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Orthodontist: Expectations vs. Reality

Not everyone is born with a perfect smile. Some people experience overcrowded teeth, too much spacing, over or underbites, etc. To fix some of these issues, it is recommended that one go see an orthodontist. Orthodontic treatments help with the overall improvement of your oral health. 

What do Orthodontists Do

Orthodontists are typically known for using braces to straighten teeth. They are a type of dentist that specializes in orthodontics. What is orthodontics? Orthodontics focuses mainly on treating irregularities of the teeth (bad bite, crowded teeth, crooked teeth, etc) and extends to the mouth and jaw too. 

Orthodontists are able to diagnose the mouth, teeth and jaw for any abnormalities. They then determine the best treatment method for correction. 

There are two types of orthodontic appliances. One is fixed, also known as braces. And the other one is removable such as Invisalign (clear aligners). 

The orthodontist is often a dentist’s best friend. They work together to help patients achieve straight teeth and a beautiful smile. However, what many people don’t know is that the orthodontist is not just a dentist with specialty training in braces and Invisalign. There are many different areas of orthodontics, and the orthodontist’s job varies depending on the treatment.

Orthodontists are dentists who have completed an additional three years of training in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment planning of malocclusions, or irregularities in teeth positioning. This definition makes it clear that orthodontic treatment does not just involve straightening teeth with braces or Invisalign. Rather, a proper orthodontic treatment plan will also involve addressing the size and shape of the jaw, as well as correcting tooth crowding and alignment issues.

In fact, if you have ever seen an orthodontist wearing safety goggles to protect themselves from flying saliva during your visit, this is because many orthodontists also perform oral surgery. This involves surgically extracting teeth, correcting jaw position, and/or realigning the jaw. So if you are considering orthodontic treatment, be sure to ask your orthodontist about all of the treatments they offer.

Orthodontist Expectations and Reality

Expectation: Orthodontists can quickly and easily fix dental problems.
Some may think that braces or Invisalign is a quick process lasting a couple or so months. 

Reality: Orthodontic treatment is often a long and expensive process.
If braces were your assigned orthodontic appliance, you can expect to have them on for about 18 to 24 months. For more difficult problems or for any older patients, the treatment may take up to three years. 

If Invisalign was made for your orthodontic treatment then you can expect to need to wear these aligners for about 12 to 18 months. Invisalign also comes with a hefty payment of around $3,000-$7,000 according to the Invisalign website. 

Expectation: Orthodontists can help correct all dental problems.
The most common problems that orthodontists can help fix include overcrowding and spacing, a misaligned jaw, over and underbites, open bites, periodontal (gum) issues, issues with speech and chewing and misaligned teeth. Remember that orthodontists are there to help with any issues revolving around or relating to facial structure, teeth alignment and the jaw. 

Reality: Orthodontists typically work with patients who have problems with their teeth alignment, jaw size, and facial structure.

Expectation: Orthodontic treatment is always covered by insurance.
Orthodontic treatment can sometimes be covered by your company plan or health provider. According to, coverage for orthodontics for adults is increasing in popularity. If your employer’s dental plan includes adult coverage, look at if there are any waiting periods/maximums before treatment is able to begin. 

Reality: Orthodontic treatment is not always covered by insurance.
Despite the fact that there are some providers out there who can help cover orthodontic treatment, this is not always the case for everybody. Be sure to double check with your provider or plan to see if it is covered.

What Happens During Treatment

When you visit the orthodontist, they will first take a look at your teeth and assess what needs to be done. In many cases, braces are the best course of treatment, but the orthodontist may also recommend Invisalign or other treatments.

Once they have determined the best course of treatment, the orthodontist will begin the process of straightening your teeth. This often involves installing braces on your teeth and periodically adjusting them as your teeth move into their new position. The entire process can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months or 12 to 18 months for Invisalign. 

What to Expect After Treatment

Once your teeth have been straightened with braces, you will need to visit the orthodontist for a few more appointments. They will check to make sure your teeth are properly aligned and then remove your braces. It’s important to continue following a strict oral hygiene routine after treatment. Brushing and flossing your teeth twice per day is essential for maintaining good oral health, even after the braces are removed.

For Invisalign patients, it is expected that a retainer is worn to ensure a long-lasting smile. Many patients start with wearing them full-time to then only at night. 

How to Care for Orthodontics

There are a few steps you can take during orthodontic treatment and after your braces are removed to make sure you maintain good oral health. Here are some tips:

– Brush your teeth twice per day with fluoride toothpaste, especially after eating or drinking sugary food or drinks.

– Floss daily.

– Visit your dentist for a thorough cleaning once every six months.

– Avoid sucking on hard candy or chewing gum, which can put extra pressure on your teeth and may cause them to shift again after the orthodontic treatment has been completed.


If you are considering orthodontic treatment make sure to do your research and ask lots of questions. The best way to treat your teeth is to take preventative action, so be sure to stick to a strict oral hygiene routine and visit the dentist regularly!

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