Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cambridge Waterloo Orthodontist Reviews some Myths about Braces

In this day and age, with the internet at your fingertips, patients usually are well versed when it comes to talking about braces. However, most of the time their research relies mostly on what they have heard from friends, who at one point or another, had braces. As with everything you read on the internet, friends may sometimes not be the most reliable sources of information. So I thought I would review some of the most common myths that people have heard about orthodontic braces and attempt to demystify them for you.

1. Braces need to be painful in order to work— In the past when only stiff wires were available, they were tied into the braces exerting heavy forces resulting in more pain and discomfort for the patient (what most patients referred to as “tightening”). Now, with new technology advanced flexible wires, there is significantly less discomfort associated with tooth movement. Although there is an adjustment period, just like breaking in a new pair of shoes, braces eventually do become comfortable in a few short weeks. We can leave the “No pain, no gain” attitude for the gym!

2. The tighter the better—A common comment from from my patients is, “Make it tighter, doc. I want to get my braces off faster!” You may think that tighter adjustments and heavier forces will move your teeth faster but this is not the case. While a certain level of force is necessary to move teeth, a force level that is too high may start to damage the bone and surrounding tissues. Orthodontics is a delicate balance of forces. Too much force may cause excessive bone breakdown and actually increase the overall time you need to wear braces.

3. Wires need to be changed every visit— Contemporary super-elastic wires (invented by NASA) that are used today can be bent into all different shapes and still spring back to their original shape and form. If you have crooked teeth, the super-elastic wire can be placed in your braces and provide a steady light force to straighten them without needing to change the wire very often. If a wire is used that puts too much pressure on a tooth, the bracket usually either pops off the tooth or the wire becomes permanently deformed and does not move the teeth at all! That is why in the old days, orthodontic patients got many wires with incrementally higher stiffness, and these wires were changed more frequently and also required a lot of wire bending in order to move teeth.

4. My family dentist says he can straighten my teeth An orthodontist has 2-3 years of specialized training beyond dental school and is a specialist at straightening teeth and insuring proper form and function. A dentist may see a handful of cases a year amid drilling and filling. An orthodontist only practices orthodontics and treats 60-100 patients a day.

5. Orthodontists are appropriate only for the most challenging and complex orthodontic cases Orthodontists recognize the difference between a simple case and a complex one. And when a case is challenging, orthodontists know what to do. Would you let your family doctor perform heart surgery? The answer most likely is no, so why would you let anyone but an orthodontist straighten your teeth?

6. Only braces can straighten my teeth—Not necessarily. With new technology, it is now possible to have straight teeth without ever having to wear braces! Invisalign clear aligners are the most popular way to straighten teeth without braces. However, before you get too excited, know that Invisalign does have some limitations and the best advice is to seek an orthodontist that is experienced with Invisalign, as he or she can find ways of making Invisalign work for you even in the more severe cases.

7. Once I get my braces off, my teeth will stay straight forever—Getting your teeth straight and attaining the “Rite Bite” is just half the battle. Keeping your teeth straight after getting your braces off is the rest of the battle. Teeth are connected to the bone by elastic fibers. As the teeth are moved into their new straightened positions, these elastic fibers are stretched. After your braces are removed, these elastic fibers will tend to pull your teeth back towards their original position. That is why orthodontic retainers are required when braces are removed to keep your teeth straight.

8. My wisdom teeth are making my teeth crooked—You may think that wisdom teeth cause crowding. However, there is very little evidence to support the fact that wisdom teeth cause crowding. If this was true, then your teeth would never get crowded after your wisdom teeth were extracted. In fact, people who never developed wisdom teeth or who had their wisdom teeth removed may still see their teeth get crooked over time. Teeth just tend to drift as you age regardless of whether or not you have wisdom teeth.

9. The date that I am supposed to get my braces off is set in stone—When patients are told before treatment that they will be in braces for a certain number of months, it is very easy to become fixated on that date. Usually, an orthodontist can judge from his or her experience what the typical time frame is to finish treatment. However this depends on many factors. Some factors that would slow down treatment include: broken braces, not wearing elastics, not brushing well, and not coming in for regular appointments. If you want to get your braces off on time, make sure you co-operate and do your homework!

10. Braces are for kids  Today, one in five orthodontic patients is an adult. Orthodontic braces were historically associated with teenagers but an increasing number of adults are choosing to wear braces to straighten their teeth and correct their bad bites as well.  Although treatment often may take longer due to more dense bone, restorations, bone loss, missing teeth etc., braces work in the same way regardless of the age of the patient and adults can experience the same beautiful end results as a teenager. And don’t forget we have so many more esthetic options these days to straighten teeth like Invisalign, Lingual Braces (Inside braces) and clear braces.

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