Straight teeth help an individual to effectively bite, chew and speak. Straight teeth contribute to healthy teeth and gums. Properly aligned teeth and jaws may alleviate or prevent physical health problems.

It contributes to self-esteem, self-confidence and self-image - important qualities at every age. A pleasing appearance is a vital component of self-confidence. A person's self-esteem often improves as orthodontic treatment brings teeth, lips and face into proportion. In this way, orthodontic treatment can benefit social and career success, as well as improve a person’s general attitude toward life.

You may be surprised to learn that straight teeth are less prone to decay, gum disease and injury. Straight teeth collect less plaque, a colorless, sticky film composed of bacteria, food and saliva. Decay results when the bacteria in plaque feed on carbohydrates (sugar and starch) we eat or drink to produce acids that can cause cavities. Plaque can also increase the risk for periodontal (gum) disease. When teeth are properly aligned, and less plaque collects, these risks decline. And when teeth are properly aligned it is easier to keep teeth clean. As for injuries to teeth, protruding upper teeth are more likely to be broken in an accident. When repositioned and aligned with other teeth, these teeth are most probably going to be at a decreased risk for fracture.

Untreated orthodontic problems may become worse. They may lead to tooth decay, gum disease, destruction of the bone that holds teeth in place, and chewing and digestive difficulties. Orthodontic problems can cause abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, inefficient chewing function, excessive stress on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth, or misalignment of the jaw joints, sometimes leading to chronic headaches or pain in the face or neck. Treatment by an orthodontist to correct a problem early may be less costly than the restorative dental care required to treat more serious problems that can develop in later years.

Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment. Beginning treatment at this time ensures the greatest result and the least amount of time and expense. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. At this early age, orthodontic treatment may not be necessary, but Dr. Abenoja will monitor the patient so that she can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.

Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Prudent intervention guides growth and development, preventing serious problems later. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, Dr. Abenoja can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.

Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment in children are:

  • • Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth
  • • Creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth
  • • Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
  • • Preserving space for unerupted teeth
  • • Reducing the need for tooth removal
  • • Reducing treatment time with braces

Braces aren't just for kids anymore. Tooth alignment can be changed at any age if your gums and bone structure are healthy. We offer a variety of treatments that are designed for different age groups – including adults. A new smile can begin today.

Orthodontic treatment at later stages in life can dramatically improve your personal appearance and self-esteem. Improving the health of your teeth and gums is equally important. Crooked teeth and a bad bite can contribute to gum and bone loss, tooth decay, abnormal wear of the tooth enamel and surfaces, headaches and jaw joint (TMJ/TMD) pain.

Good news! The new techniques and appliances we use greatly reduce discomfort levels, decrease the frequency of visits, shorten treatment time and may allow you to choose from several options. Your options may include metal braces, translucent braces or transparent aligners that can be worn to improve mild cases of misaligned teeth.

Dr. Christine Abenoja is a certified and Preferred Provider of Invisalign®, the invisible way to straighten teeth. This particular orthodontic treatment uses a series of transparent aligners that gradually straighten misaligned teeth.

During the initial examination, we will be able to determine the best possible treatment for your individual needs. During this initial examination, we can outline the treatment plan, time of treatment expected and the approximate cost.

A large percentage of our patients are adults, and they agree that it's never too late to improve their greatest asset - their smile

Adult treatment can correct several common orthodontic problems:

  • • Crooked teeth
  • • Bad bite
  • • Jaw joint pain (TMJ/TMD)

Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen® — The Straightest Way to a Great Smile

Invisalign straightens your teeth without wires and brackets, using a series of clear, customized, removable appliances called aligners. It’s virtually undetectable, which means hardly anyone will know that you’re straightening your teeth.

The Invisalign System combines advanced 3-D computer graphics technology with 100-year-old science of orthodontics. Invisalign aligners are designed to move your teeth in small steps to the desired final position prescribed by your orthodontist. Each aligner is precisely calibrated and manufactured to fit your mouth at each stage of the treatment plan. Your first step is to visit our office to determine if Invisalign is right for you.

After sending precise treatment instructions, Invisalign uses advanced computer technology to translate these instructions in a sequence of finely calibrated aligners -- as few as 12 or as many as 48. Each aligner is worn for about two weeks and only taken out to eat, brush and floss. As you replace each aligner with the next, your teeth will begin to move gradually -- week-by-week until the final alignment prescribed is attained. Then you'll be smiling like you never have before!

