Orthodontic FAQs

Orthodontic FAQs

At what age can people have orthodontic treatment?

Children and adults of any age can benefit from orthodontic treatment. You might be amazed to learn that one in five orthodontic patients is an adult. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists estimates that nearly 1,000,000 adults in the United States and Canada are currently receiving orthodontic treatment from a specialist.

Healthy teeth can be moved at almost any age. Many orthodontic problems can be corrected as easily and as well for adults as they are for children. Orthodontic forces move the teeth in the same way for both a 55-year-old adult and a 12-year-old child.

Despite the fact that healthy teeth can be moved at almost any time, some orthodontic problems may be easier to correct if treated at an early age. Complicating factors, such as waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction of some problems more difficult. Because of this, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children have their first orthodontic screening no later than age seven. Regardless, an orthodontic evaluation at any age is advantageous if a general (family) dentist, physician, family member, or even a friend has noticed a problem.

What causes orthodontic problems (malocclusions)?

Most orthodontic problems (malocclusions) are inherited from birth, but some are acquired. Inherited problems include crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra, missing, or impacted teeth, and a wide variety of other irregularities of the jaws, teeth, and face. Acquired malocclusions include those problems caused by thumb or finger sucking, trauma (accidents), periodontal (bone and gum) disease, premature loss of primary (baby) or permanent teeth, and airway obstruction by inflamed tonsils and adenoids. Whether inherited or acquired, many of these problems affect not only the alignment of the teeth, but also can affect facial development, profile, and appearance as well.

Can orthodontic treatment do for adults what it does for children?

You may be amazed to learn that one in five orthodontic patients is an adult. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists estimates that nearly 1,000,000 adults in the United States and Canada are currently receiving orthodontic treatment from a specialist.

Healthy teeth can be moved at almost any age. Many orthodontic problems can be corrected as easily and as well for adults as children. Orthodontic forces move the teeth in the same way for both a 55-year-old adult and a 12-year-old child. Complicating factors, such as lack of jaw growth and periodontal (bone and gum) disease may create special treatment planning needs for the adult.

How does adult treatment differ from that of children and adolescents?

Despite the fact that healthy teeth can be moved at almost any time in your life, some complicating factors, such as periodontal (gum and bone) disease, missing, worn, and damaged teeth become more common as you get older.

Dr. Hendrix will ensure close communication among your general (family) dentist, periodontist, endodontist, and oral surgeon to assure that adult orthodontic treatment and any special problems are well-managed. Below are the most common characteristics that can cause adult treatment to differ from treatment for children.

Gum or bone loss (periodontal breakdown): Adults are more likely to have experienced periodontal (gum and bone) disease than children. Special treatment by the patient’s general (family) dentist or a periodontist may be necessary before, during and/or after orthodontic treatment. Bone and gum loss may limit the amount and direction of tooth movement that is advisable.

Missing, worn, or damaged teeth: Missing, worn, or damaged teeth are perfect reasons to consider orthodontic treatment. Missing teeth that are not replaced often allow adjacent teeth to tip and drift. This will likely worsen the bite and may increase the likelihood of developing periodontal problems.

No jaw growth: Jaw problems can usually be managed well in a growing child with an orthopedic, growth modification appliance. Unfortunately, the adult patient no longer has this growth potential. On occasion, it may be recommended for an individual to pursue both orthodontic treatment and jaw surgery to modify the size, shape, or position of his or her jaw. If surgery is a necessary component of your chosen orthodontic treatment plan, Dr. Hendrix will discuss all aspects of your orthodontic treatment with you and an oral surgeon prior to initiating any care. As with all procedures, you will be able to discuss all of your concerns thoroughly with Dr. Hendrix and an oral surgeon so that you are comfortable with your treatment decision.

My teeth have been crooked for many years. Why should I consider orthodontic treatment now?

Orthodontic treatment, when indicated, is a positive step, especially for adults who have endured a long-standing problem. Orthodontic treatment can restore optimal tooth and jaw function. Teeth that work better usually look better, and a healthy, beautiful smile can improve self-esteem, no matter what age.

Why do teeth sometimes need to be removed?

On occasion, particularly in cases of severe crowding, permanent teeth may need to be removed as part of your orthodontic treatment. Tooth removal will be recommended only if it is absolutely necessary and would improve your prospects for successful orthodontic treatment.

What is an ankylosed tooth?

In some instances, a tooth will not move at all because it is improperly attached to the jawbone. This condition is called ankylosis (pronounced ankle-o-sis). Occasionally, an ankylosed tooth may require a minor surgical procedure by your general (family) dentist or specialist to allow Dr. Hendrix to attempt to move it to the correct position. Sometimes, ankylosed teeth may even have to be removed.

What is an impacted tooth?

Teeth are impacted when they remain partially or completely under the gum tissue instead of coming into the mouth, as they should. While impaction usually occurs when teeth are very crowded, it can also happen for no apparent reason. Dr. Hendrix will explain all available treatment options if this situation applies to you.

Should the wisdom teeth (third molars) be removed?

The most common impacted teeth are the upper and lower third molars, also known as the wisdom teeth. These teeth may not grow into place properly because the jawbone does not have sufficient room to accommodate them. In effect, they get stuck, or trapped, below the gums.

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.

Dr. Hendrix, in consultation with your general (family) dentist, will carefully review each situation and at times, may recommend that your wisdom teeth be removed.

Why is orthodontic treatment recommended before replacing missing teeth?

Your general dentist is probably recommending orthodontics so that he or she is able to treat you in the best manner possible to bring you to optimal dental health.

When permanent teeth are lost, it is common for the remaining teeth to drift, tip, or shift. Tipped teeth usually need to be straightened, so they can stand up to normal biting pressures in the future.

Once these remaining teeth are properly aligned and the bite is correct, your general (family) dentist will be able to replace your missing teeth using crowns, bridges and implants, with your teeth properly spaced and aligned.

Why do some people need to have jaw surgery to correct their bite?

Jaw problems can usually be managed well in a growing child with an orthopedic, growth-modification appliance. While the adult patient no longer has this growth potential, sometimes jaw surgery to modify the size, shape, or position of their jaw will dramatically improve an adult’s orthodontic treatment options. If surgery is a necessary component of your chosen orthodontic treatment plan, Dr. Hendrix will discuss all aspects of your orthodontic treatment with you and an oral surgeon prior to initiating any care. As with all procedures, you will be able to discuss all your concerns thoroughly with Dr. Hendrix and an oral surgeon so that you are comfortable with your treatment decision.

Can my child play sports while wearing braces?

Absolutely! In fact, Dr. Hendrix had braces when he played soccer. He adviseswearing a protective mouth guard while engaging in any contact sports. We will be happy torecommend a specific mouth guard if necessary.

Will my braces interfere with playing musical instruments?

Patients who play woodwind or brass instruments, such as the clarinet or trombone, will require some minor adaptation to braces. With some practice and an easy period of adjustment, braces typically do not interfere with playing musical instruments. Dr. Hendrix successfully played the trumpet all through his orthodontic treatment, so he can well appreciate your concern.

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