Orthodontic FAQ

A quick guide to orthodontic treatment.

Have questions about braces or Invisalign? Check out our frequently asked questions!

General Questions

What is an orthodontic specialist?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who has received two to three years of additional training and experience. Your orthodontist is able to straighten teeth, correct misaligned jaw structure, and improve the function and look of your smile.

What’s the best age to visit the orthodontist?

Whether you're considering treatment for yourself or a child, any age is a great age to visit the orthodontist!

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first visit an orthodontist around age seven, since early interceptive treatment can prevent invasive and costly procedures later on.

However, orthodontic treatment isn’t just for children and teens—one in every five orthodontic patients is over age 21. It’s never too late!

How do I schedule my appointments?

Simply visit our Shedule a Consultation page or call our practice! Our team is happy to help schedule your next appointment at your convenience. Let us know if you are a new patient or have been referred to our practice, and we’ll give you all the information you need to get started.

Braces Basics

What are braces?

Your orthodontist places braces to improve the look and feel of your smile. Braces exert gentle pressure on your teeth to gradually shift them to their ideal position.

Are there different types of braces?

Yes! Orthodontic patients now have a variety of choices:

  • Self-ligating braces: Self-ligating braces come with traditional metal, ceramic, or clear brackets. However, they don’t require elastics. Instead, the specialized archwire is clipped into the brackets to guide the teeth into place. The clips reduce the friction and pressure being placed on the tooth. Bonus: With no elastics to replace, self-ligating braces require fewer appointments for adjustments.
  • Clear (ceramic) braces: Ceramic braces are made of clear materials that blend in with your teeth. Older teenagers and adults who prefer a more discreet aesthetic appreciate this option. Ceramic braces are larger and more brittle than their metal counterparts, so they require more attention for thorough oral hygiene and are best suited for upper front teeth.
  • Clear aligners: Clear aligners are a series of invisible, removable, and comfortable acrylic trays that straighten your teeth like braces but without the mouth irritation. Because clear aligners are removable, you can eat and drink whatever you want during treatment. Plus brushing and flossing are a cinch.
  • Traditional metal braces: This tried-and-true treatment is an efficient and cost-effective solution for many of our patients.
How long will I have to wear my braces?

Every smile responds differently to treatment, so treatment time depends on the individual patient. Patients typically wear their braces for about 22 months, but treatment times range between 6 and 30 months.

Do braces hurt?

When you first get your braces, you may notice that your teeth, gums, tongue, and cheeks feel a little tender or sore for a couple of weeks while they adjust. This is perfectly normal and we promise your mouth will not be sore forever! We’ll give you some wax that you can put over the braces to lessen irritation.

To relieve the pain, we recommend dissolving one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of lukewarm water. Swish and gargle this solution in your mouth for a couple of minutes then spit out.

If the pain is more severe and isn’t relieved by rinsing, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. 

What other appliances might go with my braces to make my treatment most effective?

What other appliances might go with my braces to make my treatment most effective?

For successful treatment, wear all the appliances Dr. Zwickel prescribes along with your braces. Here are a few examples:

  • Elastics (rubber bands): Wearing elastics as instructed improves the fit of your upper and lower teeth.
  • Headgear: Headgear helps treat patients with an overbite (upper jaw forward of the lower jaw) or an underbite (lower jaw forward of the upper jaw). Headgear gently pulls on your teeth to restrict improper growth of your teeth and jaw.
  • Separators or spacers: Separators are little rubber doughnuts that are placed between your teeth, pushing them apart to make room for orthodontic bands. The separators will be removed before we place the bands. Remember—separators don’t mix with sticky foods, toothpicks, or floss.
  • Retainers: After your teeth have been straightened, retainers hold your teeth in their new, correct positions. Crucial for protecting your hard-earned smile, retainers may be removable or fixed. Dr. Zwickel will show you how to care for and how long to wear your retainer. 


Life With Braces

How can I best take care of my teeth while wearing braces?
  • Brush your teeth at least three times a day—after every meal—to remove any food that may be caught between the braces. Brushing regularly keeps your teeth, gums, and mouth clean and healthy.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste and ask Dr. Zwickel or family dentist if you need a fluoride rinse. This will help prevent cavities!
  • Floss daily to clean in between your braces and between teeth where your brush can’t reach. Dr. Zwickel will show you how to properly brush and floss once your braces are placed.
  • Avoid sugary foods, which increase the amount of bacteria that grow in your mouth, causing more plaque and possibly cavities.


If I have braces, do I still need dental checkups every 6 months?

Absolutely! It’s critical that orthodontic patients visit their dentist regularly. When you wear braces, food gets caught in places that your toothbrush can't reach. Bacteria build up, leading to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Your dentist collaborates with Dr. Zwickel to make sure your teeth stay clean and healthy during your treatment.

