What to Expect When You Get Braces (Besides a Beautiful Smile)

when you get braces

Orthodontic care is a fun and exciting adventure that has an awesome reward at the end – your new SMILE!  However, some people feel a little nervous because of the unknowns and because they are not 100% sure of the process.  In an effort to take the stress out of this new and exciting situation, allow us to walk you through what you can expect when you get braces.

What to Expect During Your First Orthodontist Visit

Your first visit will be information gathering in the form of a smile evaluation, X-rays and digital models.  We will discuss your concerns and, if orthodontic care is indicated, we will review your various options in order to correct those concerns.  The next step will be placing the actual braces using a light-sensitive adhesive. This will usually take about 30-60 minutes. This procedure is very technique sensitive and placement of the braces needs to be very precise to ensure you have the best outcome.  The precision placement of your brackets will determine the final position and design of your smile.

Below is a video link and a description of how we place your braces:


  • Begin by thoroughly cleaning the outside surfaces of the teeth.  This allows the teeth to act more like Velcro instead of glass when bonding the braces.
  • The teeth are dried and the glue (adhesive) is placed on the bracket before it is positioned on your tooth.  A bright blue light is used to set the adhesive and turn it from a paste to a solid material.
  • Lastly, we place a protective coating on your teeth before it is time to place your wire on.

This process should not cause any pain, however, a small number of people experience mild sensitivity during the drying process.  Many of the materials that are used to have a bitter flavor (similar to biting into a citrus peel) but are safe to use in the mouth.  We take great care to prevent you from tasting the materials so hopefully, you will not have to experience this firsthand.


Bringing a pair of headphones is a good idea if noises at the dental office bother you!

Take some Ibuprofen or Tylenol before you come to your appointment.  Most people will experience a little soreness and the medicine works better by taking it beforehand!

The last step of your orthodontic visit is the placement of the wires and ties. You will be able to select the color of the ties that you would like and you will be able to change these colors at each visit.

What to Expect After Your Braces Have Been Put On

Wearing braces will be a completely new experience for you. Everything from how you talk and eat to how you brush and floss will be different when you have braces.  There is usually a 3-4 day adjustment period for most people to begin to feel comfortable, but they are usually back to 100% within 2 weeks!

To help you fully prepare for what it is like when you have braces, here is a look at a few things you can expect to occur in the months after your first orthodontic appointment:

  • Wearing braces is a time commitment and most treatments are 12-24 months.  Keep in mind that clean teeth move better than dirty teeth and that a broken bracket will add about 4-6 weeks to your orthodontic care.
  • You will have adjustment appointments every 5-10 weeks. This range depends on the movements that we have prescribed and how long it will take to accomplish them.
  • The first 7-14 days you may experience some soreness or raw areas.  Eat softer foods, take some medicine and use WAX. These strategies will help a ton. Remember: you don’t get extra credit for being the tough guy and your experience will be so much better if you address symptoms early!
  • You will have to work harder to keep your teeth clean, but it is more important now than ever!  Your teeth are at a higher risk of getting cavities if you don’t keep them clean during orthodontic care.  In the beginning, be prepared to spend 4-6 minutes each time you brush to fully clean your teeth. We will monitor your cleaning at each appointment and are here to help give tips if you are experiencing a problem area.
  • We will ask that you limit some foods from your diet during your orthodontic care. Hard foods will increase the chance of breaking a bracket, and sticky foods will likely untwist or untie a wire that will cause an uncomfortable pokey wire. Try not to drink sugary drinks unless it is during a meal time.
  • Braces are not permanent and are designed to come off safely once your new smile is perfect!  We work very hard to minimize any chance that a bracket comes off, but it is not uncommon to have 1 or 2 come loose during your entire treatment. If this does occur, call or text our office and we will replace the bracket.  Care does need to be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen regularly as this will greatly increase your time in braces!
  • You will begin to see great improvements very quickly.  Aligning your teeth is the first stage of your orthodontic care and can be the most exciting!  Go ahead and get ready to step up your selfie game!

Are you interested in a better and more confident smile? Contact our office (Strickland Orthodontics) to schedule complimentary Smile Evaluation. We would be honored to be able to explore orthodontic treatment options with you.

Interested in Invisalign? Here is what you need to know!

We have been using clear aligners like Invisalign in our practice for over 15 years and have become leading experts at using clear aligners to help patients achieve a beautiful smile.  Invisalign has many advantages over traditional orthodontic appliances but still does require some commitment to ensure you achieve your very best SMILE! Invisalign can correct tooth alignment and your bite quickly, effectively, and without the unsightly and potentially uncomfortable wires and brackets.  We do this by prescribing incremental movements in each aligner. Aligners are changed out every week or so.

While Invisalign sounds like the perfect system to align your teeth and give you a perfect smile, there are a few things you should know to help ensure you have the very best experience and outcome.  Every individual is different when it comes to orthodontic care; the treatment that works for one person may not work for another. It is important that you explore your different treatment options to help ensure you select the best treatment option to get your perfect smile!

The following are some aspects of aligner care that you should consider in order to help determine what method of care is right for you:

How busy is your schedule?

We understand that everyone’s time is extremely valuable and something that we could always use more of, but some patients will have a much more difficult time finding opportunities to schedule appointments due to work or family requirements.  We will usually make orthodontic adjustments for our patients in braces every 5-9 weeks and we will schedule to see our patients in aligners every 8-16 weeks. In our office, orthodontic care with aligners will typically finish in 30% less time and require 40% fewer appointments.   There is also a significantly smaller chance of needing to need to come in for any sort of unscheduled visit.

