians are generally able to play their instruments just as they did before, but they may need a short adjustment period after getting braces.

Q: Do I still need to see my regular dentist while I'm getting orthodontic treatment?

A: You do — in fact, it’s more important than ever! Keeping teeth free of plaque (and potentially, decay) can be challenging when you’re wearing braces. Your dentist can help you avoid these problems with frequent cleanings and exams.

Q: Will I wear a retainer when my braces come off?

A: Almost always, the answer is yes: If you don’t wear a retainer, your teeth can rapidly shift out of position — and then all the effort put into your treatment is lost! Your retainer helps you maintain that good-looking smile for a lifetime.

Q: Is orthodontic care very expensive?
A: Orthodontic care is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. Yet it’s cost hasn’t increased as fast as many other consumer prices, and many financing options are available that make orthodontic care affordable. Weighed against the true cost of living with problem teeth, orthodontic treatment can be a wise investment.

Hygiene

You already know that maintaining good oral hygiene is important for everyone — but when you’re having orthodontic treatment, it’s even more critical. Why? Because, while the appliances (such as braces or clear aligners) you may need to wear during treatment are very effective in correcting misaligned teeth, they can also trap food particles easily. Keeping your teeth (and your appliances) clean is a little harder — but you can do it! Here’s a look at why good oral hygiene is so important during orthodontic treatment, and some tips on how you can keep it up.

The major enemy of oral health is plaque. Food that becomes trapped near tooth surfaces can lead to the formation of plaque — a thin coating of microorganisms and organic debris (biofilm) containing potentially harmful bacteria. Braces or other appliances make it harder to remove plaque. The bacteria in plaque digest the sugars in food, producing acids that may erode teeth and irritate gums. This can cause cavities, white spots on teeth, gum disease, and bad breath.

Keeping plaque under control is one of the most effective means of maintaining strong, healthy teeth and gums. There are three general ways to do it: through diet, daily maintenance, and regular professional care. Taken all together, they’re your teeth’s best defense.

Orthodontic Hygiene - Fredericksburg, VA
Diet and Decay
Controlling your diet involves avoiding foods that could increase your risk of developing tooth decay. That means cutting down or eliminating foods with an excess of sugar, like soda, sweets, and ice cream. It also means avoiding foods that could easily become stuck in your braces, like toffee, gum, licorice, and caramels.

Foods that are very hard or extremely sticky can also cause physical damage to orthodontic appliances. Certainly, braces or retainers with broken wires or loose brackets aren’t working to straighten your teeth! You should avoid foods like hard candies or nuts, beef jerky and hard pizza crust. Keep eating healthy foods like carrots and apples — but cut them into bite-sized pieces first! And don’t chew on ice, pencils, or your nails: these habits can cause damage to your appliances, and even result in chipped teeth!

Daily Maintenance
You know how important brushing and flossing are for keeping a healthy smile — especially now that you’re in orthodontic treatment. But sometimes it’s harder to clean your teeth effectively around an appliance’s brackets and wires. Here are some tools and tips you can try for better tooth cleaning.

Either a soft-bristled or a bi-level toothbrush (one with longer bristles on the edges and shorter ones in the middle) can be effective in plaque removal — even with braces. An electric toothbrush can also be used, on a moderate setting. For hard-to-clean areas, try an interdental brush. The small bristles of this special tooth-cleaning aid, which is shaped like a pipe cleaner, can get in between wires, brackets and teeth. With gentle and persistent effort, it’s possible to reach into the smallest nooks and crannies, and control plaque buildup.

You should floss at least once a day during orthodontic treatment. While it’s a little harder to do with braces, there are some special products available — including floss threaders and particular kinds of floss — that can help you get the floss between wires and gum line. Our staff will review proper brushing and flossing techniques with you when your braces are put on — but if you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Depending on your situation, we may recommend an in-office or at-home supplemental fluoride treatment to boost your cavity resistance. An antiseptic rinse may also be recommended, to ease minor gum inflammation or irritation.

If you have a retainer, it should be cleaned daily. We may also recommend using a cleaning solution — but never put hot water on your retainer, because it can distort the soft plastic and make it unusable! And always keep it in a case when it’s not in your mouth.

Professional Care
Even though you’re seeing an orthodontist regularly, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to see your regular dentist — in fact, it’s just as important as ever! While we’re focused on improving your bite and alignment, your dentist will make sure your teeth stay healthy with thorough examinations, cleanings, and preventive care. Your orthodontic treatment is a team effort where everyone — our office, you, and your family dentist — has an important role to play. And the team has just one goal: giving you a winning smile.

Please call us at 540-371-2611 with any questions.

Fredericksburg Location

Rappahannock Orthodontics
408 Chatham Square Office Park
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Stafford Location

Rappahannock Orthodontics
35 Walpole St #203
Stafford, VA 22554

Business Hours

Monday - Thursday

7:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Closed for lunch daily
from 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Hours alternate every other week with our other office. This schedule is subject to change. Please call with any questions.