3146-B Northside Drive ▪️ Key West, FL 33040 ▪️ 305-294-0081

Frequently Asked questions

What’s the difference between a Dentist and Orthodontist?

A dentist is similar to your family doctor — great for check-ups and filling cavities. An orthodontist is a specialist who has two to three years of additional education, and is an expert in straightening your teeth and choosing the treatment option that's best for you.  Although it is legal for a dentist to provide Invisalign or braces, people should research the qualifications of their doctor before starting any type of orthodontic treatment to make sure they will receive the outcome they deserve. Learn more from the AAO

What is the best age to see a orthodontist?

If you want to improve the look and feel of your smile, then any age can be a great age to see the orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first visit an orthodontist around the age of seven; however, orthodontic treatment is not exclusive to children and teens, with about one in every four orthodontic patients being over the age of 21. Whether you're considering treatment for yourself or for a child, any time is a good time to visit the orthodontist.

Why should a child have an initial orthodontist checkup?

The AAO recommends that your child get an orthodontic check-up no later than age 7. By this age, Dr. Howe can spot problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. That’s important, because some orthodontic problems are most easily corrected while the child is still growing. If these problems are found early and treated, we could eliminate the possible need for extractions or surgery in the future. Most orthodontic patients begin active treatment between ages 9 and 14.

Do I need a referral from my dentist?

While many of our patients are referred by their family dentist, equally as many of our patients take the initiative to schedule an examination or check-up themselves.

How long will I be in braces?

Treatment time obviously depends on each patient’s specific orthodontic needs. In general, treatment time lasts from 6 months to 30 months and varies based on individual treatment complexity, needs, and personal treatment goals.

Will braces hurt?

Orthodontic treatment has come a long way in recent years. New technology allows us to use lighter forces to move the teeth over a much shorter amount of time. You can expect the braces to make your teeth sore for a few days after they are placed and after each adjustment. These adjustments will make you more conscious of your teeth, but they should not be painful. This annoyance can be relieved with an over-the-counter pain reliever (use as directed). Today’s braces are smaller, more comfortable and use technology that reduces the discomfort. We use the latest in technology in order to reduce discomfort and treatment time.

What are ”phase 1” & “phase 2” treatment?

Phase I, or Interceptive Treatment, is aimed at intercepting a moderate or severe orthodontic problem early in order to reduce or eliminate it. Phase II begins when all the permanent teeth are erupted and usually lasts less than 18 months because of the major improvements accomplished during Phase I. See our page on ‘Braces for Kids’ to learn more about this type of treatment. Phase I treatment takes advantage of the early growth spurt and turns a difficult orthodontic problem into a more manageable one. This can often reduce the need for extractions or jaw surgery and allows us to deliver better long-term results and treatment options. This phase of treatment usually begins while the permanent front teeth are erupting (typically around the age of 8-9). Most Phase I patients will require a Phase II treatment in order to achieve an ideal bite.

If "Phase 1" treatment is recommended, can I just wait until my child is older?
This is not recommended. If your child needs Phase I treatment this usually means that he/she has a difficult problem that requires attention now. If no orthodontic action is taken, treatment options become limited, more difficult, and the long-term stability may be compromised. In addition, it may lead to extractions, jaw surgery and increased costs.

How do I know if my child needs orthodontic treatment?

It is usually difficult for you to determine if treatment is necessary because there are many problems that can occur even though the front teeth look straight. Also, there are some problems that look intimidating and complex which will resolve on their own. Asking your general dentist is good reference, but we are your best resource since orthodontics is all we do. Our initial exam is complimentary and we would be more than happy to see your child and make any recommendations necessary.

How much does treatment cost?

The cost of orthodontic treatment will depend on many factors, including the severity of the problem, its complexity and length of treatment. Our financial coordinator will be glad to discuss the cost of treatment and your financing options with you before treatment begins. Patients are finding that braces are more affordable today than ever.

I had braces as a teen, and now as an adult my teeth are out of place. What can I do?

If you notice an unwanted change in your smile or bite, contact us at 305-294-0081 for information. An orthodontic “tune up” may be necessary to regain proper alignment.

How long do I have to wear a retainer?

Dr. Howe will recommend how long to continue wearing your retainers, whether they are removable (the kind you put in and take out) or fixed (bonded behind your teeth). Wearing your retainers as prescribed is the best way to keep your teeth from moving after your orthodontic treatment. There are many reasons teeth may move following orthodontic treatment. Teeth are not set in concrete, they are set in bone. The bone around your teeth is continually changing (breaking down and rebuilding), and this could mean your teeth will shift after your braces are removed. By wearing your retainers, your teeth are more likely to remain where Dr. Howe  has placed them.

Do I need to see my dentist while in braces?

Yes! Regular checkups with your family dentist are important while in braces. Your family dentist will determine the intervals between cleaning appointments while you are in braces.

How can I prevent cavities or white spots on my teeth?

ALWAYS remember to brush your teeth after every meal and floss at least once a day. During your treatment, try to avoid foods with a lot of sugar (sugar increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth, causing more plaque and possibly cavities). Make sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and ask your orthodontist or family dentist if you need a fluoride rinse. This will help prevent cavities!

How do I take care of my retainer?

If you take out your retainer to eat, make sure you brush your teeth, floss, and remember to keep it safe in its container so that it does not get lost or broken. Keep your retainer clean by brushing it gently with a toothbrush and antibacterial soap. Do not put your retainer in boiling water or in the dishwasher. Brushing your retainer with toothpaste is not recommended.

Will braces interfere with my school activities like sports, playing an instrument, or singing?

Playing an instrument or a contact sport may require some adjustment when you first get your braces, but wearing braces will not stop you from participating in any of your school activities. If you play a contact sport, it is recommended that you wear a mouth guard to protect your braces or appliance.