Orthodontics is a maligned profession. The idea of needing braces strikes fear into the hearts of schoolchildren and adults alike.
The popular media persists in portraying orthodontic treatment as a form of torture sanctioned by society, a needlessly painful way of providing a cosmetic service. And no wonder; when people think braces will attract lightning in a thunderstorm, or set off metal detectors at the airport, misinformation spreads everywhere.
Ready for a laugh? Here are 15 orthodontic myths and facts to set you straight.
Myth #1: You do not need to see an orthodontist unless your case is extremely complex; otherwise, a general dentist will suffice.
Fact: As far as the world of orthodontic myths and facts goes, this is one of the most common. Orthodontists are highly trained professionals capable of performing complex operations to adjust the alignment of your teeth and your jaw. Why would they not be able to perform simple adjustments as well? In fact, many orthodontists welcome the chance to perform simple procedures, just as you might enjoy a day where you had little challenging work to do.
Myth #2: Your general family dentist can perform tooth alignments just as well as an orthodontist can.
Fact: Orthodontists are highly trained professionals. General dentists are excellent at what they do, but what they do is not orthodontics. It would be like saying a general family doctor can perform heart surgery just as well as a heart surgeon.
Orthodontists are dentists who have attended specialized school for an additional two to four years, in order to obtain a certification in orthodontics. This gives them a much larger base of knowledge to draw on than a general dentist. Your general dentist may have a handful of tooth alignment cases each year; your orthodontist performs several every day.
At the same time, orthodontists are always reading and researching the latest methods and technologies, such as Invisalign, to offer you the best possible dental care. General dentists do not have the time to dedicate to one area of study. A family doctor may be able to diagnose heart problems, but leave the surgery to the experts.
Myth #3: Children are the only people who can wear braces effectively.
Fact: There are two conflicting myths about the appropriate age for dental work. Some people believe that if you do not have your teeth adjusted when you are young, they become cemented in place and will not move. This is false. One in five people an orthodontist treats is an adult, many over the age of 25. Anyone, of any age, can have orthodontic treatment as long as they have teeth.
Myth #4: A magnet of sufficient power will rip braces off of your teeth, or be attracted with such force that it will fly into your face and break your teeth.
A sufficiently strong magnet could rip metal staples out of a wound, yes. However, no such effect can happen with braces. This is because braces are not made of a ferrous material – that is, they are not magnetic. The most powerful car-lifting electromagnet will have a higher chance of pulling the iron out of your blood than it will moving your braces a hair. Please Note: no magnet will affect the iron in your blood, this is also a myth.
Myth #5: A full course treatment of braces will take years and is extremely painful the entire time.
Fact: Orthodontic treatment varies greatly from person to person. Some people, with simple adjustments, can complete the entire course of their braces in a matter of months. Others may take longer, but are completely painless, using Invisalign for teens or another such solution. Larger issues, such as bridge expansions or overbite adjustments, will take longer and will involve some minor discomfort. The pain is minor, however, and can be controlled easily with standard pain medications.
Myth #6: Your braces act as an antenna, allowing you to listen to the radio or connect to the Internet using them.
Fact: Unfortunately, your braces are far too small to act as an effective antenna. They are also not attached to speakers, so they cannot broadcast sound even if they intercepted the signal. As for interfacing with the Internet, your braces are not equipped with the proper software to read websites. Orthodontic technology is not sufficiently advanced to allow connection to Google Glass, smartphone technologies or even Amazon Alexa, I know, I asked her!
Myth #7: Braces are embarrassing in an adult setting; they draw negative attention, ruin your reputation and lead to people finding you unattractive.
Fact: Braces are a way to improve your image, self-esteem and health. Anyone who finds you unattractive for wearing them is a shallow person whose opinion you should disregard. If you’re still concerned, ask your orthodontist about options, including Invisalign and Invisalign Teen, as well as clear ceramic braces that are almost invisible at a distance.
Lingual braces can also be applied to the inside of the teeth, making them completely invisible from the outside. Anyone looking from the inside has probably passed the point where they care about your teeth.
