According to a CBS news article, a 22-year-old man is suing his orthodontist after having allegedly worn his braces for 11 years. The argument is that while Dr. Brad Chvatal did not install the braces he was responsible for the patient’s dental care while they remained on the patient’s teeth. Dr. Chvatal argues that the claim is irrelevant because he only became a licensed orthodontist in 2007; five years after the patient had the braces put on. The patient is seeking damages for the destruction that 11 years of wearing braces did to his teeth, including causing multiple teeth to rot. There appears to be a major lack of dental care on the patient’s part and it will be interesting to see how the case proceeds.

On average, treatment time for braces ranges from one to three years with some patients requiring more or less time depending on the amount of correction needed. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that a patient as young as seven visit an orthodontist to determine a course of treatment with braces. Braces are normally placed on a patient when they are between the ages of 9 and 14. With proper care and regular maintenance by an orthodontist, braces can produce a healthy, straight-toothed smile.

Mayo clinic recommends the following tips to keep both your mouth and teeth healthy during the time you wear braces. Firstly, maintain regular checkups with both your dentist and orthodontist. Be diligent about brushing teeth and make a conscious effort to brush after every meal. If you happen to forget your toothbrush, then rinse your mouth out with water. Remember to floss and, if recommended by a dentist, use a fluoride rinse to keep teeth strong. Also, in order to protect your braces try to avoid both hard and sticky foods. These foods can pull off or break parts off braces which can cause patients to be required to wear braces for a longer period of time.

Although there are few risks, the following should be discussed with your orthodontist before getting braces. Since braces offer even more places for plaque to get trapped and build up there is an increased risk of developing cavities and incurring damage to enamel, which can lead to permanent stains on teeth. Another risk, although one that generally does cause too many problems, is shorter tooth length. This is caused by some of the bone of a tooth to dissolve while it moves. Again, this generally does not cause problems. Finally, there is a chance that correction can be lost if an orthodontist’s instructions are not followed correctly after the removal of braces. This includes regularly wearing a retainer and seeing your dentist for routine visits.

Overall, braces are an excellent tool to correct tooth alignment. However, as the case in Oregon demonstrates, it is important for both the patient and the orthodontist to ensure that regular dental hygiene is maintained and even increased while wearing braces. Finally, any extreme cases of discomfort or irritation should be brought to your dentist’s attention to avoid any further damage.

Dr. Charles Tozzer is an Orange County dentist primarily focused on family and sedation dentistry.

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