Orthodontic FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions About Orthodontics

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialized form of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of misaligned teeth and jaws.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dentist first.   Dr. Shah and Dr. Tamburrino both went to dental school, just like your family dentist.  However, we also had an additional 2-3 years of training to focus solely on braces and jaw alignment.  It's all we do, all day, every day!    We do not do cleanings, fillings, crowns, veneers, extractions, dentures, or root canals....only braces :)   We focus on one aspect of dentistry only - moving teeth -  so that you can be assured your treatment is done safely and efficiently!

My child has baby teeth.  Is she too young for braces?

Some children will benefit from orthodontic care well before all of their permanent come in. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have an orthodontic evaluation right away if you suspect an orthodontic problem, but no later than age 7.  We offer complimentary orthodontic examinations to determine if and when your child would benefit from treatment.

When is the right time for treatment?

We know many parents see young kids (before middle school age) with braces on their teeth. Because most parents remember having braces on themselves or their friends during the junior high years, we are always asked if braces are starting earlier now.

The answer is that “braces”, in the sense of fully correcting the bite, cannot be done until all the adult teeth come in the mouth.  So, no, the “braces” process to align all the teeth still can’t be done until the teenage years. Nothing has changed there.

However, what many parents (and some dentists) do not realize is that tooth development alone does not necessarily dictate when the best time is to see an orthodontist. Many kids have issues with either upper or lower jaw development that parents and family dentists CAN’T easily see or may not recognize are even a problem.

Therefore, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends kids have their first orthodontic check-up around age 7, and with very good reason! It is definitely NOT a self-serving recommendation, and we are all looking out for the best interest of the kids to keep treatment easy, painless, and simple.

If there is an underlying jaw issue, this might be easily addressed when the bones are young, soft, and easily molded. Also, if the bones are set up properly when young, some kids are even lucky enough to not require braces when they are older...and that’s pretty cool!

Fortunately, most kids do have good jaw structures, and early intervention isn’t needed, or the issues are mild enough to be delayed until later. However, to avoid complications to the other developing teeth, avoid harm to the gums, or avoid poor growth of the jaws it’s best to have a professional opinion at age 7 to determine if your child’s specific situation warrants attention now or if it can wait. 

Every child is different so there’s no one answer or recommendation for everyone.  Also, since there’s no harm and NO COST involved in scheduling a visit, just getting a check-up is a smart thing for any parent to do to make sure their child is in good orthodontic shape!

If something actually is indicated for treatment earlier instead of later, corrections done when kids are younger typically are usually easy and painless!   This does not mean that braces to fix the teeth aren’t going to be needed later, but it does usually mean that the process will be a lot quicker, less expensive, and less invasive!

Many parents have the misconception of thinking that by doing recommended treatment early their child will have “had braces twice”.  Thus, they erroneously think the orthodontist’s goal is just aligning a few crooked teeth.  They feel that if it’s just straightening teeth, then why do it now and “pay twice” if it’s going to still need to be done later.   Honestly, we agree 100%.  In our office, we rarely will recommend early treatment if strictly for cosmetic issues.  

Also some parents put off orthodontic treatment not because they think (or hope) their child will grow out of the problem. WeI truly wish that was the case, and life would be easier for everyone if it was, but it’s unfortunately not.  Issues with your child’s bite are not like their tantrums, a bad haircut, or acne.  They don’t grow out of it.  Bite issues often do NOT fix themselves without intervention, and, left alone, these problems often grow worse and harder to resolve.

Therefore, we WILL recommend early treatment when there are functional issues and jaw development concerns.  

The best way to think of this idea is that there are two parts of the bite that eventually need straightened - the underlying bones (the foundation) and the teeth (the house).  So, straightening the bones early when they are soft sets up the foundation to the right dimensions to accommodate the eventual house which will be built on top.  Then, once all the adult teeth come in later on (during the teenage years), braces to straighten all the teeth will be used. 

The reality is that both the bone and tooth aspects will need to be addressed at some point, but breaking it up into two parts is easier on the child and sets up a better environment for the adult teeth to come in. 

When all the adult teeth come in, some kids have already matured to the point where the window to work with their softer bones has closed.  Treatment now can become more complicated and could even involve jaw surgery, instead of what may have been a simple fix if the child only had been evaluated earlier.   

Even if you’re later getting your son or daughter in, it’s still possible to provide good treatment options (or even realize they don’t even NEED braces!)  However, the sooner you know and learn about your options, the better, so remember that age 7 is the right time to schedule a visit with us!

Do I need a referral?