What are your specific orthodontic treatment needs and main concerns?

Everyone’s orthodontic care is unique and will have different challenges and goals.  Proper diagnosis and planning with your orthodontist will help determine your best treatment plan and how to achieve these goals.  Invisalign (or any Clear Aligner Therapy) is simply a tool to allow your orthodontist the ability to move your teeth to achieve a more healthy and attractive smile!  Ultimately, the success of this “tool” depends on the skill and responsibility of the expert using it. Think of it this way: the beautiful sound which emanates from a baby grand piano is dependent on the diligence and skill of the pianist. In the same way, the successful outcome of your orthodontic care with clear aligners depends on the diligence and skill of the orthodontist who designs the treatment plan!

Finding an orthodontist that is honest, skilled and willing to customize your treatment for you is very important.  In our practice, we have been using clear aligners for 15+ years and are now able to offer clear aligners as an option to about 85% of our patients.  Do your research before committing and with any procedure, your provider should be able to show you before and after photos of similar treatments that they have designed.

Are you concerned with brushing and keeping your teeth clean?

Maintaining proper oral hygiene during your orthodontic care is probably one of the most important aspects of your care that will have the biggest effect on how positive your experience is, both during your care and once your treatment is completed.  Many studies have shown that clear aligners offer a much lower risk of tooth or gum damage during your care. This is due to the ease of cleaning your teeth. You will need to brush and floss your teeth just as you do now! This is especially important to consider with adolescents since there is a greatly reduced risk for white spots after orthodontic care using aligners.  With all of our patients, we provide extra products to help protect the teeth, and we educate our patients on properly maintaining their healthy smile! Any white spots and cavities are 100% preventable, but you have to make sure you are keeping your teeth clean!


How bad will my teeth hurt?

Hopefully not at all!  Discomfort during orthodontic care is yet again a very individual experience.  Some people have very sensitive teeth but most never have any real discomfort. With modern materials and improved understanding of the biology of moving teeth, all orthodontic care has lower force levels than in the past.  This greatly reduces the amount of discomfort people will experience. Invisalign has been shown to have lower force levels and less of a chance for something to poke or rub you, thus Invisalign will usually cause less discomfort.

Aligners are also a great option for patients that are very active or play a contact sport.  If you are hit in the mouth and are not wearing a mouthguard, traditional braces can cause a lot of damage to your lips and cheeks.  Aligners offer a little bit of protection and are less likely to cut you in case of an accident.

If I select Invisalign, what do I have to do?

While there are tons of advantages of clear aligners, you as the patient have more responsibility and it takes a little more daily effort.  You will need to wear your aligners 22+ hours each day and will also be given various instructions to monitor specific tooth movement. You are much more of an active participant during your treatment and have more responsibility with Invisalign as compared to braces.  The better you wear the aligners and follow instructions, the better your teeth will track and the aligners will always fit better and be more comfortable.

Explore Orthodontic Treatment Options with Your Orthodontist

Making the decision to improve your smile is a big one and we want to ensure you have the best SMILE and EXPERIENCE along the way.  Everyone’s orthodontic care will be unique and will have different goals and challenges. Discussing your desires, concerns, and lifestyle with us will allow us to help determine what treatment option will be best to use in order to help you achieve your new smile.  Our goal is to provide you with the best information, customized for you, to allow you to achieve your best smile.

If you or anyone you know is interested in improving their smile and might be interested in using aligners, Strickland Orthodontics offers a free complimentary consultation. During your free consultation, we will explore various orthodontic treatment options that will help you achieve a beautiful, healthy smile. We will gladly answer any questions you may have about traditional braces, Invisalign, or other orthodontic treatment options.

Call our office today to schedule your free complimentary consultation. We look forward to helping you improve your smile!

What is an Orthodontist aka SMILE Saver?

what is an orthodontist

You may have heard of orthodontics, but if you are like many people, you may know little about orthodontists and what we do. Here is a bit of information to help you better understand the role of an orthodontist and what we do!

What Is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dental professional who specializes in the correction of misaligned jaws and teeth. The full name of our specialty is “Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics,” and helps describe that we not only focus on how the teeth fit together but also evaluate how your teeth, jaws and facial balance all fit together in harmony! Although orthodontists and dentists both treat the teeth, the services provided by a general dentist are usually broader. A dentist offers restorative and preventive care to promote the health of the teeth and gums. An orthodontist focuses more specifically on the dental alignment and fit of the teeth.
All dentists must successfully complete dental school. However, an orthodontist must have additional education and training. All orthodontists are dentists first and then complete an additional 2-3 year post-doctorate residency program beyond dental school. The specialized training consists of thousands of hours focusing on preventing, diagnosing, and correcting growth and bite problems. While a general dentist can provide all the services an orthodontist can provide, aligning teeth is the service we provide every day.

Image from: American Association of Orthodontists

Why is an Orthodontist the most qualified to provide orthodontic care?

We know that orthodontic care is a big decision and that people have many different options when selecting care from DIY mail order aligners to Board Certified Orthodontists. While all options have advantages and everyone’s situation are different, Orthodontists are incredible experts at moving teeth and knowing how people change and grow as they get older. And we are able to do this very predictably and with the help of technology we are incredibly efficient.