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

Great news, athletes—you can still play sports while undergoing orthodontic treatment!  If you play a contact sport, wear a mouthguard to protect your braces or appliance. We’re happy to help you find the best mouthguard for you.

If something hits your face, immediately check your mouth and appliance for damage. If you notice any loose teeth or appliance damage, call us right away. 

Musicians who play brass woodwinds or who sing may feel awkward when you first get your braces, but you’ll soon adjust and have no problem participating keeping up with your practice and performances. 

Do braces affect what I can eat?

Yes, there’s no getting around it. Some foods can damage your new appliances and prolong treatment. Just remember, the changes are only temporary and you’ll be back to noshing on your favorite snacks in no time.

Foods that are a no:

  • Chewy foods—bagels, licorice
  • Crunchy foods—popcorn, chips, ice
  • Sticky foods—caramel, taffy, chewing gum, gummies
  • Hard foods—nuts, hard candies, ice
  • Bite-into foods—corn on the cob, apples, carrots, ribs


Foods that are a go:

  • Dairy—soft cheese, pudding, milk-based drinks
  • Breads—soft tortillas, pancakes, muffins (hold the nuts)
  • Grains—pasta, soft-cooked rice
  • Meats/poultry—chicken, meatballs, lunch meats
  • Seafood—tuna, salmon, crab cakes
  • Veggies—mashed potatoes, steamed spinach, beans
  • Fruits—applesauce, bananas, berries
  • Treats—ice cream, milkshakes, Jell-O, cake
What are common issues patients with braces experience?

What are common issues patients with braces experience?

  • Loose teeth: Don't worry if your teeth begin feeling a little loose, this is normal! Your braces must first loosen your teeth to move them into the right position. Once repositioned, your teeth will tighten right up.
  • Loose wires and bands: If any wires or bands on your braces come loose, call us as soon as possible for a checkup and repair. If any piece of your appliance comes off, save it and bring it with you.


While you’re waiting to see Dr. Zwickel, you can push a loose wire back into place by using the back of a spoon or pencil eraser. Put wax or a wet cotton ball over a broken wire that’s causing irritation to your lips or cheeks.

The Ins and Outs of Invisalign

What is the Invisalign system, how does Invisalign work?

The Invisalign system is the virtually invisible way to straighten your teeth and achieve the smile you’ve always wanted.

  1. Invisalign treatment uses advanced 3D computer imaging technology to create a digital model of your teeth and mouth and depict your complete treatment plan from beginning to end.
  2. A series of clear aligners are custom-made for your teeth—and your teeth only—to move them little by little. Each set of aligners is worn for about two weeks before advancing to the next in the series until the final position of your teeth is achieved.
What are the primary benefits of Invisalign treatment?

Invisalign treatment fits any lifestyle—no need to change a thing. Continue your day-to-day activities while straightening your teeth.

    • Invisible: Be yourself. Since Invisalign aligners are clear, you don’t have to hide your smile while going through treatment—you’re camera-ready at any moment. You can even occasionally remove your Invisalign aligners to enjoy a special night out.
    • Easy eating: Hungry? No problem. Take out your aligners to eat or drink whatever you want.
    • Hygiene friendly: You can remove your Invisalign aligners to brush and floss regularly. It’s a snap to keep your breath fresh and your teeth and gums healthy.
  • Convenient: Most visits are in-and-out, with a quick progress check once every six weeks. You’ll spend less time in the doctor’s chair and more time out doing the things you love.
  • Comfortable: Gone is the mouth irritation from metal brackets and wires—Invisalign clear aligners are slim and smooth.
  • Reassuring: Invisalign treatment technology creates a digital rendering of your treatment from start to finish, so you get to see your new smile before you even begin.


How many patients choose Invisalign treatment?

More than 5,000,000 patients worldwide—and counting—have been treated with Invisalign aligners. Schedule a consultation with us today and discover if Invisalign could change your future.


How Long Do Retainers Last?

Retainers are breakable, but with proper care they will last for years. If your retainer gets lost or broken, call us immediately. Don’t try to adjust it yourself. 

How do I take care of my retainer

Remember the 3 C's of retainer care:

    • Consistent: Wear your retainer at all times, until Dr. Zwickel instructs otherwise.
    • Clean: Using warm water, brush your retainer thoroughly once a day with a toothbrush and toothpaste to remove food particles, plaque, and odors. You can soak it in a denture cleaner as instructed by Dr. Zwickel, but it still needs daily brushing. No boiling water or dishwasher!
    • Cased: When your retainer is not in your mouth (like during a meal), it should ALWAYS be in its case. Most appliances are lost in school lunchrooms or restaurants, and pets love them as chew toys.

Always bring your retainer to your appointments and don’t hesitate to contact us with your retainer questions.

Get in Touch!

(850) 244-3880

Fort Walton Beach, FL
824 Eglin Parkway NE

(850) 244-3880

DeFuniak Springs, FL
746 Baldwin Ave.

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