Unlike with your physician, you do not need a referral from your family dentist to see a dental specialist or an orthodontist.   Simply contact our Princeton Junction or Kennett Square orthodontic office at 609-799-4628 and schedule a complimentary consultation for yourself or a family member.

Am I able to use Clear Aligner Therapy (such as Invisalign®) instead of braces?

Many cases that can be treated with traditional braces can also be treated with clear aligners.   Every smile is different, and depending on your needs, sometimes braces may be a better choice.   The only way to know for sure is to schedule a complimentary visit with Dr. Tamburrino or Dr. Shah and see for yourself!

What’s going to happen on my first visit?

Your initial consultation will give you the opportunity to meet our team, learn more about orthodontics, receive a complete initial exam, and find out which treatment options will best meet your needs.  During your initial consultation:

1.  You’ll find out if orthodontic treatment will be beneficial, and, if so when your treatment should begin.

2.  You'll learn all about your smile using one image

3.  You'll have 3 main questions answered:

      - Do my upper and lower jaws fit together well?

      - Can my smile safely be created with all my teeth?

      - Will my bite match up ideally after straightening?

4.  You'll learn about your treatment options

5.  We’ll work with you to design a payment plan that fits your budget

6.  You'll choose a time to begin your smile journey...it can be as soon as the same day!

What are my options for financing?

The cost of your orthodontic treatment will vary, depending on your individual needs and treatment plan. Our practice accepts most major credit cards and insurance plans.

Do I need to miss work of school for appointments?

With early morning, evening, and Saturday hours available, you won’t have to miss work or school unless absolutely necessary. We work with YOUR schedule to make visits as easy as possible.

How can I take care of my teeth if I’m wearing braces or a retainer?

  • ALWAYS remember to brush your teeth after every meal and floss at least once a day.
  • Make sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and ask us or your family dentist if you need a fluoride rinse. This will help prevent cavities!
  • If you take out your retainer, remember to keep the retainer safe in its container so it does not get lost or broken.
  • Keep your retainer clean, too, by brushing it gently with a toothbrush and toothpaste. You may also soak it in denture cleaner as instructed by our office. Do not put your retainer in boiling water or in the dishwasher.
  • During your treatment, try to avoid foods with a lot of sugar, which increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth, and can cause more plaque and potential cavities.
  • Avoid sticky and chewy foods (caramel, chewing gum, gummy bears), hard foods (hard candy, nuts, ice cubes), or any foods that could possibly get stuck in your braces (corn on the cob, soft bagels, ribs, taffy, etc.).
  • Be sure to schedule your routine checkups with your family dentist. It is recommended that you continue to visit the dentist every six months.

What are braces?

Braces are used by orthodontists to help you improve the look and feel of your smile. There are several different types of braces to choose from, including:

  • Clear aligners
  • Ceramic (tooth-colored) braces
  • Lingual braces (braces behind the teeth)
  • Traditional metal braces

If I get braces, how long do I have to wear them?

The amount of time spent in braces will vary, depending on the individual patient, because every smile responds differently to treatment.  On average, a routine case with upper and lower braces lasts roughly 12-22 months.   Some cases can be treated in as little as 3-6 months, and others may be longer than this range.   The only way to know for sure is to schedule a visit for yourself to see. 

Do braces hurt?

Braces do not often hurt, though you may feel a small amount of discomfort for a couple days as your teeth, gums, cheeks, and mouth get used to your new braces.

Do I need to brush my teeth more often if I have braces?

With braces, you should brush your teeth at least three times a day to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy and clean. Brushing regularly will help remove any food that may be caught between the braces.

You should also floss daily to get between your braces where your brush isn’t able to reach. We can show you how to brush and floss properly once your braces are placed.

If I have braces, do I still need dental checkups every six months?

Yes! In fact, it’s even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit the dentist regularly. With braces, food may be caught in places your toothbrush can’t reach. This causes bacteria to build up and can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Our team will work closely with your dentist to make sure your teeth stay clean and healthy while you’re wearing braces.

Will my braces interfere with my school activities like sports, playing an instrument, or singing?

Playing an instrument or a contact sport may require some adjustment when you first get your braces, but wearing braces will not stop you from participating in any of your school activities. If you play a contact sport, it is recommended that you wear a mouthguard to protect your braces or appliance.

How do I schedule my next appointment?

Simply call our practice! Our front desk staff will be happy to schedule your next appointment at your convenience. If you are a new patient or have been referred to our practice, please let us know and we will provide you with all the information you need.

Live. Laugh. Smile.

Ryan Tamburrino, DMD / Shalin Shah, DMD, MS