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by Brady M. Thomson, DDS, board certified orthodontist, Thomson Family Orthodontics 

Everyone wants a great smile. Every time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. According to psychological science, “The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.” Try it! Stare at this phrase for seven seconds and smile as big as you can. Really, a huge I’m-gonna-bust-these-cheeks smile.

For your “best smile” see an orthodontist. They are specialized smile makers. A healthy, beautiful smile to last a lifetime starts with teeth that are properly aligned and a bite relation that fits and works together.

Dentist vs. Orthodontist chart

What is an orthodontist?

There is a difference between a dentist and an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a specialist experienced in properly aligning the teeth, jaws and facial profile. All orthodontists are dentists first. Then they dedicate an additional two to three years of full-time education in residency, gaining expertise in straightening teeth and choosing the best treatment options at the right time.

After college, dental school and orthodontic residency, an extra step may be taken for an orthodontist to become a “board certified orthodontist.” Hundreds of additional hours are required for an orthodontist to demonstrate the highest quality of orthodontic care to become board certified. Your orthodontist can not only give you straight teeth that look great, they also correct the bite, making it easier to bite, chew and speak. A great smile helps you be more confident and can literally change how people see you. Trust your child’s smile, and yours, to a specialist.

When should my child, or I, see an orthodontist?

Trained in growth and development, your orthodontist will determine the ideal time to provide the best treatment for young-growing children. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children get a checkup with an orthodontic specialist at age seven. A checkup with an orthodontist? Yes, a “smile check” while there are still baby teeth. This allows the appropriate treatment to be recommended at the right time. There are some problems that can be easier to prevent or correct if found early. If early treatment is needed, your orthodontist may be able to obtain results that may not be possible once the face and jaw have finished growing.

You are never too old. Orthodontists dedicate their professional lives to creating healthy, beautiful smiles for children, teens and even adults. Healthy teeth can be straightened at any age. The training and specialization of the hand that holds the paintbrush determines the quality of painting. Your orthodontist is especially trained to utilize the most current techniques in helping you achieve the best results, regardless of age. Any time to smile is a great time. And best of all: No referral is required to visit an orthodontist.

What should I expect at my first visit?

Your orthodontist can play a huge role in a person’s appearance, confidence and health. On your first visit, information is gathered about your teeth, bite, jaws and face through photos, radiographs (x-rays) and an exam. Often times, photos are taken of your face, teeth and bite. X-rays may be taken of the teeth as well as the head. Along with an oral exam, your orthodontist reviews this information to determine the best plan of action to provide not only the best esthetics, but also functional improvement, speech and ultimately to protect your dental health for a lifetime.

When it comes to orthodontic treatment options, there are many including traditional metal braces, clear braces, Invisalign trays, removable appliances or even partial treatments. Your orthodontist can review these options and customize treatment that is ideal for your best smile. Straight teeth, a correct bite and teeth that are positioned properly are healthier, reduce the risk of future dental issues and give you a big reason to smile.

Remember smiles are contagious. Smile all day!

Reasons to see an orthodontist