An orthodontist commits an incredible amount of time, energy, and resources to be able to provide excellent care and because of our expertise and experience of aligning teeth every day we are able to diagnose and correct problems with ease.

To achieve best results, your orthodontist and dentist will work closely together to ensure your teeth stay healthy during your care. This gives you the best chance to have a BEAUTIFUL and HEALTHY SMILE!

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

An orthodontist helps correct the positioning of teeth and jaws that are out of proper alignment, appear crooked, or impair the bite. But the proper diagnosis of a problem is the most important part of our job! Here are a few issues that an orthodontist can treat:


Crowding is a relatively common alignment issue. It often occurs when there is too little room in the oral cavity to accommodate the number/size of teeth that you have.

An orthodontist can create space by moving teeth, reshaping teeth or even removing teeth if needed in severe cases. The correction of crowded teeth is important because they are more difficult to clean. Poor cleaning can lead to more cavities or bone loss!

Anteroposterior Bite Problems

Anteroposterior bite problems occur when the upper or lower teeth are positioned behind or in front of the matching teeth of the opposing arch. When the lower teeth are located behind the upper teeth, the condition is considered excess overjet. Likewise, when the upper teeth are behind the lower teeth, an underbite is present.

Irregularly Spaced or Aligned Teeth

Even though the teeth may not be crowded, they may still be misaligned. Teeth that are irregularly spaced may be aligned to improve their aesthetic appeal. The treatment can make the teeth appear more uniform. Much of the final smile design will also incorporate some esthetic reshaping of the teeth to help establish a more appealing and uniform shape to the teeth and smile!

What Types of Applications Do Orthodontists Use to Properly Align the Jaws and Teeth?

Before beginning an orthodontic treatment, we assess the health of your teeth and jaws and how they are functioning together. X-rays, photographs, and digital models may be obtained to help diagnosis and plan your best treatment. Based on our findings and your desires, we will suggest several types of treatment options. Here are a few available options:


Braces use brackets, an archwire, and elastic ligatures to straighten the teeth. The brackets are bonded to the teeth, and the archwire is attached to the brackets using the elastic bands. As the archwire is adjusted, aligning force is applied to the teeth, moving them into their proper position. The wires are changed or adjusted at your appointments, which helps ensure your teeth continue to straighten.

Braces may be made of multiple materials, such as titanium, gold, and ceramic. In addition, the brackets may be applied to the front of the teeth or in the case of lingual braces, to the side of the teeth that is next to the tongue. Lingual braces are much more esthetic but tend to take longer to get used to.

Plastic Aligners

Plastic aligners may also be used to straighten the teeth. The aligners are thermoplastic trays that are created from a digital scan of your mouth. Multiple sets of aligners are used in a specified order to ensure that the teeth are progressively aligned over time. Aligners are nice because they are removable and very esthetic. Invisalign is the most popular type of aligner system that is currently available but there are many other companies that are developing similar products.

Rapid Palatal Expanders (AKA RPE or Expanders)

RPE’s are called many different things but all are designed to accomplish the same goal. The upper jaw is actually formed from two separate bones and the Expander is designed to move these two bones apart before they grow into one bone. This allows us to develop a larger upper jaw when your lower jaw is smaller than your upper jaw.

Orthodontic Retainers

After the teeth have been properly aligned, we will review all the different type of retainers and pick the best one for you! A retainer may be used to prevent the teeth from returning to their former positions.

For more information about orthodontists and the services that we offer, contact our office to schedule an appointment!

Accelerated Orthodontic Treatment Options

The last thing you want to do once you have made the decision to improve your smile is to have to wait months or even years. Unfortunately, that is exactly what will happen when you get traditional braces.

Every individual’s situation is different, but some orthodontic treatments can take 2+ years before you can enjoy your new smile. That is a long time to wait but we have to give the body the needed time to allow the process that occurs to allow teeth to move. Luckily, technology has improved and we have options that will increase the biological process that occurs and will decrease the number of months you have to wait until you can enjoy your new smile.

What is Accelerated Orthodontics?

Accelerated orthodontics is a term that is used to describe orthodontic treatment that is completed in a timeframe that is faster than traditional braces or even Invisalign. While the treatment and orthodontic appliances are the same, an adjunctive procedure or device is used that will effectively increase the activity of the cells around your teeth. These techniques can increase the rate of tooth movement by 25%-50% and allow the teeth to be healthier after movement! There are two main techniques that are commonly used today to achieve this goal and depending on your needs, one or both might be good options for you to achieve a beautiful and healthy smile in less time!

How can Accelerated Orthodontics Decrease Treatment Time?

Orthodontic treatment times are sped up with accelerated orthodontics thanks to advances in technology and a better understanding of the biology that is involved in tooth movement. Traditional braces and Invisalign treatments rely upon your orthodontist gently pushing and guiding your teeth back into proper position. The dissolving of bone and replacing of bone is how your body shifts teeth and this can take time. The same process happens with Accelerated Orthodontics, but just at a higher speed.

This image shows the biological process that takes place when are moving teeth and this process can be increased with the different procedures and devices that are used in Accelerated Orthodontics.

While Accelerated Orthodontics does have many advantages it is not a great option for everyone. We suggest using this method when there is a need or benefit to decrease total treatment time or when very difficult movements that are needed. Any accelerated orthodontics technique can be used during braces or aligner treatment. The techniques are different and stimulate tooth movement differently and we help select which method will be best for each patient.

