About Orthodontics

A happy patient at the Harvard Dental Center.

Why Do Some People Need Orthodontic Treatment?

In addition to the esthetic and sometimes psychological issues associated with an unattractive smile, untreated orthodontic problems can cause difficulty in cleaning teeth, abnormal wear of the tooth surfaces, damage to tissues supporting the teeth, difficulty speaking, and possibly joint problems (TMJ).

When Should Children First Visit the Orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have an orthodontic check-up no later than age 7. A check-up at this time allows the orthodontist to spot certain problems that are best treated at an early age. This can prevent more serious problems from developing and may allow the orthodontist to utilize growth to achieve a better result. Even if your child is older than 7, it’s still important for him or her to have an orthodontic check-up as soon as possible, since children continue to grow into their teens and most orthodontic problems can be successfully treated at any age.

What Does Orthodontic Treatment Involve?

Orthodontic treatment involves either fixed or removable appliances that guide the teeth and/or jaws to a desired position. This treatment requires a significant amount of patient cooperation, which includes wearing orthodontic appliances as prescribed, visiting the orthodontist every 4 to 6 weeks for adjustment of the orthodontic appliances, avoiding certain types of food, practicing good hygiene habits, and visiting the family dentist for regular cleanings and dental check-ups to maintain oral health.

How Long Does Orthodontic Treatment Take?

The duration of comprehensive orthodontic treatment can vary between 6 and 36 months, depending on the severity of the problem and the patient’s compliance with the treatment. Patients who take care of their orthodontic appliances, keep their teeth clean, wear their rubber bands and/or other appliances as instructed, and avoid missing appointments usually complete their treatment on time with good results.