World’s #1 Research Center for Fast Orthodontic Treatment

Common Orthodontic Queries

Read some frequently asked questions about Dickerson Orthodontics' services.

Frequent Questions

1. At what age should I schedule an appointment for my child?
Dr. Dickerson, Dr. Sharma, and the American Association of Orthodontists recommend children be seen by age 7. Early detection of many orthodontic problems can help avoid more extensive treatment later.

2. Do I need a referral from my dentist?
Many people do not realize that it is not necessary to have a referral from your dentist. Because orthodontists are looking for development issues rather than current problems, children should see an orthodontist around 7 years old, whether they have been referred or not. This also helps establish a baseline for the patient to compare future development of abnormalities. Teeth that are erupting in a normal fashion can suddenly go in different directions for no known reason, and orthodontists are trained to catch this problem early.

3. Do braces hurt?
Modern braces are not like those in the past. Thanks to technology, today’s braces are smaller and more comfortable.

As a patient, you may experience some discomfort after certain visits. However, pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil can help alleviate the pain.

4. How much do braces cost?
Each case is different, and no orthodontist can give a diagnosis over the phone. The length and type of treatment needed will determine the cost. When treatment is implemented at the appropriate time, it is often less costly than the dental care that may be needed to treat serious problems in the future.

5. How long will I be in treatment?
The length of treatment is different for each patient. Treatment times vary depending on the age of the patient, the complexity of the problem, and the patient’s cooperation.

6. What is Phase I (Early) Treatment?
The most common reason for early treatment is to correct poor eruption problems with the teeth that may cause bigger problems if left for later treatment. By controlling the eruption of the permanent teeth, surgery will be avoided. No braces or other intervention would be done except for controlling where the permanent teeth would erupt.
mother and child
mother and child
Children sometimes exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. If children are found to have a jaw discrepancy by age 8, they are candidates for early orthodontic treatment.

The goal of Phase I Treatment is to develop the appropriate jaw size in order to accommodate all permanent teeth and to relate the upper and lower jaws to each other. This can be achieved by utilizing appliances that direct the growth relationship of the upper and lower jaws.

7. Will my child still need full braces if he or she has Phase I Treatment?
Dr. Dickerson and Dr. Sharma cannot determine if a patient will need full braces following Phase I Treatment until all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. The objective of Phase I Treatment is to develop appropriate jaw size; in other words, it is orthopedic in nature, whereas the objective of Phase II Treatment is to achieve an ideal bite.

8. Is it too late to have braces if I am an adult?
More than ever before, adults are seeking orthodontic treatment. As long as you have healthy teeth and gums, you can have braces at any age.

Remember, it’s never too late to have straight teeth and a healthy smile; one-third of our patients are adults, and there has never been a better time to improve your smile.

9. Will I need to have teeth extracted?
With the recent advances in technology, extracting teeth is not the normal course of treatment. Dr. Dickerson and Dr. Sharma are focused on how you will look in 30 years, not just when your appliances come off.

10. How often will I have appointments, and can I schedule all of my appointments after school?
It really depends on what is being done at each appointment. The time between appointments can range from a few days to 6 months. While in active treatment, the appointments are usually 8 to 12 weeks apart, saving you time away from school and work.

Since most of our patients are of school age, it isn’t always possible for us to see everyone after school hours. In consideration of your schedule, we will make every attempt to keep these appointments to a minimum.

11. What if I have an emergency?
Throughout your orthodontic treatment, emergencies are rare. If you are experiencing pain or something breaks, please call our office. In most cases, these issues can be resolved over the phone.

For a scratching wire, orthodontic wax can be placed over the wire, and a loose band or bracket can generally be left in place and repaired at your next visit.

12. Can I still play my musical instrument with braces?
Yes, although there may be an initial period of adjustment.

13. Do I still see my family dentist while I have braces?
Yes. We recommend that all patients continue with routine visits to their general dentist every four to six months.

14. What happens if I lose or break my retainer?
Call our office if you lose or break your retainer so that we may schedule an appointment to replace it as soon as possible. We'll advise you of any repair or replacement fee(s) at that time. Remember, it’s important to protect the investment you’ve made in your healthy smile.

15. Can anyone use Invisalign®?
Drs. Dickerson and Sharma are Invisalign experts and can treat many cases with Invisalign that less experienced doctors cannot. We will discuss your particular case during your free examination in our office.