When you choose accelerated orthodontics, advanced dental technology is used to speed up the process of moving your teeth. Depending upon the type of accelerated orthodontic treatment you choose to undergo, your orthodontist will use a device that administers tiny vibrations that help move your teeth or a device that stimulates the bone around your teeth and makes it easier to move.

There are currently two different types of treatment that are classified as accelerated orthodontics: Vibrations and Micro-Osteoperforations. Depending upon the type of accelerated orthodontic treatment that is selected, we will use a device that administers tiny vibrations that help move your teeth or a device that stimulates the bone around your teeth and makes it easier to move. They both speed up treatment time, but they do so in different ways.

Vibration Devices?

There are two main vibrations devices that are used and they are mostly used with aligner treatments. These devices use vibrations to help increase the cellular activity around the teeth and they also increase the quality of the aligner fit! By doing this, the aligners fit better and the teeth track better – Both things allow quicker aligner changes and an overall shorter treatment time.
The device is a small handheld appliance that fits similar to a mouthguard that is used 5-10minutes each day. Using these devices will have an increase in the rate of tooth movement and a decrease in discomfort during treatment.

What is Micro-Osteoperforations?

Micro-Osteoperforations are small dimples that are placed in the bond around the teeth. These small areas of trauma stimulate the cellular process that allows tooth movement. We have been using this understanding of biology to increase the rate of tooth movement for over 25years but it is just recently that we have a technique to achieve the desired acceleratory effect without having an extensive surgery. Propel is the accelerated FDA-approved orthodontic treatment that is used and we are able to do this procedure with just topical anesthesia – so we don’t even have to give a shot! Unlike the vibration devices, Propel is just as easy to use with both traditional braces and Invisalign technology.

The way Propel works is by using advanced technology to stimulate the bone that surrounds your teeth. When the bone is stimulated it becomes softer and easier to move. Since the bone is easy to move, your braces or Invisalign can shift and move your teeth into proper alignment faster than if you did nothing.

The treatment is fairly straightforward. You will arrive at our office and we will use a gel that will numb your gums to ensure you are comfortable. We will then use a device that administers micro-perforations which will soften the bone around specific teeth and help accelerate your orthodontic treatment. The appointment will usually be about 30-45 minutes and the accelerated effects will last 12 weeks to longer than 6 months!

If you want to learn more about accelerated orthodontics and to see if you can get the smile you have always wanted in less time, call Strickland Orthodontics to schedule an appointment. We will gladly help you explore whether or not accelerated orthodontics can help you quickly get a straighter smile.

Retainer Care & Wear Instructions

retainer care

Retainers are very effective tools for maintaining that beautiful and healthy smile!  As you get older, many things in your body change and your teeth are no different but the proper care and use of retainers will help ensure your teeth are always looking great! The following tips on retainer care and wear can help you use your retainer in the most effective way possible.

Bonded or Fixed Retainers

This style of retainer is glued onto your teeth and therefore you don’t actually have to remember to wear it to ensure it is working but this style does take extra effort in keeping them clean!  You will need to take extra care and time while cleaning around and underneath the retainer to ensure plaque and calculus doesn’t build up!

Removable Clear or Hawley Style of retainers

These are the other styles of orthodontic retainers that you are able to take in and out on your own.  Removable retainers will need to be worn 20-22 hours for a minimum of 2 weeks (your individual treatment might require longer) and then 12 hours per day indefinitely.  If retainers are not worn properly, there is a chance you will allow your teeth to move slightly.   How fast your teeth move if you are not wearing the retainers properly varies greatly from person to person and some people do have to wear retainers more than others!  Just remember that proper retainer is the best way to protect your investment of a beautiful smile!

Don’t Wear Your Retainer While Eating

Your retainers fit your mouth so well because they are custom made just for you. This may lead you to almost forget you have them on and you may even leave it in while you’re eating. However, you should never wear your retainer while you eat due to the risk of trapped bacteria.  It is ok to drink NON SUGAR fluids with retainers but best to remove if you are eating any type of food. Tiny particles of food can get lodged in crevices between the teeth and the gums easily, and the retainer can trap them in place. This allows harmful bacteria to cause serious tooth decay over time. The answer is simple, though: Simply remove your retainer prior to each meal or snack.  And after the first two weeks, wearing the retainers between dinner and breakfast is usually close to 12 hours! Don’t forget to brush and floss your teeth before you put the retainer back in place!

Clean Your Retainer Every Day

These are also good tips for cleaning your Invisalign trays!

Your retainer should be kept clean because it’s almost always touching your teeth and gums.  And it keeps it from smelling and tasting bad!  Cleaning your retainer doesn’t need to be complicated: You can use a soft bristle toothbrush and some mild soap and water, and then rinse it off thoroughly. Your goal it to make sure all the saliva is removed so they will dry and be clean and fresh when you wear them next.  DO NOT use any bleach or alcohol solutions to clean retainers and try to avoid temperature extremes like boiling water, microwave or dishwasher.  Also use caution with denture cleaners as they are specifically designed for dentures and some can cause damage to retainers. Here are some tips incase they need a little extra clean:

Light Yellow or Whitish Crusties:

So you have tried to clean them but you just cannot get the little white “barnacle” looking crusties off of the aligners or retainers.  The key is to use a little distilled white vinegar.   Get a bowl of warm NOT HOT water and add distilled white vinegar to a 50:50 solution.  Let the retainers or aligners soak for 15-30 minutes and then use a toothbrush to clean them with the solution.  You may need to repeat for super gnarly looking retainers!  Rinse the retainers well to get rid of the vinegar taste.

