Dr. Todd Christensen
Orthodontist, DMD, MSD
Dr. Christensen graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine. After finishing a general practice residency at the University of Utah Hospital, he practiced as a general dentist for three years before beginning his training as an Orthodontist at the University of Colorado. After two-and-a-half years of Orthodontic residency Dr. Christensen received a master’s degree and a certificate in Orthodontics. As a member of the ADA, American Association of Orthodontics, and a candidate for the American Board of Orthodontics, Dr. Christensen is passionate about Orthodontic care. He and his wife have four children. Outside of Orthodontic work, Dr. Christensen loves reading, golfing, and coaching little league sports.
What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a specialty branch of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Braces are appliances normally used to correct these problems.
Why is orthodontics important?
An attractive smile and improved self-image is just one of the benefits of orthodontic treatment. Without treatment, orthodontic problems can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, bone destruction, chewing and digestive difficulties, speech impairments, tooth loss and other dental injuries.
What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?
- A more attractive smile
- Reduced appearance-consciousness during critical development years
- Better function of the teeth
- Possible 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
- Aids in optimizing other dental treatment
At what age should orthodontic treatment occur?
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 more serious complications than if started later. 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, their pediatric dentist, or the child’s physician.
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
What is a malocclusion?
Malocclusion literally means bad bite. Most malocclusions are inherited, however, it is possible to acquire a bad bite from habits such as tongue thrusting and thumb sucking. The premature loss of baby teeth or the extraction of adult teeth can also cause the development of malocclusion.
What are some early warning signs of a bite problem?
Early or late loss of primary teeth; difficulty in chewing or biting; mouth breathing; finger sucking or other oral habits beyond age 5; overlapped, misplaced or blocked-out teeth; protruding teeth; biting the cheek or into the roof of the mouth; teeth that meet in an abnormal manner or do not meet at all; jaws that shift or make sounds; jaws that protrude, retrude or contribute to facial imbalance; speech difficulty
Will braces hurt?
Most patients experience some discomfort the first week after their braces are put on and immediately after their braces are tightened. Aspirin, non-aspirin pain reliever or ibuprofen can be used to ease the discomfort.
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 initial 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 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.
What can my child eat with braces?
Most foods can be enjoyed just as before your child’s braces. Hard, crunchy and sticky foods can damage braces and should be avoided.
Why do baby teeth sometimes need to be pulled?
Pulling baby teeth may be necessary to allow severely crowded permanent teeth to come in at a normal time in a normal location. If the teeth are severely crowded, some permanent teeth will either remain impacted (teeth that should have come in, but have not), or come in to an undesirable position. To allow severely crowded teeth to move on their own into much more desirable positions, sequential removal of baby teeth and permanent teeth (usually first premolars) can dramatically improve a severe crowding problem. This sequential extraction of teeth, called serial extraction, is typically followed by comprehensive orthodontic treatment after tooth eruption has improved as much as it can on its own.
What about the wisdom teeth (third molars)? should they be removed?
In about three out of four cases where teeth have not been removed during orthodontic treatment, there are good reasons to have the wisdom teeth removed, usually when a person reaches his or her mid- to late- teen years. Your orthodontist, in consultation with your pediatric dentist, can determine what is right for your child.
Will my child still be able to play sports?
Yes. It is recommended, however, that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouth guard when participating in any sporting activity. Mouth guards 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.
Why are retainers needed after orthodontic treatment?
After braces are removed, teeth can shift out of position if they are not stabilized. Retainers provide that stabilization and are designed to hold teeth in their corrected, ideal positions until the bones and gums adapt to the treatment changes. Wearing retainers exactly as instructed is the best insurance that the treatment improvements last for a lifetime.
Is orthodontic care expensive?
Orthodontic fees have not increased as fast as many other consumer products. When orthodontic treatment is implemented at the proper time, treatment is often less costly than the dental care required to treat the more serious problems that can develop years later. Financing is usually available and our office offers customized-flexible payment programs that will meet your needs. In addition, many insurance plans now include orthodontics.
How often will my child need office visits?
Once appliances are in place, routine office visits are at six-to-eight week intervals. Periodically, we may need to see you sooner.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR PARENTS (once the kids are in braces)
How long does orthodontic treatment take?
Treatment times will vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by 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 child’s teeth does not hurt. Once your child’s braces are placed and connected with the archwires he or she may feel some soreness of their teeth for one to four days. They may feel discomfort or some irritation for several days as their gums, teeth, mouth and cheeks adjust to new braces. Be prepared with soft foods and Ibuprofen or Tylenol to help alleviate the discomfort.
Can my child still participate in school activities like sports, singing, or playing an instrument?
There may be an adjustment period when your child’s playing an instrument or a contact sport. However, wearing braces won’t stop them from participating in school or other activities. Ask us about wearing a mouth guard to protect your braces.
What happens if my child needs to reschedule or miss an appointment?
Appointments are set up on a 6-8 week interval and a make-up appointment may not be available for some time. Thus, having to reschedule at the last minute can result in prolonging treatment.
How does orthodontic treatment work?
Braces apply steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. The brackets that are placed on teeth and the arch wire that connects them are the main components. When the arch wire is placed into the brackets, it tries to return to its original shape. As it does so, the arch wire applies pressure that moves teeth to their new, more ideal positions.
Will things sometimes look worse before they look better during orthodontic treatment?
Yes, the teeth will move in different directions as the teeth are straightening out. You may see a space between your child’s two front teeth that was never there before or teeth that seemed perfectly straight before the braces were placed may not seem as straight. Be patient and things will start to improve.
What is an emergency appointment?
If your child’s braces are causing extreme pain or if something breaks, you should call our office. In most cases, we can address these issues over the telephone. If you require an emergency appointment, we will set aside time for you.
During orthodontic treatment, do I continue to get my child’s teeth cleaned?
YES! It is very important to get your child’s teeth cleaned during orthodontic treatment because food and plaque are easily trapped around the braces. Patients with orthodontic appliances must be extra vigilant about receiving regular dental care. Food stuck in braces or in hard to reach areas can cause gum disease, gingivitis or cavities which can also damage your braces.
Successful orthodontic treatment is a two-way street requiring consistent, cooperative effort. To successfully complete orthodontic treatment, the patient must carefully clean his or her teeth, keep appointments as scheduled and occasionally wear rubber bands, headgear, or other appliances as prescribed by the orthodontist. Damaged appliances and unhealthy gum tissue can lengthen the treatment time and may undesirably affect the outcome of treatment. The teeth and jaws can only move toward the desired position if the patient follows home care instructions as prescribed.