16. Why should I choose an orthodontist instead of a general dentist for my orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic treatment is very time-consuming and requires detailed treatment planning. An orthodontist has the extensive, specialized training and the additional two to three years of education necessary to provide patients with the best result. Orthodontics is all we do.

16. I want to be done as fast as possible. How do I do that?
Using OrthPulse for 10 minutes each day will speed up your treatment and make you teeth more comfortable at the same time. This same technology is used by physicians to decrease pain and accelerate the healing process. OrthoPulse does this to safely move your teeth fast.
mother and child

Our Commitment to Our Patients

Convenience and Fun
Orthodontics is such a positive experience and does so much to improve your life; we strive to make every aspect of your treatment as convenient and fun as it can be. Our practice is like no other because we love what we do and love having a positive impact on your life in as many ways as we can.

Because we want your visits to be as convenient as possible, we work to schedule appointments with your hectic lifestyle in mind. We have appointments as early as 7:30AM to help minimize time away from school and work. We aim to do as much at every appointment possible to keep treatment moving as efficiently as possible for you. Unlike visiting physician and other professional offices, we focus on being on time so you are not waiting Successful orthodontic treatment also takes commitment on the part of our patients, so we hold daily contests and drawings to reward motivation for all of our patients.

The Chandler and Paradise Valley offices have frozen yogurt machines for you and your family’s enjoyment! All of the offices also have massage chairs for your relaxation. We think that when patients want to visit our office, everyone benefits.

Treatment is most effective when you are fully informed of every aspect of your orthodontic care. We find that when patients understand the procedures they are to undergo, they are more able to relax, which facilitates a productive relationship and successful treatment results. We are one of the rare orthodontic offices that wants the parents and family members in the treatment area. Patients and parents are able to ask any questions they may have, as well as discuss the progress of treatment.

We are proud to be using the latest technology, and we will gladly take all the time necessary to educate you about the latest orthodontic techniques, technology, and innovations.

Your comfort is of the utmost importance. We pride ourselves on providing the most gentle treatment possible. We also use the most comfortable and effective appliances, brackets, and wires available for your individual case. Staying on the leading edge of technology is another way we commit to patient care.

We nurture a relaxing, reassuring atmosphere. If there is anything we can do to relieve your apprehensions or make you more comfortable, please do not hesitate to tell us.

What if I have questions or concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to discuss them with us. You may call 480-963-2535 or e-mail us at info@smilemoreaz.comEmergencies are rare, but we are available 24/7 for you.


What is an orthodontist?
All orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. An orthodontist is a highly trained dental specialist who has completed two to three years of training after graduating from dental school and almost always only does orthodontics. An orthodontist not only straightens teeth but also is interested in the entire face, the bite, facial profile, and oral growth. In addition to giving people a beautiful smile, orthodontists also treat TMJ dysfunction, cleft lips and palates, craniofacial anomalies, and surgical orthodontic patients.

What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the movement of teeth. It is much more than just a teenage rite of passage, although approximately seventy percent of the U.S. population could benefit from orthodontic care. The goals and benefits of orthodontic treatment are the achievement of function, harmony, and balance between the teeth, jaws, and face for a lifetime of attractive, healthy smiles. Orthodontics can also relieve the unnecessary strain and discomfort that occur when teeth do not meet properly.

Orthodontic Treatment

Pediatric Patients
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children, regardless of their orthodontic progression, receive an orthodontic evaluation by age 7.

Early examination allows orthodontists to determine the best time for orthodontic treatment, if necessary, to begin. As a service to the community, Dr. Dickerson and Dr. Sharma provide complimentary exams. Even when it appears that orthodontics is not necessary, orthodontic records taken early are used to evaluate the progress of development to detect changes. Many problems exist that are not noticeable to the family dentist, pediatric dentist, or pediatrician because they simply don’t have the equipment in their office, or they are checking for other issues with your child.

Early interceptive orthodontic therapy can minimize the need for more complex treatment in the future.

By the time children reach adolescence, their permanent teeth are either in or are erupting. Teenagers’ jaw bones are almost finished growing, making this an ideal time to correct their teeth.

People whose teeth are crooked or misaligned are often self-conscious about their appearance. By starting early, you can give your child a healthy smile, with a lifetime of benefits. Seeing our patients grow and mature into confident young adults is one of our greatest rewards.

No matter what your age, appearance is an important aspect of your life. You are never too old for orthodontic treatment. In fact, thirty percent of our patients are adults.

Many adults seek orthodontic treatment not just for the sake of their smiles but to improve the function of their bite.

