Ask The Orthodontist

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By Nicole Mullally, DMD, MS

Dr. Nicole Mullally is an orthodontist and owner of Studio32 Orthodontics. A Gainesville native and graduate of the University of Florida Dental School, Dr. Mullally loves creating beautiful smiles in her hometown. With braces and Invisalign as her tools and 32 teeth as her medium, she brings out inner beauty and confidence through the power of a brilliant and healthy smile. When she is not designing teeth, Dr. Mullally can be found holding on for dear life as she rides life’s rollercoaster with three girls, an English husband and a crazy dog.

I have heard there are more choices for braces now than in the past. What are my options?

We like to think we have something to please everyone! Invisalign (a series of clear aligners) has become very popular with our adult and teen patients as they are nearly invisible and can be removed to eat/drink as you wish or for a hot date or special work presentation. With Invisalign there are less problems that arise than with braces (such as broken brackets or poking wires), and you do not need to be seen in the office as often. This makes it a popular choice for patients with busy lifestyles.

I need braces, but I do not want metal. Should I consider Invisalign? Or are traditional braces more effective?

Invisalign is a great alternative to braces for someone who wants a straighter smile but does not want the look or feel of metal braces. Invisalign can be just as effective and just as efficient as traditional braces, if it is designed correctly. Many people do not realize that Invisalign is a plastic company that manufactures plastic aligners. How that plastic is designed and programmed and by whom is what makes it work well or not. It is very important to find a provider that specializes in orthodontics and has extensive training in moving teeth with Invisalign to ensure you get a great experience and a great result!

For how long after having my braces removed do I need to wear my retainer?

Retainers are forever, or for as long as you want straight teeth! During orthodontic treatment, we move the teeth to their ideal positions where they fit and look their best, but once treatment is complete there is a tendency for the teeth to relapse to their previous positions. Teeth will also shift over time as part of the natural aging process. The only way to guarantee a straight smile is to wear your retainer every night.  It is a small price to pay for maintaining a beautiful, healthy smile.

I have heard that braces can change the shape of your face. Is that true? Why?

Braces can definitely change the shape of the face in some cases, but in a good way. An orthodontist receives extra training after dental school to study the growth and development of the face and teeth. We do not focus on the teeth alone, but how the teeth sit in the jaws, how the upper and lower jaws are coordinated and how it all comes together to create a total facial profile. Our goal is to balance straight teeth and a functional bite while creating a harmonious facial balance. When we look at the whole face (not just teeth) and develop a unique treatment plan for that individual’s needs and desires, we can truly achieve a beautiful smile.

I am reluctant to get braces as an adult. Is there any medical reason I should get braces, or is it mostly just for appearances?

Adults should not be reluctant to get braces. Adult orthodontics has become more popular than ever! In fact, you probably know many friends and co-workers that are currently in treatment with braces or Invisalign. Braces or Invisalign can be used to treat cosmetic concerns as well as functional concerns. When the teeth are not aligned properly they are more at risk for developing dental problems. For example, crowded teeth are often harder to clean and over time can result in developing cavities, gum disease and bone loss. If the bite is not balanced, uneven forces can cause heavy wear or even fractures to some teeth, gum recession, or possible tooth loss. Of course, some misalignments are not so serious, but it is worth talking with your dentist to be sure. Orthodontic treatment can correct these problems ensuring that you have both a beautiful AND healthy smile.

I like to drink red wine at night and coffee during the day. Is this bad for braces?

No, or I might have a mutiny on my hands! With braces, it is not a problem at all and with Invisalign we just ask that you take your aligners out while you enjoy your favorite beverage and then put them back in when you are finished. We understand our adults love their routines and try our best to find solutions to everyday issues so that you can weave orthodontic treatment into your already busy life as seamlessly as possible. Of course, some minor lifestyle adjustments will be needed but we have found that even our most sensitive adults find a way to make it work. Seeing your new smile come together is usually all the motivation that is needed to enjoy the process.

I have heard that getting braces as an adult can be a longer and more painful process as an adult. Is that true?

I honestly do not think treatment is any more painful as an adult but it can be slower. In an adult, the bone is often denser and the body’s metabolism is slower, which can result in slower tooth movement. This is not always the case though as we have many adults that have completed treatment in less than a year! It really depends on the complexity of the case and the individual physiology. Even in our slower cases, I have not yet met an adult that was not happy to have followed through with treatment. Orthodontic treatment really can be life changing!