Warm Water and Distilled White Vinegar 50:50 solution 15-30 minutes soak

Relatively clear but have turned a yellow color

Your retainers are fairly clean but have started to turn an tan or yellow color that you cannot get out using normal cleaning methods.  Make a 50:50 solution of Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda and soak the retainers for 15-30 minutes.  Then brush the retainers with the solution to get the best result!  While these are household items, they make a strong cleaning solution and this should not be use as your normal daily cleaner as it will cause the retainers to become brittle and possible break or crack.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda in a 50:50 solution 15-30 minutes soak

Retainer Cleaners

There are also several different over the counter retainer cleaners that you can purchase that also do a great job (Retainer Brite, Fresh Guard).  While some companies state that you should use a “cleaner” daily, if you are getting all the saliva off each time you remove them this is not necessary.  Only using a cleaning solution as needed will save you some money and extend the life of your retainers.  

Hint:  Make sure you use a retainer cleaner and not a denture cleaner.  Retainers and dentures are made from different materials and thus have different cleaning solutions that should be used.

Speaking of Storage

Retainer storage is one of the biggest mistakes that many retainer wearers tend to make. This mainly happens because most people just don’t take the time to store it properly. You may have popped your retainer out and placed it on a lunch tray, on a napkin, or wrapped up in a tissue while you eat. All of these storage ideas tend to be problematic because they make it far too easy to accidentally toss the retainer into the trash. You’ll receive a retainer case when you get your new retainer, one which is shaped and sized perfectly for storage. It’s important that you use it and have your name and phone number on it! It’s small enough to easily fit into your pocket, bag, or purse. If you simply make a habit of placing the retainer in the case whenever it’s not in your mouth, you’re much less likely to misplace or lose it.

Feel Free to Check In!

If you are wearing your retainers properly, very few people have any problems during this phase of maintaining your smile!  But things do happen and sometimes the retainers get damaged, worn out or a stubborn tooth wants to shift.  It is important to give us a call anytime that you have any questions about your retainers and how to use them.  If you let us know as soon as you notice anything different we have many more options that take less time and money! We can identify any potential issues with retainer fit early on, which allows them to make any necessary adjustments or have new retainers created.  

Questions About Retainers?

Maintaining your beautiful smile is easy but does require constant use of a retainer.  If you have any questions about your retainers or any retainers options you may have, Please let us know!

Strickland Orthodontics is a orthodontic practice with five locations in Alabama. The practice is led by a father and son team of orthodontists. As a very well-established Alabama practice, Strickland Orthodontics has been honored with several prestigious awards. The services offered at Strickland Orthodontics include retainers, traditional braces, Invisalign, clear braces, gold braces, auxiliary appliances, expanders, soft tissue laser, and surgical orthodontics. Call the office anytime to learn more or to schedule an appointment.  We would love to talk to you about options to help you create a smile you will LOVE!

Am I too Old for Braces?

Am I Too Old for Braces

Many patients who have teeth alignment issues ask the question “Am I too old for braces?” The answer, at least in the majority of cases, is that you’re never too old to improve your teeth alignment. While childhood is certainly the best time to have orthodontic work done, not everyone has the opportunity to get the orthodontic care that they need as a child or during their adolescence. About 1 out of every 5 orthodontic patients today is an adult, in fact. There are many adults who have crooked teeth today, and it’s not too late to correct that through braces. You can have the straight smile that you’ve been wanting all your life.

What Type of Changes Are Needed?

One of the main determinants in evaluating an adult’s suitability for braces is the type and degree of alignment problem. As an adult, your bones aren’t growing anymore. This means that structural changes to the mouth are much more challenging than they’d be with a child or an adolescent whose mouth is still growing into its adult size. As long as the changes you need don’t require a major structural change to your mouth, braces should be a possibility for you. Most adults have correctable alignment issues. However, in cases of very serious misalignment, malformed jaw, or other major structural issues, surgery may be needed to correct the underlying issue before you can use braces for alignment correction. Your orthodontist can evaluate your case to determine whether you’ll benefit from braces now, or whether you may need to have a surgical correction done beforehand.

Worried About Metal Mouth?

One concern that many adults have when they’re considering braces is “metal mouth.” It’s not uncommon to hear patients say “I’m just too old to walk around with a metal mouth!” While this is a purely cosmetic concern, it’s a completely valid and understandable one. Fortunately, advances in the world of orthodontics now allow adults to straighten their teeth without being obvious about it. For example, two popular teeth straightening options at Strickland Orthodontics today are clear braces and Invisalign. Both of these options are designed to gradually shift the alignment of your teeth without anyone even knowing you’re doing so because they’re made from clear plastic. This allows adults to still feel like grown-ups while they get the alignment correction that they need. Clear straightening with devices like Invisalign also has the advantage of being significantly more comfortable than the metal brackets used in braces. You’re never too old, especially when it comes to invisible teeth straightening!

The Time Commitment Needed for Adult Braces

Adult braces of any type, whether it’s metal braces or a clear appliance like Invisalign, do require a time commitment. In most cases, adults need to wear braces for anywhere from 18 months to around 3 years. During that time, you’ll need to care for your braces properly, wear devices like Invisalign exactly as recommended, and see your orthodontist on a regular basis. Usually, this means visits every month or two, but this does vary by situation and patient. Check-ups are usually quite fast and easy, but they do require at least a small time commitment. They’re an essential part of straightening your teeth because this is the time when your orthodontist checks for proper fit, emerging issues, and alignment changes. Correcting teeth alignment issues in adults is usually a longer process than correcting the same issues in a child. However, if you’re willing to commit the time and effort you can still get great results.

