When it comes to orthodontics and choosing an orthodontist to treat your children or yourself, the questions and the right approach can be overwhelming. Some of the questions we have heard are should I use traditional steel brackets and wires, should I use clear braces, when am I too old for braces, when is my child too young, do I need a retainer when I’m done, what are the potential risks and the big one, WHAT DOES ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT COST and will insurance pay for it and is it all the same and does it matter where I get my treatment done?
All these questions are valid and can make your head spin. The good news is there are answers and a qualified team that can help you answer all of them. Remember, orthodontics is not just about aesthetics, it’s often about ensuring proper teeth alignment to prevent abnormal wear and tear, as well as ensuring that good oral hygiene can be performed. Improper alignment can lead to major dental problems and high costs later in life.
Let’s start with should I use clear aligners or standard brackets? This treatment really depends on personal preference, and what the objective is as well as the individual patient habits and level of personal responsibility. Some tooth movements cannot be achieved with clear aligners, at least not as easily as traditional braces, but for the most part, clear plastic aligners are as good, and in some instances a superior option over metal brackets. The beauty of clear aligners is that most people will not know you have them in. The other major advantage of clear aligners is that they are removable. This means it’s easy to clean the teeth with a traditional toothbrush and floss. One of the worst things that can happen during orthodontic treatment is for home care to suffer because it’s difficult to brush and decay begins. The downside of clear removable aligners is they are easy to lose and sometimes children and yes some adults, don’t wear them religiously. This can result in longer treatment times, teeth moving back to their original position and overall frustration and higher costs with the process. With steel brackets, we see better compliance, particularly in children. Also, due to the higher lab fees associated with clear aligners, there is often a cost added of a few hundred dollars.
We often hear, “Am I too old for braces?” the answer to this is that no one is too old for braces. This totally depends on personal preference and does the patient have good oral health. Tooth movement can occur at any age, so orthodontic treatment for both clinical reasons and cosmetic reasons can be done at any age. We have patients over 70 years old who are currently in treatment. And the number of adults in orthodontic treatment has skyrocketed in recent years
The other question about age, is when is too young to intervene with orthodontic treatment for children? Depending on the situation and what the orthodontist is trying to accomplish in the long run, patients as young as 6 years of age might start orthodontic treatment. This is often done to create space so future teeth can come in properly and is usually done with the anticipation of some sort of additional orthodontic treatment planned when the child has their permanent teeth.
Ok, let’s address the retainer question. Do I need to wear a retainer? The answer is yes……well only if you want your teeth to stay where you want them to. Teeth move and if we don’t use a retainer device after completion of the primary orthodontic treatment, the teeth can move back. To prevent this we recommend wearing a retainer. The amount of time each day it needs to be worn depends on many factors but usually we recommend wearing it all the time for some period following the primary treatment and then only at night for the long term. Retainers can be clear plastic aligners, more rigid devices sometimes referred to as a hawley or in some instances, fixed devices that can be placed in the mouth. Your orthodontist can go over what retainer is right for you.
There are some risks associated with orthodontic treatment. Some patients’ mouths just are not healthy enough to withstand the stress that tooth movement can impart on the gums, bones and teeth and in those rare cases, orthodontic work might not be recommend. Basically as long as your gums are healthy, you are a candidate for orthodontic treatment. In other cases, what appears to be a simple case, can result in teeth becoming loose. This is usually corrected by slowing down the movement, but in some cases, it is recommended we stop the treatment temporarily or in rare instance permanently. The biggest complaint we hear, and it’s usually after a tightening visit, or when new aligners are put in, is that it’s uncomfortable, at least for a while. This is due to the wires or aligners putting additional pressure on the teeth to gradually move them into proper position. This constant pressure can be uncomfortable for a while but usually subsides after a few hours or days, as the teeth move. Mild pain killers like Ibuprofen is usually enough to take the edge off.
Finally the big question, “What is the cost of orthodontic work?” We are not trying to be coy, but IT DEPENDS!!!!! The cost for full blown orthodontic work where the patient is in active treatment for 24 months or more, needs to visit the office every 4 weeks and then followed by 24 months retention phase can be over $7000. However, on cases where only minor tooth movement to correct things like crowding or minor movement to correct a diastema can be as low as $1500 and then there is everything in between. The costs will ultimately depend on how long the patient is in treatment and whether there are large lab fees. The lab fees occur when a case must be sent out to have aligners made. Some dentist can reduce costs and get excellent results with “generic” clear aligners vs using a brand name like Invisalign. Insurance often, but not always, provides a benefit that will pay for orthodontic treatment, but there is usually a lifetime cap of $1000 – 2500. A good front desk insurance coordinator will help patients utilize this benefit.
Yes, there is a lot to consider when deciding on orthodontic treatment for you and your family, but remember, you have a partner who has the expertise, experience and options to help you make the right choice. PearlFection Dentistry in Urbana MD and Frederick MD offer free consultations to answer all these questions and help you pick the right treatment option. Our orthodontic team, led by Dr Jennifer Smith and Dr Stephen Tigani offer traditional braces, Invisalign and generic clear aligners to deal with any orthodontic needs. With over 40 years of experience and multiple offices to choose from we are one of the best orthodontic choices in the MD and DC area. Call one of our two PearlFection Dentistry offices for a free consultation. In Frederick call – 301-663-5550 or Urbana Maryland – 301-831-8303.