What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?

All orthodontists were initially trained as dentists and have subsequently undertaken a three-year specialist training program to become an orthodontist.  While the specific qualifications held by orthodontists may vary depending upon where and when they trained, recent graduates hold a Doctorate in Clinical Orthodontics. Despite the rapid expansion of orthodontic services now available in the community, there are currently only 78 specialist orthodontists in the entire country.

How do I verify my orthodontist’s credentials? 

It is relatively easy to confirm that the dental practitioner providing your orthodontic treatment is an orthodontic specialist. This information can be found on the Dental Council of New Zealand web page by searching for the name of your treatment provider through the “Find a registered oral health practitioner” search bar and then checking their “scope of practice”. Alternatively, you can search for your practitioner on the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO) web page as the vast majority of orthodontic specialists are members.  

Do I need a referral to see an orthodontist?

While many patients attending an orthodontic clinic for the first time have been referred by their family dentist or school dental therapist, there is no requirement for a patient to obtain a referral. Any patient wishing to obtain an opinion from an orthodontist is welcome to make direct contact with the clinic and make an appointment to see an orthodontist. 

At what age should my child see an orthodontist?

Ideally, a child should see an orthodontist for a preliminary examination at 7-10 years of age. This will allow us to identify children who have significant problems requiring “early intervention”. In our clinic, we limit “early intervention” to those patients who have issues that will worsen over time if left untreated, affecting their long-term outcome. After an initial consultation, all patients are placed on a program of review appointments so that important determinations about facial growth and dental development can be made and monitored over-time. 

Do braces hurt?

The placement of braces is a straightforward and non-painful procedure which involves the adhesion of the braces to the outside of the teeth with a resin-based glue. The discomfort associated with wearing braces develops in the hours following the placement of braces due to the presence of the light pressures involved in moving the teeth. Many patients report a dull ache following the placement of their braces which improves by the end of the first week. Many patients also report irritation to their soft tissues (lips, tongue and cheeks) for several days following the placement of their braces which is due to the projection of the braces from the surfaces of the teeth.  Soft-tissue discomfort settles in the first 1-2 weeks of treatment as the patient gets used to the presence of their braces. 

Is Invisalign® as effective as conventional braces?

Invisalign® and similar clear aligner technologies have experienced rapid adoption due to high profile advertising campaigns and an emphasis on the provision of less visible methods for providing orthodontic treatment. Despite the publicity, independent investigators have raised significant questions about the ability of Invisalign® to produce treatment outcomes comparable to those achieved using conventional braces. Current research suggests that Invisalign® is on average only 41% accurate in its ability to achieve tooth movements planned prior to undertaking treatment (Kravitz et al., American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics 2009; 135:27-35). 

Is it too late to have braces if I am already an adult?

Orthodontic treatment can be undertaken at almost any stage in life, and a growing number of adult patients are now seeking orthodontic treatment. Orthodontics can be utilised as a stand-alone treatment to straighten teeth, improve the bite and address smile aesthetics or in combination with the other specialties of dentistry to achieve wider treatment objectives. Adult orthodontic can be more complicated due to the presence of heavily filled or crowned teeth and due to the presence of other oral health conditions. Teeth can still be moved effectively during adulthood although longer treatment durations are usually expected. 

Will I need to have teeth removed?

A significant proportion of patients can undergo orthodontic treatment without the need for the removal of teeth. The need for extractions is determined after a careful diagnostic process which takes into consideration the unique characteristics of each patient. When extractions are indicated, the decision is based upon sound anatomical principles with an emphasis on optimal health, aesthetics and function.   

Can I return to school the same day I have my braces bonded?

Absolutely!  The placement of braces can cause some initial discomfort but not the extent that time away from school is required. Patients are advised to take mild pain relief tablets following the placement of their braces to alleviate any anticipated discomfort.

Can I play sport with braces?

