Creating a Smile That's Good for Life
Orthodontics Can Improve Oral
Health, Boost Self-Image
Braces don't just change looks - they can improve outlooks. The
art and science of orthodontics has greatly enhanced the quality
of life for many people of all ages. Patients say they no longer
feel the urge to cover their mouths self-consciously whenever
they laugh or smile.
Orthodontic patients come from all walks of life, and their personal
stories are uniquely compelling. Some are strikingly attractive.
But others are grateful they don't get a second glance on the
street today - because before orthodontic treatment, people may
have stared at them.
Among these countless people is Amie Beth Dickinson of Birmingham,
Ala., whose upper and lower front teeth protruded before treatment.
Until she got braces in her teens, she may not have turned as
many heads as she is likely to today. She was chosen Miss Alabama
1994. Most patients, of course, are not beauty-pageant winners,
but everyday people: Youngsters whose playmates don't call them
ugly names or make fun of them anymore. Parents who have decided
to get braces themselves after they've witnessed the change in
their children's smiles and attitudes. Or women and men who believe
that opting for orthodontics means they won't have to think about
"Changing people's lives is no small thing - and we do it
every day," notes Dr. Terry McDonald, a Portland, Ore., orthodontist.
"But the change isn't always immediate, and isn't always
Joe M. of Chicago is a case in point. He'd originally sought
orthodontic treatment because his teeth didn't meet. Chewing was
so uncomfortable that he felt fatigued after meals. After his
braces came off, at first he didn't think he looked all that different.
But Miller found that not only was he able to relax and enjoy
a meal - he could see his teeth in snapshots. That is, he was
all smiles, not looking down or away from the camera like he always
If some people gradually blossom and thus are unaware of how
much they have changed over time, their before- and after-treatment
photos often tell a dramatic story. Posture may have improved;
the person may no longer slouch, but sits up straight. The smiles
are less self-conscious - and more self-confident.
And because the orthodontist's specialized training and expertise
has helped to close up spaces between teeth or eliminate crowding,
patients have found it's easier to keep them clean. Michael Smith
of Lancaster, Pa., says he has fewer problems with tartar buildup
since braces realigned his teeth and jaws. "I do believe
my teeth will last a lot longer," says Smith, who got braces
in his late 20s.
But as has been the case with so many people, other benefits of
braces have come as a very pleasant surprise. "Having braces
really improved my attitude," Smith says. "I was reluctant
to smile before I had them. I really didn't want to talk because
I was afraid of the way people would perceive my teeth."
In his enthusiasm about the process, and its gratifying results,
Smith could be speaking for thousands of people whose lives have
changed because of orthodontics: "Now I feel much better
about myself. I have much more self-confidence."
For more information about orthodontics or for the names of AAO
member orthodontists in your area, visit www.braces.org or call
1-800-STRAIGHT (1-800-787-2444). Your dentist also can provide
recommendations on orthodontists near you. .
Who is an orthodontist?
An orthodontist specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment
of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists receive an
additional two-to-three years of specialized education beyond
dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten
teeth. Only orthodontists are eligible for membership in the AAO.
About the American Association of Orthodontists:
The AAO comprises 15,000 members in the United States, Canada
and abroad. Founded in 1900, the AAO supports research and education
leading to quality patient care and promotes increased public
awareness of the need for and benefits of orthodontic treatment.
Orthodontists are uniquely qualified to correct improperly aligned
teeth and jaws. They are specialists in the diagnosis, prevention
and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The American
Dental Association requires orthodontists to have at least two
academic years of advanced specialty training in orthodontics
in an accredited program, after graduation from dental school.
- From the American Association of Orthodontics