Answers to Common Orthodontic Questions Why choose an orthodontist? Expand Selecting an orthodontist in Tuscaloosa who can help you achieve your smile dreams is important. Orthodontists are dental specialists who diagnose, prevent, and treat dental and facial irregularities. They receive an additional two to three years of specialized education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten teeth. Only those with this formal education may call themselves “orthodontists,” and only orthodontists may be members of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Dr. Cowan from Cowan & Whitaker Orthodontics has achieved this specialization and is an active member of AAO. When should children get an orthodontic check-up? Expand The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic screening at age seven. By this age, most children have several permanent teeth that have erupted, letting us evaluate their orthodontic needs. By this age, Dr. Cowan can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. That’s important, because some orthodontic problems may be easier to correct if they’re found early. Most orthodontic patients begin active braces treatment between ages 9 and 14. Can adults benefit from orthodontic treatment? Expand Orthodontic treatment can be successful at almost any age. In fact, about one in every four orthodontic patients today is over age 18. Thanks to today’s smaller, less visible and more comfortable orthodontic appliances, including metal braces, ceramic braces, and Invisalign, adults find treatment appealing. How long does treatment take? Expand Patients who need orthodontic treatment generally have one to three years of active treatment. This can be determined through a free consultation at our Cowan & Whitaker Orthodontics office. How much does treatment cost? Expand The cost of orthodontic treatment depends on many factors, including the severity of the problem, how complex the problem is, and how long treatment lasts. Dr. Cowan will be glad to discuss the cost of treatment and your financing options with you before treatment begins. The good news is that braces are more affordable today than ever. Our staff also works with insurance companies and offers payment plans that meet your family’s budget. What causes orthodontic problems? Expand Most orthodontic problems are inherited. Examples of these genetic problems are crowding, spacing, protrusion, extra or missing teeth and some jaw growth problems. Other oral problems are caused by thumb- or finger-sucking, dental disease, accidents, the early or late loss of baby teeth, or other causes. Why is treatment so important? Expand Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. A bad bite can also cause abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, difficulty in chewing and/or speaking, and excess stress on supporting bone and gum tissue. Without treatment, many problems become worse and can require additional dental care later in life. What is my role in treatment? Expand Orthodontic treatment is a partnership between the doctor and patient. Dr. Cowan provides custom-made fixed or removable appliances that use gentle pressure to move teeth into their proper positions. Your job is to follow Dr. Cowan instruction, keep scheduled orthodontic appointments, and maintain excellent oral hygiene to get the best results. You will also need to see your general dentist as recommended to continue your general dental care. I had braces as a teen, and now as an adult, my teeth are out of place. What can I do? Expand If you notice an unwanted change in your smile or bite, contact Cowan & Whitaker Orthodontics at 205-750-0081 for information. An orthodontic “tune-up” may be necessary to regain proper alignment. Will wisdom teeth cause teeth to shift? Expand Not necessarily. Research suggests that wisdom teeth don’t always cause teeth to shift. In most cases, wisdom teeth are removed for general dental health reasons rather than for orthodontic health. Your family dentist or Dr. Cowan can help determine whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed. How long do I have to wear retainers after treatment? Expand Dr. Cowan will recommend how long to continue wearing your retainers, whether they are removable (the kind you put in and take out) or fixed (bonded behind your teeth). Wearing your retainers as prescribed is the best way to keep your teeth from moving after your orthodontic treatment. There are many reasons teeth may move following orthodontic treatment. Teeth are not set in concrete, they are in bone. Because bone around your teeth is continually changing (breaking down and rebuilding), your teeth may shift after your braces are removed. By wearing your retainers, your teeth are more likely to remain where Dr. Cowan has placed them through braces treatment. Why do some teeth shift? Expand The small changes that happen after braces are removed as your teeth settle in from being used. for biting and chewing. The more serious and unwanted changes may be traced to genetics or later-than-normal growth, which is unpredictable. Movement is most common in lower front teeth. This is particularly true if the teeth were extremely crowded before treatment. Changes in tooth position are a lifelong and naturally occurring phenomenon. The best way to keep your teeth from shifting is to wear your retainers as prescribed. If you notice movement after your braces are removed, please contact Cowan & Whitaker Orthodontics. What should my long-term expectations be? Expand The fact is that throughout your lifetime, even though you have had orthodontic treatment, you can expect changes in tooth position. Many factors at work may cause teeth to shift. Such changes are different for everyone, and most of the time, they are hardly noticeable. However, on occasion, changes can occur that are disappointing to both the patient and Dr. Cowan. Changes in tooth position are not a failure of your orthodontic treatment. They are a natural process. We expect changes in our bodies as we grow older, and our teeth are no exception. To help control and limit these changes, retainers are prescribed after your braces are removed. Can retainers be worn too long? Expand No. Retainers stabilize and preserve the alignment of teeth and jaws that orthodontic treatment achieved. Many people wear removable retainers nightly for the rest of their lives. Ask your orthodontist for guidance about your long-term retainer use. Why should I choose an orthodontic specialist? Expand Your teeth and entire facial structures are permanently changed by orthodontic treatment. It’s important that your treatment is customized to your needs and properly completed. Orthodontics specialists can provide personalized treatments because they have extensive and specialized training. Dr. Cowan will take the time to create a treatment plan that will help you look your best, while also making sure every step in the process goes smoothly.