Ready to Get the Straighter Smile You Deserve?

Strickland Orthodontics is an Alabama orthodontic practice that is owned and operated by a father and son team of orthodontists. Dr. H.L. Strickland and Dr. Stephen Strickland serve patients at five different Alabama locations, offering the highest level of patient convenience. As a leading provider of orthodontic care, Strickland Orthodontics has been awarded with several prestigious awards. They offer traditional braces, Invisalign, clear braces, auxiliary appliances, expanders, soft tissue laser, and surgical orthodontics along with many other services. The Strickland Orthodontics team is here to help, so call anytime to arrange a consultation.

Missing Lateral Incisors – What Can We Do?

The absence of lateral incisors is the most common congenital anomaly in the mouth. Normal mouths contain eight incisors. They are the four front-most or middle-most teeth on the upper and lower jaw. The lateral incisors are located next to the front two teeth. The canines are typically located next to the lateral incisors. When the lateral incisors are missing, they can create unsightly gaps in the teeth. Thankfully, there are many options when it comes to replacing your missing lateral incisors.

Missing Lateral Incisor Treatment Plans

Part of creating the best possible treatment plan involves performing a dental examination and taking x-rays and digital images. This gives us the best picture of your mouth and the spaces between your two front teeth and canines.

Closing the Gaps

Depending on the sizes of the gaps and the size and color of your canines as well as the existing room in the dental arch, we may be able to close the gaps with braces and recontour the canines so they will look like the lateral incisors.  Depending on the amount of shape change needed, we sometimes need to have veneers or crowns places to achieve a more ideal esthetic outcome!  This can be a great outcome because you will have minimal long term restorative needs and maintance but this is not the best option for everone.  There are specific factors that help make this option successful and if they are not followed the final outcome and smile is less than ideal.

Opening the Spaces for Dental Implants or Bridges

If the space of the missing teeth cannot be feasibly closed, a dental bridge or implant can help fill the space and improve your smile.  This will help rebuild the anatomy of the missing teeth and help establish a beautiful and proportionate smile. With today’s technology, you have several different options, including different types of bridges, removable partial dentures, and Marilyn Bridges as well as implants.

Removable Partial Dentures

Removable partial dentures offer an affordable way to improve the aesthetic of your mouth while replacing the missing lateral incisors. Since these bridges are removable and reversible, you may be able to consider other tooth replacement options in the future. The primary issues with these bridges are that they are bulky, and you may notice a decrease in the ability to taste food. If they are worn for the long-term, they can cause a breakdown of the surrounding bone and soft tissues, which would make a future implant difficult if not impossible to install. However, this may be a good temporary solution for some patients, especially for growing patients!

Fixed Partial Dentures (Bridges)

Fixed partial dentures offer several advantages over removable partial dentures. The primary advantages are patient comfort and longevity. They also look better in the mouth and are less bulky than removable dentures. The installation, however, involves a significant portion of tooth to be removed from the surrounding teeth in order to ensure a good bond between the bridge and the existing teeth. These bridges are considered aesthetically pleasing but do require removal of natural tooth structure.  Thes are great options if the adjacent teeth would also benefit from a crown or have large restorations.

Marilyn Bridges (Encore Bridges)

Encore bridges are often referred to as fiber-reinforced resin-bonded bridges. These bridges offer greater flexibility within the mouth and do not require as much tooth removal. They are also a very esthetic option that are made of just tooth colored material and looks great! They are a little bit more prone to becoming debonded than traditional fixed bridge.  For this bridge, a composite fiber or ceramic is spanned across the gap and bonded to the surrounding teeth. A denture tooth can be used to fill the gap or a tooth can be crafted from composite after a custom base, called a pontic button, has been placed on the gum for support. These types of bridges are generally very well tolerated.


Implants are an ideal solution for replacing missing lateral incisors because they work just like natural teeth and can be cleaned and flossed as normal. They also do not require any tooth removal of adjacent teeth.. However, implants require at least one oral surgery to implant the post into the jaw, and in order for an implant to be successful, there must be enough space between between the teeth and and the implant. There must also be enough bone density and gum tissue to support the implant. If the implant is to be installed in a younger person, the individual’s facial bones need to have stopped growing. This is because implants to not adjust for facial growth.  Most girls have completed growth by 18-19 years old and boys are usually 19-21.

Determining the Right Dental Solution for Your Missing Lateral Incisors

We will work closely with your dentist to determine several options for you and what would be the best one for you to replace your missing lateral incisors!  Every person is unique, so choosing the best option is a big decision and many factors help determine what would be best.  We will examine your facial proportions, smile design, tooth shape and color, and your desires and goals! To learn more about our practice and how we can help you achieve a beautiful smile, even if you are missing your front teeth, or to schedule an appointment, call us at 251-928-9292.

The Anatomy of a Beautiful Smile

There are multiple attributes that come together to complete the anatomy of a great-looking smile. For most people, a well-proportioned, white smile is considered very desirable and attractive. Here are some of the components that collectively make up the anatomy of a beautiful smile:

The Proportion of Your Upper Incisors

Your upper incisors (front four teeth) are the stars of the show!  Because of the position, they are very easy to seen and most noticeable.  Each tooth has a range of sizes and ratios of height x width that people find attractive.  There is also a relationship of how much of a tooth is shown when smiling.  This goes back to Pythagoras and his concept that beauty is an exact mathematical calculation or relationship! He referred to this relationship as the Golden Proportion.

