Guide to Orthodontics

Your Guide To Orthodontics

An overview of everything you need to know about healthy and happy smiles

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Orthodontics is the practice of  identifying and treating mispositioned teeth and jaws to create healthy, great looking smiles. There are a number of reasons that patients may seek or require orthodontic treatment including health concerns associated with the mouth, teeth, and jaws as well as addressing the desire for aesthetic improvements to their smile. Orthodontics can be used as a preventative measure to avoid bigger orthodontic problems in the future (especially for children), or to address problems that may have been bothering a patient for a long time.

Treatment Time

Orthodontics can treat a wide variety of issues from relatively simple adjustments to complex cases. As such there is no standard length of treatment. While many people think of orthodontics as a 12-24 month commitment

Common Orthodontic Issues 

  • Overbites 
  • Overjets 
  • Crossbites 
  • Underbites 
  • Open bite
  • Misalignment of teeth: This includes, crowding spacing, midlines being off, etc.

The Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment

The main benefits of orthodontic treatment are improvements to the function of your bite and the health of your teeth and mouth, and a boost in confidence that our patients often report after completing their smile transformations. Some additional benefits associated with orthodontic treatment include: 

  • Alleviating Sleep apnea 
  • Improving Speech issues 
  • Supporting Self-esteem 
  • Alleviating TMJ/TMD
  • Alleviating Headaches 
  • Reducing wear and tear on your teeth
  • Improved Health of gums and roots of your teeth
  • Easier hygiene 

Tools of the trade

Braces and Clear aligners

There are a wide variety of options available including braces and clear aligners such as Invisalign. While they each have their own benefits both options are capable of delivering great results. 

Other Appliances and Tools: 

In addition to braces and clear aligners there are a number of other common orthodontic appliances: 

Expanders: Used in early childhood treatment to slowly and safely create more space in the jaw. Helpful for preventing more complicated orthodontic issues such as crowding. 

Retainers: Help to prevent teeth from shifting. Commonly used after orthodontic treatment to preserve the results achieved during treatment.  

Rubber Bands: Used to help settle your bite together. Often utilized towards the end of treatment.

Wax: Used to help alleviate any discomfort caused by wires or brackets. Can be applied at home. 

Chewies: A small device used to ensure your invisalign trays are perfectly in place. They can also be useful to increase blood flow and by ensure your invisalign is correctly fitted they help to keep your treatment on track. 


How is an orthodontist different from a general dentist?

An orthodontist is a dentist who has received an additional two or three years of specialty training from an accredited orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics residency after dental school.  Dr. Lee will work with you to straighten your teeth, address any jaw discrepancies and help establish an aesthetic and functional smile.

What is the best age to visit the orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should first visit the orthodontist around the age of seven, but there is no age limit for orthodontic treatment if your teeth, gums and jaw bones are healthy.  Regardless of age, if you want to improve your smile any time is the best time to visit the orthodontist.

Do I need to have teeth taken out as part of my orthodontic treatment?

The answer to this question depends on your specific concerns and the amount of crowding and dental protrusion you start with.  For some patients, it is necessary to remove adult teeth in order to ensure the long-term health and stability of the remaining teeth.  Dr. Lee will be able to give you more details after the initial consultation.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

The length of orthodontic treatment can vary depending on your specific concerns and treatment plan.  Every patient is unique and each person’s biology can respond differently in response to orthodontic treatment.  Dr. Lee will be able to give you more details after the initial consultation, but it is our goal to try and minimize the time and number of visits it takes to establish your best smile.

Is there a way to finish my treatment faster?

There are several ways to accelerate your orthodontic treatment.  The easiest methods are: 1) keep all of your scheduled appointments, 2) avoid damaging or breaking any braces or appliances, 3) make sure you visit the dentist and keep your teeth sparkling clean, and 4) faithfully wear your elastics or appliances as directed by your orthodontist.  In addition to these guidelines, there are also methods that can accelerate your bone biology to help your teeth move faster.  Dr. Lee will be able to give you more details about how we can utilize your own biology to help reduce your treatment time.

I saw an advertisement for aligners delivered directly to my home. Should I order my aligners on-line?

Recently, many companies have started to advertise direct-to-consumer aligners that do not require routine visits to the orthodontist.   At Somerville Orthodontics we strongly believe that the best and most stable orthodontic results will be achieved after a thorough, in-person exam, diagnosis, and personalized treatment plan. In addition, regular monitoring of your teeth and bite during treatment is essential to ensure your tooth movement stays on track, that your teeth and gums stay healthy during treatment, and that you are happy with your final result. Moving teeth is a complex medical procedure and there are significant risks in doing it yourself.

Do I need to see a dentist while I’m receiving orthodontic treatment?

Absolutely yes!  It is imperative that you see a dentist at least every 6 months (and ideally every 3 or 4 months) while you are receiving orthodontic treatment.  The dentist is part of the team and routine dental exams and cleanings will help minimize the chances of developing cavities and gum disease during treatment.

What will happen if I decide not to get orthodontic treatment?

Many people live very long, healthy and happy lives without ever receiving orthodontic treatment.  Certain malocclusions can worsen with time and can potentially lead to negative outcomes such as uneven tooth wear, skeletal asymmetry and TMJ concerns.  We understand that the decision to start orthodontic treatment can require a significant time and financial commitment. Our team is here to answer your questions and provide all the necessary information so you can make the best decision for you and your family.

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51 Cross Street, Somerville, MA 02145

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