As far as myths and facts about Invisalign clear aligners, the process is not painful and you are not stuck with them for years and years.
Myth #8: The American Association of Orthodontists – the AAO – will accept any dentist, so long as they pay their dues.
Fact: The American Association of Orthodontists will accept anyone paying their dues – as long as you realize that their dues include passing the schooling and testing requirements to obtain a certification as an orthodontist. So no, they are not an open society for any dentist with the cash to enter.
Myth #9: Braces are entirely cosmetic. You can live a perfectly normal life without braces, tooth alignment or other treatment.
Fact: Braces make your teeth look better, yes. They also perform several important health functions depending on the issues with your teeth. If your teeth don’t sit evenly when your jaw is closed, it puts stress on your jaw, leading to mouth pain.
Crowded teeth are hard to brush or floss, which leads to tooth decay, which in turn leads to other health issues.
If your teeth are extremely crowded, they can even force each other loose, causing tooth loss. Extreme tooth positioning issues also cause problems with diction and enunciation, which can lead to speech impediments.
Myth #10: Orthodontists are scam artists that over-charge for basic services any dentist can perform, giving nothing to the community and serving none but their own greed.
Fact: Many orthodontists are large players in their local communities, donating to events and hosting fundraisers. Additionally, most orthodontists will offer cheaper, discounted or entirely free treatment to people depending on their financial situations.
They are not in it for the money; they are in it to help their communities. Truthfully, orthodontics is an ineffectual vector for super-villainy.
Myth #11: You shouldn’t start braces until all of your teeth are in place; any sooner and your teeth will just move again when new teeth come in.
Fact: If you wait too long, braces treatment will take longer and be more painful. Waiting until all of your teeth have come in – including wisdom teeth – leads to crowding issues and may result in irreparable tooth decay before your braces treatment begins.
The ideal time to have braces installed is when most of your teeth have come in. That said, you can have braces installed at any age, as long as you have teeth to adjust.
Myth #12: Tooth crowding eases as you age, meaning a crowded mouth as a child will be a normal mouth as an adult.
Fact: Your mouth does not expand that much as you age. A crowded mouth as a child will remain a crowded mouth as an adult.
Baby teeth are smaller than adult teeth, so larger teeth will crowd a larger mouth as much as, if not more, than when you were young.
How much crowding your mouth has should be monitored from about the age of 7.
If you are significantly older than 7, you should have your mouth checked out. If you are younger than 7, you probably don’t know most of the words you are reading.
Myth #13: No orthodontist will so much as look at you without a referral from a dentist.
Fact: Orthodontists obtain referrals from dentists because they have a working relationship with that dentist, and the dentist knows the skill of the orthodontist. You can, if you so desire, walk into an orthodontist office with no recommendation whatsoever and still receive treatment. In fact, a basic consultation is generally free.
Myth #14: Braces will bankrupt you or your parents; they are extremely expensive.
Fact: Braces can be expensive, but they do not have to be. Many orthodontists will offer discount plans or payment plans to defer the costs over time. Additionally, there are other options.
One of the largest myths and facts about Invisalign is that it is an expensive process as well. If you are concerned about the expense, consult your dental insurance, dental savings plan or health plan. If none will cover your treatment, ask your orthodontist. Chances are they will have an option that fits your finances.
Myth #15: Orthodontic treatment is incredibly painful; orthodontists even recommend retainers to prolong the agony for years after treatment is complete.
Fact: Orthodontic treatment is not agonizing. It is true that there may be some discomfort, generally coming from irritated gums. In these cases, the pain is no worse than a typical dental cleaning, and will fade within hours.
Each adjustment of your braces may result in some soreness as well, but this too will pass. In all cases, pain can be easily managed with basic pain relievers or by using dental wax. If you experience more pain, it is a sign that something is wrong, and you should talk to your orthodontist.
15 Orthodontic Myths – Busted!
Did we crush all the orthodontic myths you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments below!
Orthodontic Myths – The Straight Facts and Crooked Fiction