To ensure the best possible results, only an orthodontist who has been trained and certified by Align Technology can diagnose and treat using Invisalign. Invisalign is not intended for children and is not appropriate for every adult. Only an orthodontist can determine if this treatment is an effective option for you. To see if Invisalign can help you achieve the smile you've always wanted, call us at (205)969-1969 to make an appointment.

What to Expect at Your First Visit:

We are always excited about meeting new patients during their first visit to our office. Your initial appointment will consist of a thorough examination and a discussion of potential treatment options. This important 30-minute visit will give us insight into your orthodontic needs.

We know your time is valuable, so to expedite treatment, we may also reserve time following the exam for diagnostic records. The records include X-rays, photos and impressions for study models and are necessary for developing the appropriate treatment plan. This additional appointment will last approximately one hour.

During the initial examination for each patient, we will address the following questions that cover the basics of orthodontic treatment.

We encourage you to ask questions as well.

  • • Is there a condition that orthodontics can address?
  • • Is treatment needed now or should treatment be delayed until appropriate growth, tooth eruption or other factors have occurred?
  • • What treatment procedures will be used to correct the problem?
  • • Do any permanent teeth need to be removed?
  • • How long will treatment take?
  • • How much will it cost?
  • • What are my payment options?

While we can often answer these general questions about treatment during the initial examination, we will address specific areas after careful analysis of the diagnostic records. We feel it is important to analyze each patient's specific needs, because in-depth planning leads to superior results and higher patient satisfaction.

We will then schedule a consultation visit to discuss treatment options, time frames and financial arrangements. We insist that our patients leave the office with a clear understanding of their specific needs, what the treatment will consist of and how long it will take. Also, we will answer any additional questions.

Please assist us by providing the following information at the time of your first visit:

  • • Any panoramic X-ray taken within the past six months.

If you have orthodontic insurance, bring your insurance card. By providing this information at the first visit, we will be able to give you an estimate of your costs. We believe that good orthodontic care begins with open communication. We promise to speak candidly with you about our diagnosis and recommendations, any alternative treatments, and any symptoms present that may require further treatment. Working together, we can achieve a true partnership, with one common goal – helping you achieve a beautiful, confident smile.

Eating these foods will loosen the braces, but you may not discover the problem until hours or even days later. Loose bands, broken wires, and detached brackets cause delays in your orthodontic treatment.

  • • ICE……NEVER. It will damage your braces.
  • • PIZZA CRUST……The hard crust can bend the wires.
  • • HARD PRETZELS……Bends wires, loosens bands, and loosens brackets.
  • • HARD ROLLS, BAGELS……Bends the wires and loosens the brackets.
  • •  DORITOS, TACOS, TOSTITOS, CHEETOS, FRITOS, AND THE LIKE……Will form a hard ball and break your braces.
  • • APPLES……Slice into bite size pieces.
  • • CORN ON THE COB……Slice corn off the cob.
  • • BEEF JERKY, SLIM JIMS……Tough as nails.
  • • LOLLIPOPS AND HARD CANDY……You may weaken your braces when you bite into them.
  • • POPCORN……The little kernels get between the gum and the band. This can be very painful.
  • • RAW CARROTS……Too hard. Slice them very thinly or avoid them.
  • • NUTS…..No nuts of any kind.
  • • CARAMEL CANDY, BUBBLE/CHEWING GUM, TAFFY……Is sticky and will pull off wires and feed the bacteria in your mouth. Plus, chewing gum repeatedly flexes the wires and breaks them -- just like you can do to a clothes hanger.
  • •PENS AND PENCILS……Favorite exam food; damages wires and brackets.

Call our office as soon as possible if you break or loosen any of your appliances. Please do not come directly to the office. By first calling us you allow us to create a time to see you properly. Even if you have a regular appointment scheduled soon, call us immediately to notify us if you need an appliance repaired.

Loose Brackets or Bands

Call our office immediately for advice if a bracket or wire is loosened. The bracket may need to be refitted as soon as possible. You may have a weekend or night-time situation that requires cutting a wire or sliding a bracket off the wire. If you need to cut a wire in case of emergency, use fingernail clippers that have been washed and sterilized in alcohol. Please call our office the next business day so we may schedule an appointment for you.

Wire Irritations

Sometimes discomfort caused by a wire on your braces can be resolved by moving the wire away from the irritated area with a cotton swab or eraser. If the wire will not move, try covering the end of it with a small piece of cotton or a small amount of wax. If the wire is painful you can cut it with nail clippers or scissors that have been washed and sterilized in alcohol. If you cannot resolve the wire irritation, call our office for an appointment.