As people age, the upper lip lengthens and a smaller amount of the upper front teeth are shown when smiling.   Thus, displaying all of the front teeth is a very vibrant and youthful smile!  As we are designing your smile, we look at you teeth and smile and enhance the positive attributes of your smile to maximize the youthfulness and beauty of your smile!

The Amount of Visible Gum Tissue

While having some gums showing when smiling is usually seen as a desirable and youthful part of a smile, excess, swollen or discolored gum tissue can be distracting and less desirable.   Depending on the cause and amount, the options to correct the gum tissue can be very easy and quick.  The gum display of a smile is a little like Goldilocks.  You don’t want too much or too little, but want it just right!.

The Arc of Your Smile

The arc of your smile is the way that the line formed by the lower edge of your top teeth correlates with the line formed by the top edge of your lower lip. The perfect smile arc includes a dental curve and a lip curve that are basically parallel to one another.

When we are looking at your smile and smile design, we also look at the anatomy of your lip and how your lip moves and changes when you talk and smile!  This allows us to achieve a beautiful and natural looking smile!

Negative Smile Space

When you smile, there’s usually a little black space that can be seen at each corner of your mouth. Although negative spaces should be displayed in every smile, if the space is too large or too small, it can detract from the appearance of the smile.

The Wideness of a Smile

Broader or wider smiles are often seen as more attractive. The broadness of your smile is the width of the displayed upper arch of your teeth.  People who have a narrow arch of teeth may only display a few of them when they smile and often their smile will look like “buck teeth.”

Ideally, the upper premolars should be visible when you smile and you upper arch should have a gentile curve. If your smile is not as broad as desired, in some cases, the jaw can be expanded using orthodontic appliances to create a wider smile.

Teeth Color

The color of your teeth is also important when it comes to the anatomy of a beautiful smile. Teeth that appear stained are deemed less attractive than those that are white and bright. Thus, even if your dental alignment is being corrected to improve the look of your smile, it is important to care for your teeth properly throughout and after the treatment process to prevent discoloration.  Depending on the cause of the discoloration, bleaching or various dental restorations can correct the concern.

The Emergence Profile of a Tooth

The emergence profile is the way that a tooth extends or emerges from the gum tissue when the tooth is observed from a side view. If the emergence profile does not allow a tooth to offer enough support to the cheeks and lips, the fullness of a person’s smile can be compromised. This can result in a worn, caved-in facial appearance.  If the upper teeth or jaw are too far forward, the teeth can look too protrusive and can also be undesirable .  We desire to obtain good lip support and a balanced profile smile!

There are a lot of components that go into making a beautiful smile and at Strickland Orthodontics, we enjoy looking at every patient’s smile and designing and developing their perfect smile!  If you have any concerns with you smile and what can be done to improve it, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Halitosis; Do You Smell That?

Nobody wants bad breath. However, millions of people suffer from the condition. Chronic halitosis, which is another name for bad breath, begins in many cases due to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth.

Often, people are concerned about removing bacteria from their teeth. However, oral bacteria also accumulates on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums and oral appliances, affecting the smell of your breath.

Why does bad breath occur?

Bad breath is frequently the result of byproducts of the oral bacteria in your mouth. The anaerobic bacteria that often live in the grooves of the tongue release volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that give bad breath its characteristic smell. In addition, food particles that are left in the mouth after a meal or snack can begin to rot within the mouth, emitting a foul odor. Additional causes of bad breath include dental infections, odorous foods and health conditions in other areas of the body.

Conditions Outside of the Mouth That Cause Bad Breath

Bad breath is also associated with other medical conditions, such as sinus infections, kidney problems, liver issues and diabetes. In addition, health conditions, treatments and medications that cause a reduction in the amount of saliva within the mouth can exacerbate halitosis. As a result, patients who are undergoing treatments, such as radiation therapy, may incur bad breath more frequently.

Why does dry mouth cause bad breath?

The saliva produced by your mouth helps wash away oral bacteria. Since the liquid keeps your mouth cleaner, it helps eliminate bad breath sources within the oral cavity. When saliva is scarce, your breath is more likely to have an unpleasant odor. This is the reason for morning breath.

Morning breath is often due to the reduction in saliva production that occurs as you sleep. With little saliva to rinse microbes away, the bacteria in your mouth reproduce rapidly, causing your morning breath.

Foods that Cause Bad Breath

Foods can also affect your breath. Some foods, such as onions and garlic, have a higher sulfur content than others. Even though the foods eventually reach your stomach, the odors can be absorbed by your body and released as you breathe.

What can be done to help alleviate bad breath?

