Treatment FAQs

What are the benefits of early treatment?

Children should be seen by age 7. For those patients who have clear indications for early orthodontic intervention, early treatment presents an opportunity to:

  • guide the growth of the jaw
  • regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches (the arch-shaped jaw bone that supports the teeth)
  • guide incoming permanent teeth into desirable positions
  • lower risk of trauma (accidents) to protruded upper incisors (front teeth)
  • correct harmful oral habits such as thumb- or finger-sucking
  • improve personal appearance and self-esteem
  • potentially simplify and/or shorten treatment time for later corrective orthodontics
  • reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth (teeth that should have come in, but have not)
  • preserve or gain space for permanent teeth that are coming in

What is a space maintainer?

Baby molar teeth, also known as primary molar teeth, hold needed space for permanent teeth that will come in later. When a baby molar tooth is lost, an orthodontic device with a fixed wire is usually put between teeth to hold the space for the permanent tooth, which will come in later.

Why do baby teeth sometimes need to be pulled?

Pulling baby teeth may be necessary to allow severely crowded permanent teeth to come in at a normal time in a reasonably normal location. If the teeth are severely crowded, it may be clear that some unerupted permanent teeth (usually the canine teeth) will either remain impacted (teeth that should have come in, but have not), or come in to a highly undesirable position. To allow severely crowded teeth to move on their own into much more desirable positions, sequential removal of baby teeth and permanent teeth (usually first premolars) can dramatically improve a severe crowding problem. This sequential extraction of teeth, called serial extraction, is typically followed by comprehensive orthodontic treatment after tooth eruption has improved as much as it can on its own.

After all the permanent teeth have come in, the pulling of permanent teeth may be necessary to correct crowding or to make space for necessary tooth movement to correct a bite problem. Proper extraction of teeth during orthodontic treatment should leave the patient with both excellent function and a pleasing look.

How can a child's growth affect orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontic treatment and a child's growth can complement each other. A common orthodontic problem to treat is protrusion of the upper front teeth ahead of the lower front teeth. Quite often this problem is due to the lower jaw being shorter than the upper jaw. While the upper and lower jaws are still growing, orthodontic appliances can be used to help the growth of the lower jaw catch up to the growth of the upper jaw. A severe jaw length discrepancy, which can be treated quite well in a growing child, might very well require corrective surgery if left untreated until a period of slow or no jaw growth. Children who may have problems with the width or length of their jaws should be evaluated for treatment no later than age 10 for girls and age 12 for boys. The AAO recommends that all children have an orthodontic screening no later than age 7 as growth-related problems may be identified at this time.

I've just heard about the Herbst appliance. How could it help my child who has an underdeveloped lower jaw?

For patients who have an underdeveloped lower jaw, it is important to begin orthodontic treatment several years before the lower jaw ceases to grow. One method of correcting an underdeveloped jaw uses an orthodontic appliance that repositions the lower jaw. These appliances influence the jaw muscles to work in a way that may improve forward development of the lower jaw. There are many appliances used by orthodontists today to treat underdeveloped lower jaws - such as the Frankel, headgears, Activator, Twin Block, bionator and Herbst appliances. Some are fixed (cemented to the teeth) and some are removable. You and your orthodontist can discuss which appliance is best for your child.

Can my child play sports while wearing braces?

Yes. Wearing a protective mouthguard is advised while playing any contact sports. Your orthodontist can recommend a specific mouthguard.

Will my braces interfere with playing musical instruments?

Playing wind or brass instruments, such as the trumpet, will clearly require some adaptation to braces. With practice and a period of adjustment, braces typically do not interfere with the playing of musical instruments.

Why does orthodontic treatment time sometimes last longer than anticipated?

Estimates of treatment time can only be that - estimates. Patients grow at different rates and will respond in their own ways to orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist has specific treatment goals in mind, and will usually continue treatment until these goals are achieved. Patient cooperation, however, is the single best predictor of staying on time with treatment. Patients who cooperate by wearing rubber bands, headgear or other needed appliances as directed, while taking care not to damage appliances, will most often lead to on-time and excellent treatment results.

Why are retainers needed after orthodontic treatment?

After braces are removed, the teeth can shift out of position if they are not stabilized. Retainers provide that stabilization. They are designed to hold teeth in their corrected, ideal positions until the bones and gums adapt to the treatment changes. Wearing retainers exactly as instructed is the best insurance that the treatment improvements last for a lifetime.

Will my child's tooth alignment change later?

After 2 -3 years of continued observation while wearing retainers we will dismiss our patients with a caveat. The fact remains that the only way to prevent tooth movement is to wear the retainers on a limited basis forever.

What about the wisdom teeth (third molars) - should they be removed?

In about three out of four cases where teeth have not been removed during orthodontic treatment, there are good reasons to have the wisdom teeth removed, usually when a person reaches his or her mid- to late-teen years. Careful studies have shown, however, that wisdom teeth do not cause or contribute to the progressive crowding of lower incisor teeth that can develop in the late teen years and beyond. Your orthodontist, in consultation with your family dentist, can determine what is right for you.

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Alex Cassinelli DMD MS
Shiv Shanker DDS MS

Board Certified Orthodontists

West Chester Office
7242 Tylers Corner Drive
West Chester, OH 45069
Phone (513) 777-7060
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Email Our Office

Cincinnati Office
9505 Montgomery Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45242
Phone: (513) 821-1625
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