Adult orthodontics is more convenient and comfortable than ever. Technological advancements have made adulthood a great time to achieve the smile you have always wanted. There is never a better time to get started.

Working With Your Dentist
Yes! By working with your dentist, we can help you achieve your ideal smile. We maintain communication with your dentist throughout your orthodontic treatment and ensure that he or she is informed about your treatment at all times. It is extremely important that you continue to visit your family dentist regularly for routine dental care.

Your New Braces

Oral Hygiene
Now that your braces are in place, and there’s more in your mouth, you’ll need to practice excellent oral hygiene. During each visit, we’ll grade your hygiene performance.
  • Use a wet toothbrush to remove food from your braces and teeth. Then brush thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste. When brushing, use the different angles we’ve shown you to clean your teeth effectively.
  • Brush in the morning and after every meal. If this is not possible, you may rinse well with water until you are able to brush following school or work.
  • Use a fluoride rinse as we have directed.
  • Flossing, too, is critical. Floss at least once a day.

  • Avoid sticky, chewy foods like caramel, taffy, and especially chewing gum.
  • Stay away from hard foods, such as hard pretzels, corn chips, and nuts.
  • When eating subs, sandwiches, and pizza crusts, take small bites, or cut into pieces.
  • Cut fruits and vegetables into small pieces.

  • If you begin to feel some tenderness, Tylenol (acetaminophen), taken according to the directions on the bottle, may help reduce the discomfort. Irritation of your cheeks can be alleviated by placing wax over the bracket or wire that is causing the tenderness. Make sure the area is dry before placing wax. Your teeth should begin to feel better 3-4 days after they get used to the adjustment. Your lips and cheeks will toughen over time.
  • If your braces come loose, but you are not in discomfort, it is not a serious emergency. Call us, even if your next appointment is the next morning. We will schedule the appropriate time to take care of you.
  • If you have a real emergency or significant discomfort, call our office at 480-963-2535, and we will see you quickly to make you more comfortable. We will then repair whatever is broken or displaced during your next regularly scheduled appointment. If you feel irritation during school, go to the nurse and ask him or her to call your parents or our office.
  • Please remember that constantly breaking brackets, bands, or arch wires will delay your treatment. You’ll need to be extra aware of what you put in your mouth. In other words: be careful and responsible!
The frequency of visits is dependent on what is being accomplished between visits and can be a few days to 6 months apart. Your treatment may take a few days to several years, depending on growth, development, and problems to be corrected. Please contact us if you have any questions by phone at 480-963-2535 or by e-mail at info@smilemoreaz.com.

Do I have to see my family dentist too?
Continue to visit your family dentist, at least every six months, for a cleaning and examination during your orthodontic treatment. Good oral hygiene is not only important for your health, but it also helps your orthodontic treatment. If you are a person that accumulates plaque quickly, you may need 3 cleanings each year instead of 2. Clean, healthy teeth and gums allow teeth to move faster, speeding up treatment.

If any problems are detected between these visits, we will notify you and your family dentist so they may be taken care of as quickly as possible.

Your Retainers

Wearing Your Retainers
Because we want to minimize relapse of your teeth following active orthodontic treatment, the corrections we’ve achieved will be held by the retainers we determine best. There are multiple ways to retain teeth.

Your retainers are fragile and should never be abused – breakage may result in an additional expense and extended wearing time! If you lose, bend, or break either of your retainers, call for an appointment immediately. Contact us at 480-963-2535 or info@smilemoreaz.com.

Do I have to wear my retainers all the time?
Wear both retainers as directed. If you have questions, feel free to call. Do not change how the retainers are worn without discussing it with the doctors first, as this may lead to movement of teeth and other complications. Although we see you less often now than when you wore braces, this retention phase is still extremely important! You’ll need to keep all office appointments to ensure that your treatment is completed successfully.

Will I be able to talk while wearing my retainer?
Your speech may be slightly affected the first week you wear your retainers, but don’t worry! All speech difficulties will diminish substantially after your mouth adjusts to them. The best way to speed up acclimation is to talk and practice.