Here are a few things that you can do to help improve the smell of your breath:

  • Brush. Brushing your teeth regularly can help decrease the levels of plaque within your mouth. As you brush, it is important to pay attention to the soft tissues of the mouth, such as your tongue, the roof of your mouth and your inner cheeks. My removing bacteria from as many surfaces as possible, you can help eliminate bad breath.
  • Use a tongue cleaner. Although a toothbrush is efficient at brushing the teeth, it is not as thorough as a tongue scraper at cleaning the tongue. The scraper is usually a simple tool made of plastic that is raked across the tongue to remove the build-up of bacteria.
  • Floss. Flossing is particularly important because particles of food that can decay within the mouth often become trapped between the teeth. Flossing also helps eliminate plaque between the teeth before it hardens into tartar. Due to the porous surface of tartar, it can become a haven for bacteria and other odorous substances that can exacerbate your bad breath.
  • Chew gum. Sugar-free gum can help keep oral bacteria at bay, especially varieties that contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that is also antimicrobial. In addition, the fragrance of the gum can improve the smell of your breath as you chew. The sticky nature of the gum also causes it to pull plaque and debris from your teeth and gums. It is especially helpful to chew the gum immediately after a meal or snack.
  • Visit your dentist often. Your dentist can help keep your mouth clean by regularly removing tartar deposits. In addition, he or she can identify the source of your bad breath and recommend a suitable treatment. If your dentist believes that your bad breath is being caused by a systemic condition, you may be referred to another medical professional for treatment.
  • Clean your dental appliances. If you wear braces or have a retainer, keeping these items clean can help improve your breath.

If you suffer from chronic bad breath and believe that it is associated with your braces, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

All About TMJ

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is like a hinge that slides and connects the jawbone to the skull. There is a TMJ joint on each side of the jaw. The bones that work in conjunction with the temporomandibular joint are covered with cartilage and a small shock-absorbing disk separates these bones from the joint itself, to ensure the movements of the jaw remain smooth. However, if this disk moves out of alignment or erodes, TMJ syndrome (aka TMD) can result. TMJ syndrome (or TMD) is the term used to refer to disorders affecting the temporomandibular joints and the muscles responsible for controlling the movement of the jaw.

How Common is TMJ Syndrome?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, women seem to be more susceptible to TMJ disorders than men are. While the actual number of Americans who have TMJ is unknown, estimates suggest more than 10 million Americans are affected with this condition.

Are There Risk Factors for Developing TMJ?

Yes, there are several factors that increase an individual’s likelihood of developing TMJ syndrome, including:

  • being female;
  • osteoarthritis;
  • bruxism, which is a chronic (long-term) grinding or clenching of the teeth (it is important to note that bruxism and TMJ do not necessarily go hand-and-hand);
  • certain diseases that affect the connective tissue (i.e., systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.);
  • a genetic disposition for certain inherited conditions;
  • an injury to the neck (whiplash); and/or
  • a jaw injury.

What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Syndrome?

The signs and symptoms associated with these disorders can include:

  • an aching in and around the ear;
  • tenderness or pain in the jaw;
  • an aching-type pain in the face;
  • difficulty chewing;
  • pain in the temporomandibular joint(s);
  • pain while chewing;
  • a clicking sound and/or odd sensation upon opening the mouth or chewing; as well as
  • difficulty opening and/or closing the mouth.

If you have TMJ, you will most likely experience pain and/or limited movement when your jaw clicks.

Diagnosing Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

Although there is not a standard test available for diagnosing TMJ, identifying these disorders involves collecting information related to your symptoms, as well as your medical and dental history. Furthermore, at Strickland Orthodontics, a thorough examination of the affected areas will be performed: These areas typically include the neck, head, jaw and face. Sometimes, imaging studies will be recommended.

Categorizing TMJ Syndrome

Researchers categorize temporomandibular joint syndrome using three main categories:

  1. Arthritis – referring to a group of inflammatory/degenerative joint disorders.
  2. Myofascial Pain – pain or discomfort in the muscles responsible for controlling the function of the jaw.
  3. Internal Derangement – a dislocated jaw, injury to the condyle (which is the round part of the bone forming the joint) or a displaced disk.

There are a variety of other health problems that tend to co-exist with temporomandibular joint disorders.

These problems include:

  • Sleep Disturbances/Disorders – insomnia, non-24 sleep wake disorder, sleep-related movement disorders (i.e., restless leg syndrome), etc.
  • Fibromyalgia – this is a painful condition that affects the soft tissues and muscles throughout the body.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – characterized by exhaustion, pain and sleep abnormalities that are made worse with exertion.

An individual may have one or more of these conditions.

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should contact Strickland Orthodontics right away if you are finding it difficult to open and/or close your jaw all the way or you are experiencing constant tenderness, or pain in your jaw.

Treating TMJ Disorders

If the cause of your TMJ is structural, Dr. H.L. Strickland and Dr. Stephen Strickland can correct any teeth malformations that are aggravating or causing the condition. If the problem is not structural, the discomfort and pain associated with these disorders can usually be relieved through nonsurgical treatments and/or self-managed care. Nonsurgical treatments may include medications and/or stabilization splints. Self-managed care may include eating soft foods, using ice packs as well as relaxing the jaw muscles using specialized techniques. Surgical intervention is only considered if the more conservative measures fail.

Dr. H.L. Strickland and Dr. Stephen Strickland offer individuals residing in Alabama five convenient locations to choose from. Whether you need clear braces, traditional braces, Invisalign™ , an auxiliary appliance, soft tissue laser,  an expander or surgical orthodontic treatment, Strickland Orthodontist can assist you in creating the beautiful smile you have always wanted and/or treating the symptoms associated with conditions like TMJ.

Our offices are open Monday through Friday from 7:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. If you would like to make an appointment at our Spanish Fort or Bay Minette office, please call (251) 272-3232: To contact our Fairhope, Fairhope South or Foley office, please call (251) 928-9292. If you would rather make your appointment online, please access our contact form by clicking here.