Frequently Asked Questions | Orthodontics of Santa Barbara
Orthodontics FAQs

Orthodontics FAQs

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics, also referred to as dentofacial orthopedics, is a specialized branch of dentistry that works to diagnose, prevent, and offer treatment for dental and facial irregularities. Braces, retainers, and other appliances are used to make these corrections.

What does an orthodontist do?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who has received two to three years or more of training beyond a general dentist. The orthodontist can correct misaligned jaw structure, straighten teeth, and improve the function of your jaw and teeth.

What is malocclusion?

Malocclusion is the term used for the misalignment of the lower and upper jaw. This misalignment most often results from the overlap of the upper teeth over the bottom jaw and teeth. Malocclusion may be repaired with braces but may also require surgery.

Is orthodontic treatment just cosmetic?

Crooked teeth may feel like a “vanity” issue, but there's more to it than just looks. Crooked and crowded teeth are harder to clean than straight teeth, meaning more health problems may occur. A bad bite can also cause difficulty in chewing, abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, and excess stress on the jaw and gums. Without treatment, any of these conditions can worsen and cause further issues down the line.

What causes crooked teeth?

There are both genetic causes and environmental and behavioral causes that may result in crooked teeth. Much like we inherit eye color, mouth and jaw features may also be inherited. Local factors, as well, can affect the alignment of our teeth, such as high cavity rates, gum disease, thumb or finger sucking, pacifier sucking, trauma, or premature loss of baby teeth.

What are the early signs of orthodontic problems?

Determining your child's or your own need for orthodontic treatment can be hard to assess, but some signs that may indicate help is needed include:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Overlapping of teeth when the mouth is closed
  • Jaw shifting is off-center when biting down
What is the best age for visiting the orthodontist?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first visit at the age of seven. However, orthodontics is not restricted to children. Adults may have dental corrections at any age. In fact, about one in every four orthodontics patients is over the age of 21.

How much does orthodontic treatment cost?

There is no single answer to what orthodontic treatment may cost. A variety of factors determine the extensiveness of treatment required, duration of treatment, and overall cost. The type of appliance that you decide on will also be a cost factor

During your consultation, we can give you a better idea of what your treatment costs will be, along with any options for payment plans, to ensure that you receive the best treatment possible at a price that you can afford.

Do you have to have insurance to receive orthodontic treatment?

As with all dental care, insurance will help pay for treatments, but it is not required in order to have orthodontic treatments.

What are expanders?

You may see the term “palatal expander” as you research your orthodontic options. These devices are specialized appliances that are used to change the structure of the jaw during early orthodontic treatment.

During childhood, the two halves of the jaw are separate. An expander applies force to push them apart, which causes the body to respond with growing more bone between them. This widens the jaw and creates more room in the mouth for teeth to fit properly.

A palatal expander gently applies force to push the halves apart, painlessly widening the upper jaw.

Will your teeth still move after treatment is completed?

Teeth shift throughout your lifetime, whether you use orthodontic treatment or not. The first year after treatment, your teeth are most susceptible to this movement, which is why retainers are so important post-treatment. Eventually, the movement of your teeth will slow and the need for retainers will decrease over time.