How do I care for my retainers?
  • Retainers should be cleaned after each meal (providing an excellent opportunity to brush your teeth).
  • The best way to clean your retainer is with hand soap and a toothbrush or denture cleansing tablets.
  • Your retainer is very sensitive to heat. Rinse it in lukewarm water only and never leave it in your hot car. Heat will distort your retainer.
  • Never boil your retainer! To sterilize, soak it in mouthwash.
  • Never wrap your retainer in a napkin while eating – they tend to be forgotten and eaten by the garbage can!
  • Never put your retainer in your pocket – they’re often forgotten and broken.
  • The best place to keep your retainer is in your mouth or in the retainer case provided for you.
  • Don’t flip your retainer in your mouth with your tongue – it’s annoying to other people, can result in breakage, and will make your retainer loose.
  • Keep your retainer out of small children’s and animals’ reach – children like to play with them and animals love to eat them.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your retainers, please call our Chandler, AZ office at 480-963-2535 or e-mail us at info@smilemoreaz.com.
beautiful teeth

Your Palatal Expander

What is a palatal expander?
An expansion appliance is a device used to widen the upper arch (roof of the mouth).
We use two types of expansion appliances: a rapid palatal expander, which is not removable, and an expansion retainer, which is. The kind of expander you use depends on your age and the amount of expansion necessary.

The amount and rate of expansion are different for every patient. Dr. Dickerson and Dr. Sharma will inform you of how many times you will need to widen the expansion screw. Following the active phase of expansion, the appliance should remain in place for a while longer, until new bone generates in the expanded arch.

Why do I need to wear a palatal expander?
Widening the mouth’s palate allows your upper and lower teeth to line up properly, giving you a better bite. Additionally, just as a high palate and a narrow arch restrict your breathing passages, widening the palate, in turn, widens the air passages, enabling you to breathe more easily through the nose.

The expanding action gently separates the elastic membrane in the center of the palate. Once the palate has been expanded fully, new bone tissue fills in the space. You’ll notice that widening the arches also temporarily causes a space between your two front teeth. Do not be alarmed. The space closes again naturally.

Will my palatal expander be uncomfortable?
Although your expander may cause some initial discomfort, such as a feeling of pressure, or a tingling under the appliance or at the bridge of the nose, these symptoms are temporary. Tylenol should effectively relieve your discomfort. If it does not, call our office so that we can check your appliance carefully.

How do I use my palatal expander?
We will provide you with explicit instructions regarding the activation of your palatal expander. You must regularly activate the appliance according to the schedule and the instructions given by our staff. Do not rush or delay the activation of the appliance.

How do I care for my palatal expander?
Clean the appliance carefully each time you brush your teeth. This and mouthwash will keep the appliance free of food and prevent irritation.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your palatal expanders, please contact our Chandler, AZ office at 480-963-2535 or by e-mail at info@smilemoreaz.com

Your New Elastics

Wearing Your New Elastics
Elastics are small rubber bands used to align the teeth in the top jaw with those in the bottom jaw, often eliminating the need for extractions or headgear.

Will wearing elastics hurt?
There may be minor soreness initially from the elastics’ pressure. The more you wear them, the less discomfort you will experience. Some discomfort can be relieved by taking Tylenol according to the directions on the bottle.

What should I do if I lose my elastics or run out of them?
You may either stop by our office, and we will give you a new package, or you can contact our Chandler, AZ office at 480-963-2535 or by e-mail at info@smilemoreaz.com, and we will mail them to you.

What if I forget to wear my elastics?
Wearing elastics is like rolling a ball uphill. When the force is removed, the ball will roll back down the hill. Your teeth are positioned in the jaw by tiny elastic fibers. As your teeth move in the direction of the rubber bands, it stretches the fibers holding the teeth in their places. If the rubber band wear is stopped before the new bone has been generated to hold the teeth in their new positions, the teeth will move back to where they were, and we will have to start over. If you happen to forget to insert your elastics one day, do not double up the next day.

What should I do if I bend or break an elastic hook?
Call our Chandler, AZ office at 480-963-2535 immediately to schedule a repair appointment.

How often should i change my elastics?
Change your elastics every 12 hours so that they will not lose their pull. Remove the elastics only when you brush your teeth, and re-insert them when you are finished. As elastics get older, they lose their stretch and do not function as well. It’s very important to change them routinely, even if they are not broken.

How fast will my teeth move?
Teeth move approximately 1 mm per month with good elastic wear.

What if I don’t want to wear elastics?
There are several options other than wearing elastics. Wearing headgear, permanent metal coils, extractions, and jaw surgery are alternatives.

Where do I wear my elastics?
Watch and listen carefully to the instructions and demonstrations given by our staff or one the assistants. If you have any questions about proper insertion of your elastics, please call our Chandler, AZ office at 480-963-2535 or e-mail us at info@smilemoreaz.com.
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