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Orthodontic Facts to Chew On


October is National Orthodontic Health Month and orthodontist Christopher Sierk shares the answers to some common questions

By Kathy A. Conrad

Sierk provides answers to some common questions about orthodontic treatments. Photo by VERN UYETAKE

Sierk provides answers to some common questions about orthodontic treatments. Photo by VERN UYETAKE

It's very apropos that a toothy grin should usher in both Halloween and National Orthodontic Health Month. Halloween pumpkins show off their crooked teeth. And, so do some trick-or-treaters.

Because almost every child could benefit from orthodontic treatment, parents need to be able to ask informed questions. The American Association of Orthodontics recognizes this need and has created a Frequently Asked Questions guide for parents. Orthodontist Sierk, DDS with offices in West Linn and Tigard, discusses five of those FAQ's:

At what age can children have orthodontic treatment?

Many children benefit from early interceptive orthodontic treatment. This treatment is less invasive, may reduce the need for extractions and is shorter in overall duration. Interceptive treatment typically starts before a child’s permanent teeth have emerged between the ages of seven and ten.

"If recognized at an early age, we can avoid larger issues later. Often times an early phase will shorten overall treatment time and help us to avoid extracting permanent teeth," offered Sierk.

Full braces are typically recommended once a child's permanent teeth have developed, usually around age 12.

Doctor Chris Sierk and Treatment Coordinator Marie Ramme discuss treatment options with a patient. Photo by VERN UYETAKE

Doctor Chris Sierk and Treatment Coordinator Marie Ramme discuss treatment options with a patient.
Photo by VERN UYETAKE

What are the most commonly treated orthodontic problems?

Some misalignments of teeth such as overjet (protruding upper teeth), crowding, or an underbite can be identified by a parent. Others including a deep overbite, open bite, abnormal spacing or crossbite, which often are first noticed by an orthodontist.

"Untreated dental malocclusion can foster many long term consequences," explained Sierk, "include tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss."

How do I find someone to treat an orthodontic problem?

Though a referral from your dentist is not required, these professionals have access to names of orthodontic specialists in your area. An orthodontist locator service is also available on the American Association of Orthodontics' Web site.

"Many of our new patients are also referred to us by friends and family who are past and present patients," Sierk said, smiling.

Are there less noticeable braces?

Technology has resulted in smaller, more aesthetic and more efficient, hygienic braces also known as brackets.

Additionally, nickel titanium wires (memory wires) move teeth more rapidly with less discomfort and with fewer adjustments. A rainbow of elastic colors is also available to choose from at each adjustment appointment.

Do teeth with braces need special care?

October is National Orthodontic Health Month.

October is National Orthodontic Health Month.

Successful orthodontic treatment hinges on care and cooperation. Care by way of avoiding hard and sticky foods and chewing on objects such as pens, pencils and fingernails.

And, mutual cooperation between the patient and the orthodontist in so far as keeping teeth clean, wearing the prescribed rubber bands, headgear or other appliances and keeping regular appointments.

"The working relationship between patient and doctor is paramount to successfully completing treatment on-time and without problems," assured Sierk.

All these things combined are designed to make your orthodontic experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

A more comprehensive list of FAQ's can by found on the American Association of Orthodontics' Web page, mylifemysmile.org.