Generally speaking, braces will not interfere with the participation in most sports. We advise that patients playing contact sports should wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth and soft tissues (lips, tongue and cheeks). Tight fitting custom mouth guards are not recommended during orthodontic treatment as they can interfere with tooth movement or will rapidly cease to fit due to the changes in the position of the teeth. Store bought generic mouth guards are recommended during orthodontic treatment but should be tried-in before each use to ensure that they still fit. If the teeth have moved, the mouth guard may have to remoulded to accommodate the altered tooth position.    

How often will I have appointments?

At Takapuna Orthodontic Group, patients are scheduled to attend our practice every 4-6 weeks to have their braces adjusted. Most adjustment appointments are of short duration (15 minutes). On occasions, extended appointments (30 minutes) are scheduled to allow for time to undertake more extensive clinical procedures. 

Is it possible to schedule all of my appointments outside of school hours?

The majority of your orthodontic appointments can be scheduled around school; however, on occasions, it may be necessary to schedule longer appointments within school hours. In the interest of fairness, our scheduling practices are designed to ensure that the maximum number of people can benefit from the appointment times which fall outside of school hours.

Will my teeth straighten out as they grow?

On rare occasions, the incisor crowding observed in children can improve over-time during the transition between their baby teeth and permanent teeth. In the majority of cases the spontaneous improvement of the arrangement of your teeth is not expected. Once the permanent teeth have erupted it is likely that there will be some progression of any existing crowding over-time. Contrary to popular belief the teeth do not maintain a stable position over the course of a lifetime and progressive movement of the teeth over-time is an anticipated aspect of the ageing process. 

How long will it take to complete my orthodontic treatment?

Treatment duration is dependent upon a range of variables which include your age at the time of treatment, the complexity of your problem, the extent to which you grow during treatment, and individual variation in the rates of tooth movement.  The most significant cause for treatments to run longer than expected is due to poor compliance, for example, excessive breakages to the braces due to inadequate care when eating or not wearing the orthodontic elastics. Most orthodontic treatments are expected to lie in the vicinity of 24 months duration. Your orthodontist will advise you if there are aspects of your specific case which would reduce or extend your expected treatment duration. 

How much will treatment cost?

When you attend your initial visit, we can provide you with a quote for orthodontic treatment and payment options. We are unable to provide information about the cost of treatment without a clinical examination to determine the complexity of your orthodontic problems. We do offer discounts for patients paying for their orthodontic treatment in full. Alternatively, we are happy to spread the cost of treatment over-time with a range of payment options. These involve an initial deposit followed by monthly interest-free instalments.

Do I still need to see my dentist during my orthodontic treatment?

It is essential that you continue regular visits to your family dentist over the course of your orthodontic treatment. Your family dentist will continue to monitor your teeth and gums for changes in their health status. Although an orthodontist will advise you if they identify a problem, your orthodontist is not a substitute for your family dentist. 

How do I brush my teeth while wearing braces?

Regular tooth brushing is even more important while you are wearing braces as the braces and wires create an additional surface around which plaque and food debris can get trapped and accumulate. Generally speaking manual tooth brushes are preferable to electric tooth brushes while you are wearing braces, but adjustments to your brushing technique may be required so that you can remove trapped plaque and food from underneath the orthodontic wires. A demonstration and discussion of the ideal tooth brushing technique will be undertaken following the placement of your braces and will be revisited as required at your regular adjustment visits.

Can I eat normally?   

Generally speaking patients who are wearing braces can eat normally with subtle adjustments to their food choices or the preparation of their food. Hard sticky and crunchy foods are best minimised because of the damage they can do to your braces. Hard vegetables should be cooked until they have softened and fruits like apples should be cut into segments and eaten on the back teeth. A more complete discussion of food choices will be undertaken in the “braces care presentation” that follows the placement of your braces. Most patients adapt rapidly to eating with their braces but do report brushing their teeth more frequently to remove food debris tapped under the wires after they have eaten.