Lost Separators

Most patients lose a separator during their treatment. Do not worry about losing a separator, but call our office to see if it needs to be replaced.

Discomfort with Orthodontic Treatment

During the first week after your braces are in place and routine adjustments are complete, you may feel some discomfort. You may take acetaminophen or other non-aspirin pain relievers while you adjust to your new braces. A warm wash cloth or heating pad may reduce the soreness in your jaws.

Wear your retainers every single night.

Take your retainers out when eating, and always put retainers in their case! (Most appliances are lost in school lunch rooms or restaurants.

  • • Clean retainers thoroughly once a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and hand soap. Use warm but not hot water. Brushing retainers removes the plaque, and eliminates odors. Efferdent® or other orthodontic appliance cleaners can be used but do not take the place of brushing.
  • • When retainers are not in your mouth they should ALWAYS be in a retainer case. Pets love to chew on them!
  • • Initially, you may find it difficult to speak. Practice speaking, reading, or singing out loud to get used to them faster.
  • • Retainers are breakable, so treat them with care. If retainers are lost or broken call us immediately.
  • • If you have any questions or concerns about your retainers, or if your retainers need adjusting, call us. Do not try to adjust them yourself.
  • • Always bring your retainers to your appointments.
  • • Retainer replacements are expensive, but with proper care they will last for years!
  • • Remove retainers when swimming.
  • • Keep retainers away from hot water, hot car dashboards, pockets, the washing machine, and napkins.

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a specialist who has completed an advanced education program following dental school, to learn the special skills required to manage tooth movement and guide facial development.

What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?

  • • A more attractive smile
  • • Reduced appearance-consciousness during critical development years
  • • Better function of the teeth
  • • Increase in self-confidence
  • • Increased ability to clean the teeth
  • • Improved force distribution and wear patterns of the teeth
  • • Better long term health of teeth and gums
  • • Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
  • • Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
  • • Aid in optimizing other dental treatment

What are some signs that braces may be needed?

  • • Upper front teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth, or are bucked
  • • Upper front teeth cover the majority of the lower teeth when biting together (deep bite)
  • • Upper front teeth are behind or inside the lower front teeth (underbite)
  • • The upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together (open bite)
  • • Crowded or overlapped teeth
  • • The center of the upper and lower teeth do not line up
  • • Finger- or thumb-sucking habits which continue after six or seven years old
  • • Difficulty chewing
  • • Teeth wearing unevenly or excessively
  • • The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting together
  • • Spaces between the teeth

At what age should orthodontic treatment occur?

Orthodontic treatment can be started at any age. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected at an early age before jaw growth has slowed. Early treatment may mean that a patient can avoid surgery and more serious complications. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child first visit an orthodontist by age seven or earlier if a problem is detected by parents, the family dentist or the child's physician.

What is Phase I and Phase II treatment?

Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment (i.e. expander or partial braces) before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Such treatment can occur between the ages of six and ten. This treatment is sometimes recommended to make more space for developing teeth, correction of crossbites, overbites, underbites, or harmful oral habits. Phase II treatment is also called comprehensive treatment, because it involves full braces when all of the permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen.

Would an adult patient benefit from orthodontics?

Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age. Everyone wants a beautiful and healthy smile. Twenty to twenty-five percent of orthodontic patients today are adults.

How does orthodontic treatment work?

Braces use steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. The brackets that are placed on your teeth and the archwire that connects them are the main components. When the archwire is placed into the brackets, it tries to return to its original shape. As it does so, it applies pressure to move your teeth to their new, more ideal positions.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by rate of growth and severity of the correction necessary. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. Maintaining good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments are important in keeping treatment time on schedule.

Do braces hurt?

The placement of bands and brackets on your teeth does not hurt. Once your braces are placed and connected with the archwires you may feel some soreness of your teeth for one to four days. Your lips and cheeks may need one to two weeks to get used to the braces on your teeth.

Will braces interfere with playing sports?

No. It is recommended, however, that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouthguard when participating in any sporting activity. Mouthguards are inexpensive, comfortable, and come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Will braces interfere with playing musical instruments?

No. However, there may be an initial period of adjustment. In addition, brace covers can be provided to prevent discomfort.

Should I see my general dentist while I have braces?

Yes, you should continue to see your general dentist every six months for cleanings and dental checkups.