Braces FAQ

Prior to getting braces for yourself or your child, there are a number of questions you might have or terms that you might not be familiar with. We have put together this list to help you make the best decision!

When is the best time to begin orthodontics?

Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there IS an optimal time period to begin treatment. 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 vigilant examination can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.

What are the benefits of early orthodontic evaluation?

Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Dr. Piper can monitor growth and development, preventing serious problems later.

Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for screening?

By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding or gummy smiles. Timely screening takes advantage of the patient’s own growth and saves money in the long run.

What are the advantages of interceptive treatment?

Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment 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

Are you a candidate for orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontics is not merely for improving the aesthetics of the smile; orthodontic treatment improves bad bites (malocclusions). Malocclusions occur as a result of tooth or jaw misalignment. Malocclusions affect the way you smile, chew, clean your teeth or feel about your smile.

Why should malocclusions be treated?

According to studies by the American Association of Orthodontists, untreated malocclusions can result in a variety of problems:
Crowded teeth are more difficult to properly brush and floss, which may contribute to tooth decay
and/or gum disease.
Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental chipping.
Crossbites can result in unfavorable growth and uneven tooth wear.
Openbites can result in tongue-thrusting habits and speech impediments.
Ultimately, orthodontics does more than make a pretty smile – it creates a healthier self.

Orthodontic Therapy with Extractions

Sometimes braces for kids work better in conjunction with extraction (removal of certain teeth). If the dental malocclusion is significant and most of the patient’s growth has taken place, orthodontic therapy with the extraction of permanent teeth may be recommended.

Orthodontic Therapy with Orthognathic Surgery

Corrective jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery) treats and corrects abnormalities of the facial bones, specifically the jaws and the teeth. Often, these abnormalities cause difficulty associated with chewing, talking, sleeping and other routine activities. Orthognathic surgery corrects these problems and, in conjunction with orthodontic treatment, will improve the overall appearance of the facial profile.
In an orthognathic case, Dr. Piper works closely with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who uses state-of-the-art materials as titanium plates and miniature screws to provide stability, strength and predictability to your treatment. These advances in technology, procedures and equipment reduce post-surgical recovery time, thus allowing patients to return to their normal routines soon after the surgery.
If orthodontic treatment alone cannot correct the problem, surgery may be necessary. With the latest advances in orthodontics, this is sometimes the case. We will determine if orthognathic surgery is the correct treatment option for you.

Two Phase Treatment

The two-phase technique is used to address dental and skeletal discrepancies in two treatment periods, each about 12 months in duration. This approach is particularly effective in young children when introduced in the elementary school years. Dr. Piper resumes their treatment in adolescence and personally guides their case to a permanent result.


Whether Dr. Piper provides braces for your kids or braces for adults, retention is the final stage of your treatment. The retention phase lasts for a minimum of 12 months. Your final orthodontic result depends on your retainers, so follow through with the hard work you’ve put in so far. Remember to remove your retainer before brushing, and brush your retainer before placing it back in your mouth.

Types of Braces

Movement of teeth may be performed with a number of different “appliances.”  Metal braces, the most commonly used type of bracket (or appliance), are attached to the teeth with a sealant-like adhesive, and provides the most efficient tooth movement.


Ceramic brackets, also attached to the teeth, are far less visible and are efficient as well, but usually are more expensive.


Lingual braces are attached to the “inside” of the teeth.  Moving teeth with this type of appliance generally takes longer and costs more; therefore, this appliances is not as efficient as metal or ceramic brackets.


Clear aligners
And finally, aligners (appliances such as ClearCorrect) are removable, clear, retainer-like appliances which move teeth in small increments, but are incapable of providing optimum movement in difficult orthodontic cases.  Aligners are used to treat minor orthodontic problems effectively, but cannot be used for complex orthodontic problems.

Parts of Braces

Anything your orthodontist attaches to your teeth which moves your teeth or changes the shape of your jaw.


The metal wire that acts as a track to guide your teeth along as they move. It is changed periodically throughout treatment as your teeth move to their new positions.


A metal ring that is cemented to your tooth and goes completely around your tooth. Bands provide a way to attach brackets to your teeth.


The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your appliances in place.


A metal or ceramic part cemented (“bonded”) to your tooth that holds your archwire in place.


Elastic (Rubber Band)
A small rubber band that is hooked between different points on your appliance to provide pressure to move your teeth to their new position.


Elastic Tie
The rubber band that fits around your bracket to hold the archwire in place. “O’s” come in a variety of colors.


A thin wire that holds your archwire into your bracket.
A device that protects your mouth from injury when you participate in sports or rigorous activities.


Palatal Expander
A device that makes your upper jaw wider.


An appliance that is worn after your braces are removed, the retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth to hold them in place. Some retainers are removable and others are bonded to the tongue-side of several teeth.


Separator (or Spacer)
A small rubber ring that creates space between your teeth before the bands are attached.


Tie Wire
A fine wire that is twisted around your bracket to hold the archwire in place.


Wax is used to stop your braces from irritating your lips.

Both locations, Cordova and Midtown Memphis, are within easy reach of Downtown, East Memphis, Germantown, Collierville and Eads.

Orthodontic Procedures

The process of fitting and cementing orthodontic bands and brackets to your teeth.


The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using special orthodontic cement.


Cephalometic X-ray
An x-ray of your head which shows the relative positions and growth of the face, jaws and teeth.


An alternative to traditional braces, ClearCorrect is a system of aligners to do minor tooth movement. Custom-molded, clear aligners can correct some, but not all, orthodontic conditions.


A meeting with your orthodontist to discuss a treatment plan.


The process of removing cemented orthodontic bands from your teeth.


The process of removing cemented orthodontic brackets from your teeth.


The process of making a model of your teeth by biting into a soft material that hardens into a mold of your teeth. Your orthodontist will use these impressions to prepare your treatment plan.


The process of attaching an archwire to the brackets on your teeth.


Panoramic X-ray
An x-ray that rotates around your head to take pictures of your teeth, jaw and other facial areas.