Are you tired of dealing with crooked teeth, or are your child’s teeth coming in misaligned? Is your child having trouble sleeping at night due to a blocked airway? These are all reasons to see an orthodontist.

Orthodontists are dentists who return to school for years of special training. Just 6 percent of dentists are orthodontists. They are experts in making your smile the best it can be.

Do-it-yourself treatments, or those performed by someone lacking the expertise of an orthodontist, can cause lasting damage.  Whether you’re considering clear aligners or traditional braces, see an orthodontist.

Thanks to orthodontists, millions of people have straightened their teeth with the help of braces, mouth appliances and retainers. In celebration of National Orthodontic Health Month, the American Association of Orthodontists offers these answers to frequently asked questions about braces.

  • If my teeth have been crooked for years, why do I need orthodontic treatment now?

It’s never too late! Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Orthodontic treatment can restore good function, and teeth that work better usually look better, too. A healthy, beautiful smile can improve self-esteem, no matter your age.

  • I am pregnant and want to begin orthodontic treatment. Is this OK?

It may be possible to begin treatment while pregnant, however, it is important to discuss this question with your OBGYN/physician/healthcare professional and orthodontist before you start any orthodontic treatment, as pregnancy brings on bodily changes that may affect the mouth. 

  • My teeth on the top aren’t that crooked.  Is it possible just to get braces on the bottom?

Orthodontic treatment is designed to develop teeth that fit well and, as a result, wear better over an individual’s life.  Think of the teeth in the mouth as a “gear” system.  Teeth, like gears, must intermesh well to help avoid excessive wear throughout a lifetime of use.

  • I’m considering getting a tongue or lip piercing. Are there any dangers?

There are numerous potential problems from oral piercings, which can include the tongue, cheeks, lips or uvula (the tissue at the back of the throat).

Particularly with a tongue piercing, you can permanently damage your teeth by wearing away the enamel, or by chipping or cracking teeth. There is a risk of abrasion or recession of gum tissue if it is constantly hit by the piercing.

Piercing can interfere with basic functions like chewing, swallowing, talking and the sense of taste. A hole from a piercing can be a path for germs into the body and bloodstream.

  • Can I get braces if I’m missing some teeth?

It can be possible for you to have successful orthodontic treatment if some teeth are missing, depending on your circumstances and your treatment goals. Orthodontic treatment may be able to close the space of a missing tooth, or may be able to create or save sufficient space for a replacement tooth/teeth. Consult an orthodontist to discuss what is right for you.  Your orthodontist may need to work with your dentist to help you achieve your treatment goals.

  • Can I play musical instruments while wearing braces?

With practice and a period of adjustment, braces typically do not interfere with the playing of wind or brass instruments.

  • I see ads for perfect teeth in only one or two visits to the dentist. Will that give me straight teeth?

Quick-fix veneers temporarily cover crooked teeth. Teeth straightened by an orthodontist are good for life. That’s because only orthodontists receive an extra 2-3 years of education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten teeth.